Liberal outlets have stopped at nothing to present Rick Santorum as an extreme and insensitive candidate, attempting to use his own words to do so. Last week, The New Republic staff posted “A Long List of the Most Terrible Things Rick Santorum Has Ever Said.” Like ThinkProgress’s list of “outrageous” things that I commented on last Friday, most of TNR’s quotations either distort Santorum’s message, or simply are not outrageous at all — in fact, they’re often just simply factual. Following are some of Santorum’s more “terrible” statements:
On the Catholic Church’s abuse scandals: ‘Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political, and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.’
It is hardly “terrible” to say that a culture that produces pedophiles, and the priests who themselves become pedophiles, must be somehow “infected.” That explanation does not provide, as Santorum notes, any excuse for the horrific crimes committed, but his statement isn’t only unobjectionable, the best evidence suggests that it’s actually accurate. Though Santorum’s comment on Boston is unsubstantiated, it isn’t offensive, and the only significant study of the causes of the Catholic Church’s sexual-abuse crisis so far, released in May 2011 by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, indicates that he was roughly correct otherwise. To quote:
Social and cultural changes in the 1960s and 1970s manifested in increased levels of deviant behavior in the general society and also among priests of the Catholic Church in the United States. Organizational, psychological, and situational factors contributed to the vulnerability of individual priests in this period of normative change.
On same sex marriage and bestiality: ‘In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.’
This quote, TNR seems to imply, equates homosexuality with bestiality — but it doesn’t. It goes without saying that no U.S. senator should use the phrase “man on dog,” but Santorum’s point is that marriage could no more apply to a relationship between two humans of the same sex than it could to a relationship between a human and an animal — marriage simply does not encompass either type of relationship, regardless of what one thinks of them. This is true, if inflammatory, given Santorum’s understanding of marriage, and doesn’t proclaim, as some may have claimed, that the two are equally unnatural or perverse. As an example, the laws of America’s roads don’t allow for travelling over the speed limit or driving intoxicated, for similar reasons, but doesn’t suggest any moral equivalence or level of similarity between the two.
On the link between same sex marriage and national security: ‘I would argue that the future of America hangs in the balance, because the future of the family hangs in the balance. Isn’t that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?’
TNR pulls this quotation out of context to suggest that Santorum believes protecting traditional marriage is a matter of national security. In fact, Santorum said this in a Senate debate after Sen. Barbara Boxer objected that the Senate didn’t have time to consider a constitutional amendment to define marriage and would be better off fighting terrorism: “What is more of a threat — al-Qaeda or gay marriage?” Santorum responded to this unserious comparison with a less-than-serious juxtaposition of his own, merely cribbing Boxer’s language to suggest that the Senate indeed had time to consider domestic social issues instead of bumbling on foreign-policy ones.
On the war in Iraq: ‘As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else. It’s being drawn to Iraq. You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don’t want the eye to come back to the United States.’
Out of context, the quotation seems to suggest Santorum, as a foreign-policy hawk, would actually prefer America’s attention, its “eye” to be cast abroad rather than focusing on issues at home. But Lord of the Rings fans will understand his actual point, since the Eye of Sauron represented not just the attention, but the military might, of the evil forces in Middle Earth. Santorum was arguing that the United States’ engagement in Iraq was drawing the forces of Islamic terrorism, such as suicide bombers from, say, Syria or Saudi Arabia, to focus on Iraq, rather than attacking the American homeland. This is a view held by a number of foreign-policy thinkers, and not an objectively “terrible” one. Writers at, especially, The New Republic are surely aware of this, and a legitimate, if controversial, view on foreign policy is hardly a “terrible statement.”
On the Affordable Care Act: ‘I would tell you that my first priority as a president of the United States is to repeal Barack Obama’s healthcare plan. I think it’s the most dangerous piece of legislation, well, in many generations. It is the reason that I’m running for office. Because I believe Obamacare is a game changer. I believe Obamacare will rob America, the best way I can put it is, rob America of its soul.’
It is hard to understand, as above, how this statement can be construed as “terrible.” Santorum’s view is not extreme or terrible if one believes that Obamacare will lead to a “government takeover of health care,” as 54 percent of Americans do, moving us toward a socialist system, which some believe may rob America of its free soul. Indirect thought it may be, this is not a fringe view, and one only need to look at how British conservatives must defend their National Health Service to see what a government takeover of medicine can do to national character.