Knives Out

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The Hawkeye Cauci have arrived, and tonight we’ll watch in breathless anticipation to see which presidential candidate will walk away with the lion’s share of the precious 25 delegates being awarded tonight – a critical two percent of the 1,144 needed to win the nomination.  Rick Santorum has climbed up the polls and is a serious threat to finish third, if not win the caucus outright.  And as with all candidates who have experienced a burst in popularity, the knives have come out for Santorum.  Yesterday I linked to Alan Colmes’s disgusting mockery of the manner in which Santorum and his family mourned the loss of their child, but that is just a taste of the attacks that Santorum has experienced in the previous few days and will experience if he continues to be a somewhat viable candidate.

In particular the blog Red State has run a number of blog posts in recent days that have, to put it mildly, been very critical of Santorum.  Just scroll through the link and you can see that Erick Erickson in particular has been a busy beaver.  Now most (though not all) of the contributors to the blog are pro-Perry and they see Santorum as a threat mainly to Perry.  And for what it’s worth, I am sympathetic to Red State’s views.  Though I certainly think people should vote for the candidate they feel is best, as a Perry supporter myself I lament that Santorum will do more to divide the conservative vote and help nominate Romney than anything else.  Rick Perry is much better suited for a long run at the nomination than Santorum, so I have mixed feelings about Santorum’s rise in the polls as he is my second choice for the nomination.  In fact I’d be ecstatic if either Rick won, yet both candidates are basically evenly dividing the not-Mitt vote with Gingrich.

Red State’s takedowns of the other candidates, especially Ron Paul, have been very good.  The anti-Santorum stuff, on the other hand, has been very weak tea.  There’s but the vaguest hint of a scandal with a company that Santorum was associated with, and this attack on Santorum about not believing the President to be a Chief Executive is nitpicky at worst, and smells of desperation.  The most effective criticisms revolve around the issues I brought up in this post from about a month ago.  In particular, this post simply linking to Santorum’s video endorsement of Arlen Specter is just damning.  

Santorum defenders have pointed out that he admitted that this was a mistake, and I’ve personally always thought that this issue was overblown.  That said, the primary defense of Santorum’s endorsement is itself fairly weak.  I’ve read it in multiple sources, but for simplicity’s sake I’ll cite Creative Minority Report:

But last year in an interview with the Spectator, Santorum admitted the endorsement was a mistake.

“In retrospect, it was a mistake,” he said. “I’ve admitted that. But you’ve gotta understand what my thinking was at the time. We had a 51-49 majority in the Senate. George W. Bush was up for a tough re-election fight. My sole focus was, how do we secure our majority, related most importantly to how could we confirm up to three Bush nominees to the Supreme Court.So let’s just get this right. Santorum’s decision to endorse Specter was one that would further the pro-life cause to get judges confirmed.

Remember, at the time of the endorsement Democrats were filibustering conservative federal judicial nominees and paying little or no political price. Republicans wanted to keep their slim majority and were afraid that Toomey, who didn’t have the name recognition he has now, wouldn’t win against a good campaigner in Democrat Congressman Joe Hoeffel.

If Toomey would’ve beaten Specter in the primary and lost in the general election we can’t know what would’ve become of the nominations of judges John Roberts or Samuel Alito. Santorum has said that Specter promised him that he would support George W. Bush’s judicial nominations. And he did. That support helped get Samuel Alito and John Roberts onto the Court. So one could argue that Santorum’s seeming defection helped put pro-lifers on the court.

I agree with Santorum that it was a mistake. It can be argued, however, that he did the wrong thing for the right reasons. I consider it a failing but the good news is that so does he. Politicians, like all of us, make mistakes. We’re electing human beings who make mistakes sometimes. But Rick Santorum made a mistake for the right reasons. His core principles are aimed at advancing the culture of life.

The problem with this defense, especially the bolded section, is that Specter was not needed to put Roberts and Alito on the Court.  Republicans wound up with a more sizeable majority in the wake of the 2004 election.  Furthermore, Roberts was confirmed with 78 votes, and Alito with 58.  Neither man needed Specter.  Now, it could plausibly be argued that Specter at least helped get Alito moved to a floor vote, but that’s doubful.  Both men, with or without Specter, would have been confirmed.  Moreover, we don’t know that Pat Toomey wouldn’t have won the general election.  After all, Toomey was elected to the Senate just this past year.  2004 wasn’t quite as favorable to Republicans as 2010, but it was still a good GOP year.

As it turns out Arlen Specter was a critical vote during his last term – as the 60th vote for Obamacare.  And it’s not like nobody could have seen such a betrayal coming. After all, Specter was one of the prime reasons that Robert Bork never made it to the Supreme Court – thus helping to keep Roe as the law of the land.  So it’s not as though Santorum’s endorsement is only foolish in hindsight.

As I’ve said, his endorsement of Specter is not disqualifying, but it’s not nothing either.  But if that’s the best that his critics can come up with, then Santorum might have some juice left in this campaign after tonight.

Assuming he can move to the other 49 states like he’s basically done with Iowa.


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  1. Anyone who can watch that Specter endorsement ad and still defend Santorum while pissing and moaning about frickin’ Gardasil needs to re-examine their priorities. The former is one of the, if not THE, biggest sell-outs of the pro-life cause by a pro-lifer in my lifetime. The Gardasil mandate that never came to be pales in comparison. They’re not even close to being in the same category.

  2. “The problem with this defense, especially the bolded section, is that Specter was not needed to put Roberts and Alito on the Court. Republicans wound up with a more sizeable majority in the wake of the 2004 election.”

    True Paul, and Santorum had absolutely no way of knowing that when the primary was held in April. As the tight Presidential polls that year indicated, there was every prospect that 2004 was going to be a bad year for the Republicans. The Democrats had slightly more seats up than the Republicans, 19-15 in the Senate that year, but the playing ground was fairly even. On election night Kentucky, Florida and Alaska were fairly close, and South Dakota was won by a hair. Control of the Senate would have shifted if those elections had gone the other way, and they might well have.

    I think what Santorum did was reasonable at the time, assuming that one’s goal is to have Supreme Court justices on the Court that will overturn Roe. Bush lost Pennsylvania to Kerry, and I think it likely that Toomey might well have been defeated that year, considering that he only got 51% of the vote in 2010, the best election year for Republicans since Calvin Coolidge was in office.

  3. I like Santorum and want him as the next president. I still can’t figure out why so many say “he is an unelectable candidate.” Can anyone offer some logic to this thought? Am I just getting the vibes from the anti-pro-life crowd?

  4. True Paul, and Santorum had absolutely no way of knowing that when the primary was held in April.

    That’s a fair point. I remember that the Senate configuration was very much in doubt even all the way up to the eve of the election. I was more optimistic than most – and turned out to be right, but it very well could have gone the other way. As it turns out though, Specter’s vote and even presence really was not determinitive, and I think it’s fair to say that in hindsight. Again, you could be right about Toomey in 2004, but we’ll never know. Long story short, Santorum made the wrong call, and it cost him.

  5. The Specter spectacle is forgivable as a a wrong call, placing pragmatic considerations over principle. A bigger criticism is his foreign policy is indistinguishable from Bush. If that’s what you want, then he’s your man.

  6. c matt, I just learned Santorum’s foreign policy is much worse than Bush’s.

    Unless Santorum comes out and says he believes the “Palestinians” have a right to vote as Israeli citizens, this goes too far for me. It’s as extreme as anything Ron Paul says about foreign policy.

  7. I still can’t figure out why so many say “he is an unelectable candidate.”

    Because he lost 20 points to Bob Casey for the senate and he would not win Pennsylvania in a general election.

    I really like Santorum, I really do. He is a good man. I was in Pa during that Spector endorsement and was crushed by it, but have moved on from all that. He would make a secertary of HHS, Dept of Homeland Security or something similar, but he just wouldn’t win a general election.

  8. In 2006 Christ could have been running statewide against Satan in Pennsylvania, and if Satan had a (D) after his name he would have won by 5 points. Casey ran as a fake pro-lifer, and capitalized on the high esteem in which his late father was held by pro-life voters, and quite a few Toomey voters decided it was time for payback. That Santorum was able to win two terms to the Senate in a blue state is actually a tribute to his skill as a campaigner. I have my concerns about Santorum: little charisma, a manner which seems to rub quite a few people the wrong way, not a great orator, etc. However, when looking at all the candidates currently, I think he is the best of a very weak lot.

  9. That Santorum was able to win two terms to the Senate in a blue state

    I wouldn’t exactly call PA a blue state. It has traditionally been a battleground state, albeit one that Democrats have won with some regularity in recent presidential elections. But the parties have switched control of the governor’s mansion and the legislature. In fact now the GOP has a decided advantage in terms of its Congressional delegation, and I believe has a majority in the state legislature. And while Santorum really had little chance in such a wave election in a state that leans a little bit in the Democrat direction, he lost by nearly 20 points.

  10. It’s as extreme as anything Ron Paul says about foreign policy.

    Rubbish. Most of the video in question appears to depict an attorney arguing with someone for sport. The principle he eventually asserts is that the disposition of the territory is properly at Israel’s discretion and not subject to claims of right by other parties. That is an arguable point. It is not extreme in the manner of Paul’s historical fantasy.

  11. I wouldn’t exactly call PA a blue state.

    There was a measure of resistance to the New Deal in Pennsylvania, but if you look at the top of the marquee amongst the state’s office holders you see that from about 1944 to about 1972 the state returned either mainline Democrats or returned Republicans given to qualifying, accomodating, and amending the initiatives of the mode in the Democratic Party. Such a disposition was congruent with the main currents of thought within the Republican Party prior to 1972; afterward, the Republican Party nationally took on a more coherent, ideological, and above all inner-directed disposition. This was not reflected at the top of the ticket in Pennsylvania, which continued to return the same sort of chaps. Mr. Santorum is the only figure elected between 1972 and 2010 who reflected the main currents of thought within the Republican Party and one of just two figures elected during the entire postwar period whose disposition to the Democratic Party was one of vigorous resistance. (The other fellow last stood for election in 1952). In context, he has been an oddity in Pennsylvania, and aspects of his career something of a tour-de-force.

  12. The odd thing about PA politics that no one’s mentioned is that there’s a strong pro-life element in the Democratic Party, and a strong pro-choice element among the Republicans. A pro-lifer has to make a lot of prudential decisions. Without getting into a whole double-effect conversation, it can get pretty complicated. But then again, I’m always defending Santorum around here. 🙂

    Alito was confirmed by a good percentage, but the committee vote was 10-8 along party lines. If that had been 9-9, I don’t know what the Senate would have done.

  13. If [the Judiciary Committee vote to send the Alito confirmation to the floor] had been 9-9, I don’t know what the Senate would have done.


    The World’s Greatest Dithering Body would have let the Alito nomination die in committee, that’s what.

    Because Sen. Santorum’s reputation rests so heavily on how principled he is, his half-a-loaf-is-better-than-none argument falls flat. No way does it come close to answering the question you sold your soul for Arlen Specter?

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