The Corner

ThinkProgress Distorts Santorum Statements

ThinkProgress, joining the fleet of liberal bloggers dredging up Rick Santorum’s rhetoric to use against him, has compiled a list of Rick Santorum’s “most outrageous campaign statements.” Unfortunately, many of Santorum’s statements are factual and not outrageous at all — unlike some of the headlines in ThinkProgress’s list.

“I’m for income inequality. I think some people should make more than other people.”

Unless TP has lurched farther to the left than we knew, this seems like an entirely reasonable statement — does anyone in a capitalist, or even socialist, society dispute that, say, a university professor should make more than an elementary-school teacher? Santorum made his point reasonably: “I’m not for income equality. I’m not for equality of result — I’m for equality of opportunity.” Americans may differ on what equality of opportunity means, but the sentiment seems unobjectionable.

If ThinkProgress had placed the quotation in context, they would have revealed more remarkably fair sentiments: Santorum was actually offering some kind of support for the Occupy Wall Street movement, saying, “The reason you see some sympathy among the American public for them is the grave concern — and it’s a legitimate one — that blue-collar workers, lower-income workers, are having a harder and harder time rising.” He then proceeded to his discussion of equality of opportunity.

Contraception is a license to do things.”

This is a fair and accurate statement, not an “outrageous” one. Contraception is, of course, a license — in the sense of freedom granted — to sex without (some of the) consequences. Santorum has repeatedly emphasized that he does believe states should have the right to ban contraception, but though “they have the right to do it, they shouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t vote for it if they did.”

Gay soldiers “cause problems for people living in close quarters.”

Regardless of the merits of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, this is emphatically true. The Pentagon’s 2010 report on DADT: “Service members acknowledge the likelihood that they have already had the experience of being in close proximity to someone else in the military who is gay, but they were concerned about sharing bathroom facilities, living quarters, or berthing arrangements with someone they ‘know’ to ‘be gay.’” Forty-four percent of servicemen who had been deployed since 9/11 said that working with an openly homosexual soldier would negatively or very negatively affect their “immediate unit’s effectiveness in a field environment or out at sea.”

Obama should oppose abortion because he’s black.

Santorum argued that he saw parallels between the civil-rights movement and the pro-life movement, in terms of ensuring equal protection for all humans: “Is that human life a person under the constitution? Barack Obama says no. Well, if that human life is not a person, then . . . I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say ‘now we are going to decide who are people and who are not people.’” Santorum’s point may be slightly esoteric and indirect, but he says nothing about what Barack Obama should believe.

Abortion exceptions to protect women’s health are “phony.”

Santorum was discussing his refusal to allow an exception for a mother’s health (he included an exception for a mother’s life) in the congressional partial-birth-abortion ban, for fear that it would make the ban “ineffective.” The American Medical Association agreed, and supported the bill because partial-birth abortions have no useful medical purpose. Moreover, abortion restrictions in Europe are often ineffective because of the allowances they make for mental health circumstances.

Health reform would kill my child.

Santorum wasn’t referring to any particular health-care reform in the U.S. His argument was more general: “I look at how societies with socialized medicine treat children like Bella [his disabled daughter], and children like Bella don’t survive.” While there is no cross-national evidence to compare survival rates of Trisomy 18 (Santorum’s daughter’s disease), survival rates for most serious diseases are higher in the U.S. than in other nations.

UPDATE: And it looks like they’re not done misrepresenting Santorum yet. On their front page, a headline reads: “Santorum To Mother Of Cancer Survivor: Sick To Blame For Pre-Existing Conditions.”

That does sound a bit ridiculous, to blame the ill for their misfortune. But that’s not exactly what Santorum said. Thankfully, the actual ThinkProgress post doesn’t distort Santorum’s message, just the absurd headline. The article itself reads:

During a town hall in Keene, New Hampshire this morning, Rick Santorum told a mother whose son survived cancer that people with pre-existing conditions should pay more for health care coverage because they make poor health care choices. While specifically exempting the woman’s child from personal blame, Santorum insisted that the sick cost more to insure and insurers should charge them higher premiums.

Santorum’s actual quote:

Insurance works when people who are higher risk end up having to pay more, as they should. In your case, your son obviously did nothing wrong. Obviously there are a lot of other people that increased their health risk that did do things wrong and as a result, it resulted in higher health care costs.

Patrick Brennan — Patrick Brennan is a writer and policy analyst based in Washington, D.C. He was Director of Digital Content for Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, writing op-eds, policy content, and leading the ...

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