Time On The Cross With Rick Santorum

by Alexander Cockburn, February 29, 2012

Surely Rick Santorum is the most fanatical Christian to run for the Republican nomination in the modern era, maybe any era. Next to him Pat Robertson, billionaire founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, who ran for the nomination in 1988, has the tolerant, glassy-eyed bonhomie of the late Dean Martin. Robertson has always been in show business. Four years ago we had Mike Huckabee, the evangelist and former governor of Arkansas, one of the boys, shacked up with Mrs. Huckabee in his doublewide on the grounds of the Arkansas gubernatorial mansion. He has always been in show business too.

But with Santorum — a conservative Roman Catholic and member of Opus Dei — there’s a truly manic edge to his religious pronouncements and activities. It was Santorum and Mrs. S, don’t forget, who took their still-born baby home from the hospital and laid it among their living tots, telling them, “he’s with the angels now,” an episode Mrs. Santorum later recorded in a memoir.

Santorum doesn’t believe in the right to privacy. Not that Obama has any qualms about taps on your phone and powers of arbitrary arrest, but he probably doesn’t care too much about whatever human combos are being tried out in the bedroom. Santorum frets 24/7 about beastliness and unnatural acts, and yearns to restore full rights to snoops to kick down the motel door, twitch aside the blankets and haul couples off for all manner of moral abominations.

Contraception in Santorum’s opinion is “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” Pre-natal testing is also a no-no for Santorum, father of eight.

In 2003 Santorum said he favored having laws against polygamy, adultery, sodomy, and other actions “antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.” The possibility of bestiality in today’s licentious times bothers him a lot — “man on dog,” as he famously put it on a talk show. Not for him the possibility of abortion in cases of rape: “I believe and I think that the right approach is to accept this horribly created, in the sense of rape, but nevertheless, in a very broken way, a gift of human life, and accept what God is giving to you.”

Santorum was two when the Sixties began. But like so many cultural conservatives he believes to the bottom of his soul that everything went to hell when the love generation came of age: “Woodstock is the great American orgy. This is who the Democratic Party has become. They have become the party of Woodstock. They prey upon our most basic primal lusts, and that’s sex. And the whole abortion culture, it’s not about life. It’s about sexual freedom. That’s what it’s about. Homosexuality. It’s about sexual freedom.”

In 2008 he gave a speech in which he ventured that “Satan has his sights on the United States of America. Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that have so deeply rooted in the American tradition.”

Santorum traces Satan’s hoofprints back to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Just the other day he told an audience: “They are taking faith and crushing it. Why? Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left are no unalienable rights, what’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. What’s left in France became the guillotine. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re a long way from that, but if we do follow the path of President Obama and his overt hostility to faith in America, then we are headed down that road.”

The whole diatribe is thrilling, but utterly ludicrous, not least because it was the revolution that promulgated the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which defined individual and collective rights for all men.

Why is a guy like this currently running neck-and-neck with Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination? The usual maps drawn by political experts stipulate that at some point in the prolonged nomination battle the candidate has to shed the gothic nuttiness and over-the-topness that got him traction in the early primaries and reach out to the independents without whose support no presidential bid can succeed.

There’s zero sign that Santorum is of any disposition to do this. So why does he turn out to be the last man standing in the path of the Mormon billionaire Mitt Romney in the battle for the nomination?

First and foremost, he’s not Mitt Romney.

Candidates, now long forgotten, like Herman Cain, or still vaguely remembered like the fading Newt Gingrich, fared well with this simple asset. Blue-collar Americans in the old industrial states don’t care for Romney, who began life as a rich kid and then became a lot richer by buying up businesses, putting them on a “sound footing” (fire half the work force), selling them and moving on.

So Santorum can work the blue-collar vote with a few populist rhetorical gestures. He can also work the racist, anti-Obama vote by hinting that the president is driven by a non-Christian, environmentalist, New Age, putatively Satanist agenda. A few days ago Santorum declared that Obama’s actions are motivated by “some phony theology, not a theology based on the Bible… The president has reached a new low in this country’s history of oppressing religious freedom that we have never seen before. If he doesn’t want to call his imposition of his values a theology that’s fine.” Then he added a day later by way of clarification that he understands Obama is a Christian, but that the president was misinterpreting God’s truth.

After the Florida primary everyone thought Santorum was toast and Romney coasting to the crown. Then Santorum won three fairly insignificant contests in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota. A billionaire, Foster Friess, gave his campaign a huge wad of money and he was on his way again.

Suddenly Romney was fighting for his life in Michigan (next Tuesday’s primary), where he was born and where his father was governor. Polls show Santorum ahead, both in Michigan and nationally, and also with a slightly better chance than Romney of beating Obama in November, though the president leads both of them by around four to six points.

The very latest poll, taken as Romney has desperately poured money into a fresh negative ad campaign against Santorum, shows the Mormon two points ahead in Michigan — no small achievement since Romney has denounced the bailout initiated by George Bush and ratified by Obama that saved GM and Chrysler, both companies now doing well and hiring thousands in a stricken state. In a lower key, Santorum also denounces the bailout, which shows just how insane these Republicans are.

On Wednesday night, in a debate in Arizona, where he has a decent lead, Romney was pronounced the clear winner, not least because he had Ron Paul on Santorum’s other side, thumping him for being a Washington insider and phony. It would be folly to predict what will happen next Tuesday night. If Santorum prospers, a huge disaster for the Republicans looms in November, far beyond even the Goldwater debacle of 1964. Don’t believe the talk about a brokered convention and someone like Jeb Bush or Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey parachuted in by the Republican establishment.

These are cheering days for the Obama campaign.

Tumbril Time!

A tumbril (n.) a dung cart used for carrying manure, now associated with the transport of prisoners to the guillotine during the French Revolution.

CounterPunchers are a vigilant, dare I even say (a phrase under close scrutiny by Prosecutor Fouquier-Tinville) even a bloodthirsty crowd. The Prosecutor’s inbox is filled to overflowing with calls for revolutionary justice.

From Watsonville comes a denunciation from Frank Bardacke, who quotes Carlyle, a fervent counter-revolutionary of course, but a stylist Frank has long admired: “Like a black Spectre, daily at eventide, glides the Death-tumbril through the variegated throng of things.”

“I accuse: privilege as a gerund. As in, “Privileging the body, he rarely missed a meal.” Citoyen actif, Bardacke.

Yes indeed, citoyen Bardacke — These gerunds are everywhere — gerund… girondin… I think the case is clear.

From Gui Rochat, with the peremptory cry “Into the tumbril!”

“Should, a word too often used by progressives, reflecting de facto a redundant idealist and basically liberal compromise.”

Shane Mayer: “The Prosecutor will surely consider, for a brief but purposeful ride on the tumbril cart, the habit of converting punctuation marks into sentence fragments. The same sentiment used to be expressed with the equally imperious and unnecessary ‘ipso facto’: ‘Smoking causes cancer. Period.’ A quick and painless dispatching of the usage is just the thing; consider that it has already generated a staccato variation on its original theme: “Smoking. Causes. Cancer. Period.”

Lawrence Magnuson draws an approving roar from the sans-culottes as he presses his j’accuse: “the tumbril, to fully do its stern duty, needs but one ecumenical occupant: unconscionable. Was ever a more feckless state of the moral mind alluded to? Was ever outrage so easily negated? The blandest dead word I know.”

Sondjata Olatunji: “Can we also put hyper-masculinity on that cart? Each time I have heard the phrase I have asked the user to define ‘normal masculinity’ since there can be no ‘hyper’ or ‘hypo’ masculinity without some defined and accepted ‘normal’ masculinity.”

Normal masculinity,” Sondjata? Now there’s a can of worms.

Each day, as the tumbrils creak towards the Place de la Revolution, one can see the pale faces of words and phrases seized by popular vigilance from the world of corporate language-mangling. CounterPuncher Pete Jones, who says he works in a place “inundated by verbal nonsense,” advanced these candidates for the fateful blade: “to re-examine: to think about; to leverage: to use for future profit-making (why do they need a special word for this?); functional team: the group of coworkers you work with on a daily basis; iterative thinker: someone who is indecisive, a trait which appears to no longer be a flaw; bandwidth: this is the most stupefying of all, as it is constantly used, knowingly — with an implied wink, occasionally — for the simpler, but unspeakable term, ‘free time.’”

The jury had no difficulty in imposing the supreme penalty.

Alexander Cockburn can be reached at alexandercockburn@asis.com

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