I just listened to the audio of Brian Lehrer's recent interview with Rick Santorum. You can find it here at WNYC's site. I was shocked, because I actually developed a small (very small) glimmer of respect for Santorum. He perfectly and mostly calmly described the post-Reagan, religious right conservative movement, and how it weaves together completely contradictary ideas about personal freedom and support for big business into a semi-coherent-sounding position. I'm appalled by the sentiments he expresses, but the reason that I have a modicum of respect for him after listening to him is that I have come to the conclusion that:
- Santorum actually BELEIVES the crap he says. I have frequently accused Bush and most conservatives in congress (and on Fox News) of using religion and patriotism to fool the American people into selling themselves out to the wealthy. Maybe Santorum, as a "young Republican" graduate has had too much of the cool-aid, but I am conviced that he actually thinks that his view will bring about a better America. He's wrong (more on that below), but at least he's genuine.
- He is willing to talk about it. It's refreshing to hear a conservative who actually wants to defend his positions without avoiding questions, yelling and screaming, or trying to end the conversation. Santorum was mostly respectful of Brian Lehrer (and Lehrer was too). I have been getting sick of all Bush's "fake" town meetings (Santorum apparently has real ones), carefully scripted press conferences and all of the hyper, nastly, screaming matches by the talking heads. This was a conversation for a change. Very refreshing.
Now, on to the substance of what he said:
Listen for yourself, but I'll sum up Santorum's position:
- We've ruined the American nuclear family in this country, through a proliferation of messages from Hollywood, radical feminists, government (mostly the courts), and the Liberal elite (mostly Hillary in his mind) that encourage people to think that they can do whatever they want. To quote Neo in the Matrix--"The problem is choice."
- We've created government programs like Social Security, Welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, etc., that teach people that when they do whatever they want, the government will take care of them, even if they do nothing to help themselves.
- The point of all laws, and social institutions like marriage is that one man should work and one woman should raise the children in a stable environment so that society can continue and be "healthy."
- One reason this can't happen is that families can't subsist on a single income. This is not, as you might be thinking, because of the piss-poor economy, historically low minimum wage, out-sourcing of manufacturing jobs, etc., but rather, because our federal taxes are too high. It's not the fault of big business either. When Lehrer points out som of the reasons above, Santorum says:
What you're suggesting is that the government needs to come in, because they're created a higher burden of taxation (on the American family), and now we have to force business to do what the government won't do,which is to give breaks to the American family.
Putting aside the fact that Santorum's Republican Congress just passed a budget yesterday that has them spending like drunken sailors, you can see why, on paper this is a good argument to convince people to support the Bush tax cuts (if they were actually progressive.) Basically, he's saying, here's the 25% percent of your salary that you used to spend on Federal taxes--now you can afford to leave the wife at home and raise the kids. I think Santorum's figure is high--we pay around 17% and we don't even get any child credits--but I agree, it sounds great, right?
If he really meant it, maybe. It's a very Libertarian idea, and completely antithetical to strong defense, tax breaks and subsidies for big corportations, and regressive tax cuts for the wealthy that the Republicans are currently enacting.
It's just bullshit. Santorum is proposing a solution that no one is offering. If he wants to introduce a bill that eliminates all corporate subsidies and tax breaks, and uses the savings to eliminate all federal taxes for poor and middle class Americans, I'm all for it. If he did this, it would probably be wise, though, to raise income taxes for the wealthy and raise capital gains and inheritance taxes to make up any shortfall. By Rick's argument, our country is in peril because people can't afford to leave one parent home to raise the kids. The wealthy do not have this problem, so taxes that affect them most should be raised. If we don't increase taxes on the wealthy, our infrastructure will collapse--no highway money, no defense spending, no Social Security. So, great, we have a plan: No taxes for the poor and middle class--Sounds great Rick! When do I get my tax break?
Then there's the "choice" problem. I actually attended a "Favorite Professor" luncheon at the University of Washington, sponsored by (I found out once I got there) the Campus Crusade for Christ. The speaker used exactly this argument. While never mentioning abortion, homosexuality, or feminism, he talked about how kids these days have too many options to do things that will distract them from getting married, having kids, and serving God. He also said that Hollywood and Liberal (with a capital L) educators (i.e. me), were clouding their path with giving them too many choices of lifestyles, careers, and beliefs. He thanked us, and we each got a free copy of C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity (I was happy--great book).
Santorum has the guts to actually name these choice-mongers--as abstract straw-man stereotypical characters--and says that radical feminists shamed women into the workplace, the liberal elite created the welfare state, etc. But just what is the fundamental problem with these choice-o-holics?
Here is the quote that Santorum read on Lehrer's show from the 1992 Supreme Court Decision of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Lehrer made him repeat it twice, and affirm that this was "the problem" with American society (Santorum obliged). See what you think. The Supreme Court said:
Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of the meaning of the universe, and the existance of human life.
Rick Santorum call this "mantra of the Left" the problem with American society . . . I thought that it was the basis for American society! The Constitution is pretty clearly based on the concept of "liberty." I remember a passage in the Constitution that is buried in Article . . . O that's right. It's the FIRST LINE:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty . . .
And later, there are a few amendments in the Bill of Rights, that establish freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and all kinds of other nasty things that Santorum doesn't agree with. Is it not an important part of liberty that I can choose my own beliefs? Should the government make choices for me based on a Christian religious or moral principle?
What Constitution is he reading? Hint, he spells it B-I-B-L-E.
Ewww! The sad part, is that this proves conclusively that Santorum DOES UNDERSTAND what the left is saying. Damn it, we do think that we should be able to think for ourselves, and not have the moral codes of a few imposed on us. He disagrees with this, and would like to socially engineer our society by mandating by law that all families look and act like his family. Is this imposing his moral views on others? "No" he says! It the opposite:
You don't think that people running around, doing whatever they want, is imposing a moral view on me?
Um, what? No.
When you listen to Santorum, a distinct type of American society comes through: No legal abortion, no gay marriage, no childless couples even, no civil liberties, censored films and music, prayer in schools, federal money for churches, Christian principles that govern congressional and judicial decisions. This is how--Brave New World style--Santorum would like to engineer the perfect American society. Sound like a utopia to you? Actually, it's even worse than Brave New World--at least the people there had sex and drugs.
Like I said, give him credit--he's honest about what he wants, and not shy about talking about it. This is why he is going to lose his next election, and NEVER be President. Most people would find his ideas repulsive. Especially, I would think, the true conservatives in the Republican party who want the government to stay small and stay out of their lives.
The most telling exchange in the interview, which sums up the shaky logic in his dumb positions, is his reaction to his now famous "man-on-dog"quote. For those who missed it, here was Santorum's reaction to the Supreme Court overturning Texas's sodomy laws:
If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, the right to polygamy, the right to incest, you have the right to adultery, you have the right to anything . . .
Santorum takes pains to "correct" the way that the quote was reported. Everyone said that he was equating consensual gay sex (the subject of the case) with the "illegal" activities above--but he wants to clarify that his true intention, which is actually MUCH MUCH worse.
How you say?
You may have noticed "adultery" on his list. Why? That's not illegal is it? Well, Rick believes that the court should have used the "original" standard for legal sexual activity, which is marriage (I wonder where he got that precedent?). By saying that any "consensual" sex in your home is legal, he thinks that the court is saying that anything goes.
Raise your hands if you think that you should go to jail for having consensual sex in your home with someone to whom you aren't married?
This, I think, sums it all up. According to Santorum, we are beseiged by people who are ruining our country by "doing whatever they want:" having sex, not having children, expressing free ideas, and making "popular culture" that is causing the destruction of our children. To fix this, Santorum would like to redefine freedom, without the word "choice."
The right's view of freedom, what I would say is a traditional freedom [. . .] as our founders understood it, which is a freedom with responsibility to something beyond yourself. A freedom to do, not what you want to do, not simply "choice," but the freedom to do what you ought to do . . .
I can't quite fathom how laws restricting me from consensual sex gives me the "freedom to do what I ought to do." If I obeyed them, I would be doing what Rick thinks I ought to do and would have no freedom at all. In fact, the word "freedom" doesn't even apply here.
The punch line of this exchange comes when Santorum is asked about the long-time aide on his staff that was just "outed" as a gay man. Santorum says that he's known about it "for quite a while," but that he doesn't discuss it with him, or try to disuade him because:
"His personal life is his personal life."
In other words, he can run around and do whatever he wants, and it's not Santorum's business.
He's really good at blaming the liberal elite, radical feminists, gay activists, and hollywood--and restricting the rights of every American, but when it comes down to someone he knows and works with, the guy's tolerant. This is totally consistant with crap like Rush Limbaugh railing against drug users while popping hundreds of vicodin a day, or Jeb Bush saying that it was a "private, family matter" when his daughter Noelle, was caught with drugs--while he advocated for jail time for non-violent drug offenders. It's easy for these guys to stir up hate for people when they are abstract concepts, but when they are friends, co-workers, and children they let them off the hook. It's really easy to say that "those people" are ruining your society--Jews, blacks, feminists, liberals, etc.--but it's a lot harder to look someone in the face and condemn them. That's the next step towards fascism, and I hope we never take it.
I wish all of these wingnuts would be so honest about their positions. What Santorum wants is not American. What he wants is a Christian state, where "choice" is removed, and laws force you to follow their moral codes. Do you want this? If not, please vote.