This debate was a historic mile marker on the road to obsolescence for network broadcast television. It was the least informative Republican primary debate so far — largely due to the supercilious Brian Williams, who did his best interpretation of a paleolithic network anchor trying to prevent Republicans from talking about what they might talk were they on a livelier cable-television network or an Internet site.
Still, Rick Santorum did have an opportunity in this debate to run to daylight — while Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich inanely grappled with each other at the line of scrimmage. Yet Santorum failed to do so. He looked more like a punt returner for the San Francisco 49ers.
Emblematic of Santorum’s fumbling — and his failure to take advantage of the wide-open field past the Romney–Gingrich line of scrimmage — was his answer to the Terri Schiavo question posed by guest establishment journalist Adam C. Smith of the Tampa Bay Times. Smith asked: “Why should the government have more say in medical decisions like that [about removing Schiavo’s feeding tube] than a spouse?” What Santorum should have said was: “Because in this case the spouse wanted to starve his wife to death.” Instead, he gave a technocratic answer explaining that he just wanted to get Terri Schiavo a hearing in federal court because her parents, who were his constituents, wanted an impartial judge to decide whether she should live or die.
And this was on the same day as the March for Life.
My guess is that by morning Santorum will wish he had more passionately defended Schiavo’s right not to be starved to death, while also explaining the fundamental duty of all levels of government to defend her right to life against her husband or anyone else who wanted to deprive her of it.