The Goldilocks Conservative

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Rick Santorum has come under fire from right-wing critics for being not conservative enough on fiscal and economic issues, while simultaneously being too conservative on social issues.  In my mind, he’s just right.

On the matter of fiscal policy Santorum has been portrayed as some kind of big government statist.  As a Senator he did cast votes for raising the debt ceiling, for Medicare Part 2, No Child Left Behind, and other big spending programs.  He’s admitted erring on a couple of these votes.  Overall, though, Santorum’s record as judged by free market policy institutes is fairly solid.  The Weekly Standard ran a piece on the National Taxpayer Union’s grading of Santorum, and he compares very favorably to most of his colleagues.  

For each session of Congress, NTU scores each member on an A-to-F scale.  NTU weights members’ votes based on those votes’ perceived effect on both the immediate and future size of the federal budget.  Those who get A’s are among “the strongest supporters of responsible tax and spending policies”; they receive NTU’s “Taxpayers’ Friend Award.”  B’s are “good” scores, C’s are “minimally acceptable” scores, D’s are “poor” scores, and F’s earn their recipients membership in the “Big Spender” category.  There is no grade inflation whatsoever, as we shall see.

NTU’s scoring paints a radically different picture of Santorum’s 12-year tenure in the Senate (1995 through 2006) than one would glean from the rhetoric of the Romney campaign.  Fifty senators served throughout Santorum’s two terms:  25 Republicans, 24 Democrats, and 1 Republican/Independent.  On a 4-point scale (awarding 4 for an A, 3.3 for a B+, 3 for a B, 2.7 for a B-, etc.), those 50 senators’ collective grade point average (GPA) across the 12 years was 1.69 — which amounts to a C-.  Meanwhile, Santorum’s GPA was 3.66 — or an A-.  Santorum’s GPA placed him in the top 10 percent of senators, as he ranked 5th out of 50.

Across the 12 years in question, only 6 of the 50 senators got A’s in more than half the years.  Santorum was one of them.  He was also one of only 7 senators who never got less than a B.  (Jim Talent served only during Santorum’s final four years, but he always got less than a B, earning a B- every year and a GPA of 2.7.)  Moreover, while much of the Republican party lost its fiscal footing after George W. Bush took office — although it would be erroneous to say that the Republicans were nearly as profligate as the Democrats — Santorum was the only senator who got A’s in every year of Bush’s first term.  None of the other 49 senators could match Santorum’s 4.0 GPA over that span.

The Club for Growth has released white papers on all the candidates.  They judged Santorum a little more strictly and found him wanting in areas such as spending and free trade.  Still, they still gave him a generally favorable review.

On the whole, Rick Santorum’s record on economic issues in the U.S. Senate was above average.  More precisely, it was quite strong in some areas and quite weak in others.  He has a strong record on taxes, and his leadership on welfare reform and Social Security was exemplary.  But his record also contains several very weak spots, including his active support of wasteful spending earmarks, his penchant for trade protectionism, and his willingness to support large government expansions like the Medicare prescription drug bill and the 2005 Highway Bill.

As president, Santorum would most likely lead the country in a pro-growth direction, but his record contains more than a few weak spots that make us question if he would resist political expediency when it comes to economic issues.

A rougher assessment than the NTU, but generally no worse than either Gingrich or Romney.  In fact this is what the Club for Growth writes about Romney:

Because of his long tenure in public life, especially his presidential run in 2008, Mitt Romney is considered a well-vetted candidate by now.  Perhaps to his consternation, he has developed an unshakeable reputation as a flip-flopper. He has changed his position on several economic issues, including taxes, education, political free speech, and climate change.  And yet the one issue that he doesn’t flip on – RomneyCare – is the one that is causing him the most problems with conservative voters.  Nevertheless, he labels himself as a pro-growth fiscal conservative, and we have no doubt that Romney would move the country in a pro-growth direction.  He would promote the unwinding of Obama’s bad economic policies, but we also think that Romney is somewhat of a technocrat. After a career in business, quickly finding a “solution” seems to be his goal, even if it means more government intrusion as a means to an end. To this day, Romney supports big government solutions to health care and opposes pro-growth tax code reform – positions that are simply opposite to those supported by true economic conservatives.  How much Romney’s philosophy of governance will affect his policy goals if elected, we leave for the voters to decide.

I’d hardly call that a rousing endorsement.

In the end, Ed Morrissey’s sentiments largely mirror mine:

 He’s not a perfect conservative, to be sure, and questions about how he would stack up against Barack Obama in the general election are legitimate concerns.  However, the alternatives are the person who signed an individual health-care mandate into law in Massachusetts, and the man who both backed individual mandates until 2010 and sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi to push global-warming alarmism a few years before that, and both of whom also spent three or four weeks sounding more like an Occupier on Bain Capital and Freddie Mac work than a Republican.  Those issues occurred  more recently than any sins committed by Santorum while in the Senate, which is why I’m not buying the idea thatSantorum is the big-government candidate about which I should be worried.

Now about those social issues.  Santorum is under fire for his supposedly out of the mainstream social conservatism.  The problem with this line of attack is that he is, by and large, in accord with the majority of Americans on most social issues.  The tide has been turning on abortion for years, gay marriage is still unpopular with a majority of the electorate (including majority opposition to the Prop 8 ruling in California), and the majority of the country is opposed to the HHS mandate.  Where Santorum evidently loses favor is his personal opposition to contraception, including his willingness to actually talk about the negative consequences of contraception.  To hear some of the libertarians on this issue you would think that Santorum has promised to deliver a series of fireside chats about the evils of contraception.  All he’s indicated is that he is willing to talk about it, but nothing more.  In fact he has insisted that he will not legislate on the matter.

The hypocrisy in this case, I think, is pretty obvious and we’re going to stand up and articulate what the truth is, which is, in this case, as in many cases, my personal feelings and personal moral judgments are not those that are going to be reflected in public law, nor should they all the time. Not everything that is immoral in this country should be illegal or should be within the governance of the federal or state government, or any government.

Yet Santorum’s refusal to completely abandon the contraceptive issue is enough to make libertarian and libertarian-leaning conservatives’ hearts go aflutter.  Evidently the fact that a president might mention that he thinks that the contraceptive mentality is harming society is just as oppressive as a government that actually mandates that all institutions cover contraception, or which is literally examining the content of our children’s lunchboxes.

Others are sympathetic to Santorum’s social conservatism, but fear it makes him unelectable.  Funny, it didn’t seem to hurt Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, both of whom were elected twice (yes, including W.).  Libertarians have tried to co-opt Reagan as one of their own.  Sure, he might have said friendlier things about libertarians, but he was not one of them.  In fact there is very little light between Reagan and Santorum philosophically.  Keep in mind that Reagan wrote an anti-abortion tract while in office.  No social libertine was he.

Ultimately what libertarians forget is that they are a distinct electoral minority in this country.  If we break Americans out into four broad ideological categories (conceding that this is an over-simplification), we have conservatives, liberals, libertarians, and, for lack of a better term, populists.  Populists are the flip side of libertarians, meaning they are socially conservative but economically more liberal.  This group is far more prevalent in the United States than libertarians.  Now libertarians might point to the advent of the tea party movement as proof that they are electorally ascendant, but that’s not quite right as the overwhelming majority of tea partiers are also socially conservative.  The tea party movement emphasizes economic issues, but those that make up the movement are not antithetical to social conservatism.  So while it is certainly true that an alliance of conservatives and libertarians is largely mutually beneficial, make no mistake about it: they need us a lot more than we need them to have an electoral impact.

Finally, let’s just look at the other two primary candidates.  Gingrich is so unpopular that Sarah Palin looks like the most popular politician in America by comparison.  Mitt Romney is perceived as a stiff, boring, out of touch plutocrat.  Santorum, on the other hand, can appeal and has appealed to the blue collar voters that make up large swathes of the population in swing states like Michigan, Ohio, and yes, Pennsylvania.  Of course the Democratic spin machine will demagogue Santorum to death, but they are going to do that to whoever the GOP nominee is.  With somebody like Romney, they’ll just have to be less dishonest about it than with Santorum.

More to explorer

Keeping a Promise

As faithful readers of this blog know, I was a very reluctant, and late, supporter of Donald Trump in 2016.  I grudgingly


  1. “Of course the Democratic spin machine will demagogue Santorum to death,”

    They will attempt to, but I am beginning to doubt that will be effective. Some politicians grow in stature after a time in the political wilderness after a defeat, and I think that is what happened to Santorum after his defeat in 2006. He has thought hard about the issues, has well-articulated positions and is unafraid to speak his mind and defend what he believes. As he said recently, voters may not agree with all that he believes, but they will never doubt that he believes what he says he believes. If I were an Obama political flack, I would much prefer to go up against Romney. A politician of conviction can be hard to beat, once people begin to listen to him and begin to realize that he is truly seeking the common good, even if they do not completely agree with him.

  2. Wow, never heard the term populist described the way you describe it. But according to that definition I am definitly a populist. I guess that describes why I never felt comfortable with the the socially liberal, economic conservatism the republican party seems to be heading.

    Santorum is now my guy, I was a naysayer but he won over. Originally being from Pa I know how much he is disliked by “independents” in Pa. I still have some serious doubts about the general election and his ability to get the independent vote. But he has shown he will fight for it, and he won’t shy away from the great moral issues of our time. He has my vote.

  3. They need to demagogue-to-death any GOP nominee.

    Until there is nothing left for them to steal, they must distract us from the fact that the entire population is going to the poor house.

    I’m an independent (small i).

    The only potential candidates for whom I will not vote are the useless POSes currently destroying our country and our way of life, i.e., the ones with (D) behind their names.

  4. Of course, for me, Santorum’s position on social issues is a huge plus. My concerns with him are in the foreign policy area. No question that he is better than Obama, but is he good enough to pull the lever for standing on his own merit? That is my current dilemma, and will keep an open mind.

  5. Thank you, Mr. Zummo! It’s refreshing to see a look at Santorum that’s not attempting to paint him as crazy or creepy.

  6. “personal moral judgments are not those that are going to be reflected in public law, nor should they all the time. Not everything that is immoral in this country should be illegal or should be within the governance of the federal or state government, or any government.

    Santorum must be brushing up on St. Thomas Aquinas. Here is a quote from the Summa about “whether it belongs to human law to repress all vices”:

    “… law is framed as a rule or measure of human acts … laws imposed on men should also be in keeping with their condition … law should be “possible both according to nature, and according to the customs of the country.

    Now human law is framed for a number of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue. Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained…”

    Santorum is showing some pretty good theological grounds for his position.

  7. Nicholas, not only are his points on good theological grounds, but also on simple logical grounds, which I think speaks to more people ultimately. He seems to know the boundaries of the office and he seems to be articulating them well. While I don’t like the fact that he has and will vote to fund contraception from a Federal level, as I don’t believe that anybody truly needs free contraception, and I would hope that he would make a push to make sure that no Title X funding goes to abortion providers, his reasoning is sound and I think will resonate with a great number of voters. Let’s just hope he is successful in communicating his position. That is, let’s hope the media allows him the platform to accurately communicate his position.

  8. That is, let’s hope the media allows him the platform to accurately communicate his position.

    And I’ll hope my cats start pooping Gold Double Eagles.

    We have about an equal chance of seeing our hopes fulfilled.

  9. Reagan received some of the worst press imaginable in 1980. He spoke over the heads of the media to the American people. Santorum will have to do the same. The difference is that Santorum will have a host of new media available to help him get his message out. Santorum of course is no Reagan, but in 1980 the popular perception of Reagan outside of conservative true believers like me, was that Reagan was a senile, washed up Grade B actor, with crazy right wing views, way out of the mainstream. This perception continued until Reagan devastated Carter in their one and only debate a few days before the election. Reagan was vastly misjudged and underestimated and the same is true this year of Santorum. If played properly, such a misperception can give a candidate an advantage as people begin to realize that what the media has told them about the candidate simply is not true. Santorum would do well to remember Reagan’s ending in that debate:

  10. I think there is a mistake in thinking that Gingrich is for a ‘mandate’ like Romney and Obama. First, everything government does is a mandate, so it is a stupid thing to take offense to, unless you are an anarchist. Newt is in favor of ensuring that those that can qualify for and afford medical insurance get some; rather than wait until they need it and go to the ER and stick the rest of us with the bill. They will either raise prices at the hospital or raise taxes through government programs. Libertarians will disagree, but they are wrong. What we need is the availability of inexpensive critical illness and/or hospital insurance, which the market (without government mandates of coverage) will provide at low rates. Young healthy people can pay cash at the physicians office, its the hospital that costs so much. They need to cover this so the rest of us don’t have to.

    Additionally, the whole sitting on the couch with Nancy Pelosi is a canard, please drop it. There are much better things to disagree with Newt about. WTO, GATT, China’s MFN status, etc.

    I’ve also heard Rick back-peddle away from strong family and anti-contraceptive stances. He has said he stresses the family ONLY because it is good economically. I don’t think he actually thinks that, perhaps it is political pandering, but he did say it. He has also said that contraceptives are fine and that it is a personal choice not to use them. That sounds pretty libertarian and again, I don’t think he believes that.

    He is also a little thin-skinned and gets a little pissy when challenged. Facing Obama that will not be good (ironic because Obama is even more thin-skinned.) I know this from personal experience. I challenged him on the fact that he and his fellow Republicans were far from conservative in the compassionate Bush years. I like Rick and I think he is good and faithful man; however, his flaws (like the rest of us) are a problem – the rest of us aren’t running for president though.

    Newt is also a faithful Catholic and as a re-vert/convert myself, I can tell you we tend to be very, very passionate because we came to the Church later in life. That is not to say that those blessed to be raised in the faith are not passionate – so don’t get your panties in a bunch.

    Newt has the skills and the stature to get things done. Conservative things. Things to repair the damage. You are going to have a president who has to work with a not-so-conservative Republican establishment in the House and (probably) a Democratic Senate. Newt can do that, I am not so sure Rick can. Furthermore, Newt can attract libertarians where Santorum probably cannot because of Newt’s developing stance against the Fed and his gold commission. If this is about delegates, and I suspect it will be, Newt can gain Paul’s.

    Nevertheless, I think Rick can be a good president, certainly better than the other three options (worst to least bad: Obama, Romney, Paul.) But, given where we are, Newt is still a better option and he is smart enough to come back again.

  11. Obumbler and his minions have nothing to run on except to attack the opposing candidate. They have nothing, NOTHING to run on regarding Obumbler’s record. Obumbler is an extremist left wing hack and is surrounded by the same. if empty headed “independents” are put off by some of Santorum’s social views, which have no chance of being enacted into Federal law or as a Constitutional amendment, then they are as guilty of ruining this country as the political Left.

    I know what would be pure political gold. Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, a former daily communicant at St. Mary of Mercy in downtown Pittsburgh – I know this because I saw him at nearly every 7:30 AM Mass – supported Obumbler in 2008 and was rewarded by being appointed Ambassador to Ireland. I know not what Mr. Rooney thinks of Obumbler now, but Mr. Rooney would be required by protocol to submit his resignation to a President-elect Rick Santorum – who would certainly ask Mr. Rooney what he found so attractive about Obumbler.

    So many people seem to think of Santorum as a right wing social extremist and a big spender – just check Red State, who blames Santorum for Rick Perry’s demise as a candidate. Obumbler is the social extremist, not Santorum. Oh, and Rick Perry’s demise was due to Rick Perry. Perry jumped in far too late, debated terribly and allowed Michele Bachmann to beat him up over Gardasil. Erick Erickson would do well to remember that.

  12. Santorum’s problems have nothing to do with policy matters on balance. As a unabashed conservative I just don’t want him selling my brand. He has courageously taken up the fight but there’s nothing in him which inspires confidence.

  13. Whoa, whoa, whoa there, Paul.

    Clarification, please:

    You say there are conservatives, liberals, libertarians, and populists?

    And you define and distinguish between them…how, exactly?

    I ask because your definition of “populists” seems to match neither the strict definition of the name nor the behavior of any group distinct from “social conservatives.”

    And then you call them the flip-side of libertarians, saying that “they are socially conservative but economically more liberal.” This presumably means that libertarians are socially liberal but economically more conservative.

    But that’s rather confused, if that’s how you describe libertarians.

    Pro-life libertarians, who’re about 35% of the whole libertarian lot and constitute a solid majority of the libertarians in my home state of Georgia, are typically quite socially conservative if you’re talking about how their personal behavior aligns with traditional morality. The only way in which you can call them “socially liberal” is that, except for abortion, they do not believe in using the coercive power of the state to make everyone obey their traditional mores. (Abortion is the exception, of course, because it involves an assault on an individual’s rights, which, libertarians believe, is exactly what state compulsion is intended to prevent.)

    But is that really “socially liberal?” I don’t see how it can be, because “socially liberal” is also used to describe the statists behind the HHS mandate…and they are using compulsion to make everyone behave as they think they should by forcing everyone to pay for contraceptives. A libertarian would never do that. So how can they both be described as “socially liberal?”

    The fact that libertarians don’t use compulsion in most matters related to sexual mores does not in mean they’re “socially liberal.” Rick Santorum says he doesn’t want to outlaw condoms and wouldn’t lock up homosexuals for homosexual acts; does that make him a libertarian? Does it make him a social liberal?

    I think that if you’re going to break down the American electorate, the only sensible way is to ask them, of any given question affecting human behavior,

    (a.) How ought people to behave in this area of life?

    (b.) Are you willing to exert state compulsion to make them behave that way? Or only try to persuade them to adopt your view voluntarily?

    The “how ought people to behave” answer can either be in accord with Catholic teaching or not.

    The “compulsion” answer will be (at the extremes) either totalitarian or libertarian.

    So a Catholic monarch of the Middle Ages or Byzantine Emperor would presumably have been fairly totalitarian in imposing a Christian moral code, but it would have been a Christian moral code.

    Mao imposed a non-Christian code, but was totalitarian in doing so.

    A Christian libertarian holds a Christian code of behavior, including marital one-man-one-woman fidelity and almsgiving to the needy. He tries to persuade his neighbors to do likewise. But he doesn’t compel them.

    A non-Christian hedonist libertarian holds a non-Christian code of behavior, including smoking pot and spending his money only on himself. He probably doesn’t give a frog’s fat fanny what his neighbors do. But he doesn’t compel them to do as he does.

    A left-liberal progressive holds a Christian view on almsgiving, but an anti-Christian view on sexual matters, and he’s also a statist: He believes in compelling almsgiving via the welfare state, and he believes in compelling contraceptive-buying through the HHS. He is, in a word, an authoritarian on his way to becoming totalitarian.

    I imagine there are also folks who are totalitarian about sex but not economics, and hold Christian views about sex. These folks would outlaw condoms but desire a free-market. There may be such folks, but none of them are running for office.

    Likewise there may be folks who are totalitarian about sex but not economics, and hold anti-Christian views about sex. These folks support the HHS rule changes but are free marketers. I don’t see many of those, either.

    My point in all this is: Libertarianism is NOT defined by a particular view either of sexual morality or economic morality. Those are add-on modules which you must supply yourself. Libertarianism does not claim to have a complete moral compass built in.

    All that Libertarianism says is this: It is immoral for you (or government on your behalf) to use force to compel your neighbor to behave as you wish, unless the compulsion is being used to deter, halt, or punish a violation of the rights of an innocent person (which is to say: a wrongful imposition of force or fraud on that innocent person).

    Libertarianism, then, is (and only claims to be) about a tenth of a philosophy. It supplies the answer to one particular question: When may I pull a gun on my neighbor to make him behave as I wish? If you answer this question as libertarians do, you’re a libertarian. How you answer all the other moral questions determines whether you’re a Catholic libertarian or some other kind.

    Narrowly, on the matter of contraception, Rick Santorum does indeed appear to be a libertarian: He doesn’t believe in using state compulsion either to force people to buy contraceptives, or to force them not to. He’s a Catholic libertarian (on that issue), so he personally opposes them buying contraceptives, but since he won’t use state compulsion to prohibit it, he’s still libertarian on that issue.

    Whether he’s libertarian on any other issue depends on when he does or does not propose force to ensure compliance with his views on that issue.

    Is Rick Santorum a libertarian on abortion? That’s the trickiest one, because libertarians are divided. Pro-life libertarians say Santorum is libertarian on abortion, because he believes in prohibiting an assault on human life, which is one of the things libertarians agree the government is supposed to do. (Libertarians are not anarchists.) They say pro-choice libertarians are hypocritical and have lapsed into anarchism on the topic of abortion.

    Paul, I realize this really wasn’t the main point of your piece, which I liked overall.

    But we Americans on the right are typically believers in limited government, which is why we so often take a libertarian stance on any given topic.

    So, we really ought not misuse the term libertarian. We ought to define it correctly. This will help us keep as many libertarians on board the anti-Obama bandwagon as possible, which is a good thing strategically. And, more importantly, it’ll mean we’re accurate and truthful in how we reason together.

  14. Zummo, this is what is going to happen to Santorum (and I apologize to Don McC who is not a sports fan):

    Imagine going to see a Red Sox vs. Yankees game (or, what is more to my preference, a Red Birds vs. Brew Crew game – I am trying not to be provincial though.) Imagine all the umpires coming out in Red Sox caps and cheering every time the Sox score a run. Imagine every single hit of the Sox being called safe, even caught fly balls. And every single hit the Yankees hit is called foul. A Yankees runner steals home 3 full seconds before the ball reaches the catcher- but it’s an out, according to the umps.

    Gee, I’m getting angry just IMAGINING such a game. Apply this to the *ha* MSM “rules” governing the behavior of GOP candidates- and you’ll appreciate what Santorum is up against.

  15. R.C. : a couple of things. First off, as I said above, this four-pronged layout was admittedly simplistic. I was trying to categorize the ideological breakdown of the nation in a very broad manner.

    As for the libertarian-conservative thing, I might be putting up another post this week that clarifies the distinction. Long story short, conservatives who believe in limited government are not necessarily animated by the same principles as libertarians. Hopefully I will have time to expand on that later on.

  16. As for the media backlash against Santorum, as Donald mentioned, there are new media outlets that will provide Santorum (or any GOP candidate) more favorable coverage than existed in the time of Reagan. Of course the counter to that is that there are also an abundance of left-leaning new media that will work in concert with MSM outlets.

  17. True Paul, but we have the added advantage, contra the claim of the “reality based community”, that this year reality will have a distinct conservative bias. Many apolitical people I know have told me with what scorn they react to the meme in the mainstream media that “the economy is recovering”. The days when Walter Cronkite could say “Well, that’s the way it is.” and be believed by most Americans seems as far away as the First Punic War.

    In regard to leftist new media outlets, somehow the phrase Vox Nova came to mind, I am confident that conservative new media will more than hold their own.

  18. Paul, good luck clarifying “the libertarian-conservative thing.” Modern usage of the terminology complicates things and the American perspective complicates things even more.

    My experience with libertarians is that many of them are deeply idiosyncratic and will defy any attempt to clarify their “ideology.” For many, it ends up being more personal preference than ideologically consistent. Conservatives understand that freedom is limited by human nature, traditionally taking their guidance from a faith-based understanding of human nature, i.e., virtues vs. sins. The Garden of Eden is the quintessential basis of this limitation. God gave us free will; but not free reign.

    Of course, within the American context, the limitation of freedom must be done within constitutional limits. Libertarians mistakenly believe that our Founders were libertarians. They were not. The Founders were conservatives, but uniquely so for their time, who believed in limiting the authority and power of government, especially at the national level, but devising a system of constitutional (written) self-government in which a virtuous people limit their own freedom within those constitutional guidelines.

    As for the Romney-Santorum thing, I am increasingly of the opinion that, given Republicans deeply self-destructive behavior of late, that neither candidate can beat Obama this fall. Santorum, if he is the nominee, and after the media is done with him, will win fewer electoral votes that McCain did in 2008. As bad as the Obama presidency has been, and by our inability to get our act together, we are handing him re-election on a silver platter.

  19. “Imagine going to see a Red Sox vs. Yankees game…”

    Or worse yet, imagine going to a Cubs-Cards game at Wrigley where the Cubs have a 10 run lead going into the 6th or 7th inning and they STILL find a way to lose…. that’s what I fear the election may end up being like.

  20. I know have told me with what scorn they react to the meme in the mainstream media that “the economy is recovering”.

    Whether they are scornful or not, real domestic product began to increase in June of 2009 and the private-sector labor market ceased imploding in December of 2009. Our most salient problems are prospective (given the wretched state of public finances in most occidental countries and the undercapitalization of European banks) or they are chronic conditions not much influenced by the business cycle (crony capitalism, crony philanthropy, ill-structured welfare programs, &c.).

  21. Thanks American Knight for your commentary. The vitriol unleased against Newt speaks volumes…he is feared. Newt is a visionary who can accomplish the ” rebuilding of America.” All forward thinkers are marginalized in their day precisely because they are ahead of their time. Why do people laugh because he envisions America to take the leadership role in space? China and Russia want to own the moon! What kind of world will this be if China and Russia are the global authority and power? We need a forward thinking president who identifies faith in God to be central to leadership. As a recent convert to the Catholic Faith (2009), Newt (not Santorum) proclaimed “marriage is a sacrament” and he was the first to identify religious liberty as a core issue. Like Wayne, my conern with Santorum “Mr. Family Man,” is that he will vote to Federally fund contraception. This, to me, reveals his lack of authenticity. Genuine faith informs decisions- it does not leave it on the doorstep!

  22. The vitriol unleased against Newt speaks volumes…he is feared.

    Who fears Newt? I’ve personally defended him from some of the more scurrilous attacks against him. He is not my current favorite pick for the nomination, but he’s certainly preferable to Romney and Paul.

    As a recent convert to the Catholic Faith (2009), Newt (not Santorum) proclaimed “marriage is a sacrament”

    Do you really want to go there? Do you suppose that the once-married, father of seven has a less concrete understanding of the sacramentality of marriage than Newt? Really?

    Like Wayne, my conern with Santorum “Mr. Family Man,” is that he will vote to Federally fund contraception.

    Again, you’re really going to go with Newt Gingrich over Rick Santorum on the issue of contraception?

    As I said, Newt is not so bad. It’s just that he’s not as conservative as Rick Santorum, not as electable as Rick Santorum, and has a much more checkered personal life.

  23. Paul Z: As I said, Newt is not so bad. It’s just that he’s not as conservative as Rick Santorum, not as electable as Rick Santorum, and has a much more checkered personal life.

    Paul, it is probably safe to say that people of good will like both Newt and Rick; however, I see many people of faith overlooking some of Rick’s problems (whether real or merely rhetorical). I tended to think he is more ‘conservative’ than Newt, but I am beginning to think he is not as politically confident, which renders him less likely to stand against the Obama machine. As for ‘electability’ (whatever the heck that means), I have spoken to many liberals and liberal-leaning independents who think more fondly of Newt than any other Republican because of the success he built with Clinton, whom they love. I think that makes him more appealing and therefore more electable.

    As for the checkered past, I think that makes him more real and easier to relate to, we must also remember that God prefers to use imperfect instruments. We know that sinners who are aware of their fall are more likely to see the good and humbly accept their role. We live in cynical times and a candidate with previous falls that he has overcome can be more attractive.

    The real difference is in the potential effectiveness. Newt has a strong record here. He has the skill-set to not only articulate conservative principles in a pithy and down-to-earth manner, but he is also willing to break with Republican dogma and express his convictions. He was the first to come out in defense of religion and the Church and he applies the doctrine in a practical manner that appeals to non-Catholics. I think we can do well with either Rick or Newt, but it seems that from a practical perspective, Newt can get more done and sooner. Rick can continue to grow and may very well be the one to sustain the turn-around that Newt can bring.

    We need different men at different times. Often, the visionary who starts a new enterprise is not well suited to continue the work after start-up and rapid growth. I think this may be the same for us now. We need big, radical and effective change and Newt is more capable of that than Rick. There is no question that Newt can mop the floor with Obama and that is the most important step for without that nothing will change.

  24. “Whether they are scornful or not, real domestic product began to increase in June of 2009 and the private-sector labor market ceased imploding in December of 2009. ”

    The Illinois unemployment rate is 9.8% Art. I did more bankruptcies last year than any single year in my career, and the pace is picking up. For Illinois, talk of recovery is a sick joke.

  25. “There is no question that Newt can mop the floor with Obama and that is the most important step for without that nothing will change.”

    Newt can’t even mop the floor with Romney, and I say that as someone who has written several favorable posts on Newt. As always, Newt’s greatest enemy is himself, as he illustrated in this campaign.

  26. As for ‘electability’ (whatever the heck that means), I have spoken to many liberals and liberal-leaning independents who think more fondly of Newt than any other Republican because of the success he built with Clinton, whom they love.

    I remember tales of liberals who said they could happily vote for John McCain. Who did they really vote for when push came to shove? Barack Obama. They will do the same this year. A great example of this was a left-leaning friend of mine who claimed all year in 2008 that she would vote for McCain over Obama. In the end she of course voted for Obama. Why? It came down to Vice Presidents. Since neither McCain or Obama would likely survive their term (McCain would die of old age and Obama would get assassinated), then she had to choose Biden over Palin.

    Never discount the mental contortions people will go to in order to justify voting behavior.

    I’m not a fan of discussing electability, but there’s no getting around the fact that Gingrich is enormously unpopular with the electorate. Santorum, on the other hand, appeals to voters in swing states like Michigan and Ohio. We can never know exactly how things will play out, but I think Santorum would have a slight advantage here.

    There’s also the matter of debates. I think Newt is horribly overrated. I’ve been saying since the beginning, before I had determined my order of preference among the candidates, that Santorum was much better substantively than Gingrich. Gingrich is all show and drama, and I’m not sure that will play in a general election debate. Besides, if presidential elections were actually decided by debates, well, our election results in recent times would have likely been different.

    Otherwise, I’m not going to argue too much about Gingrich. I think that some of his more “out there” tendencies of thought will be restrained by a Republican. I even agree that his moon colony idea is not a deal breaker. He would most likely make a fine president, and I could live with him if he got elected. But I prefer Rick, for reasons already stated.

  27. I think this discussion says a great deal. It is easy to idealize a candidate before they run and then act disappointed in the options. The fact is we have two really good choices and I suspect that most of us would be happy with Rick or Newt. I give a nod to Newt, you give a nod to Rick, but none of us are that invested one way or the other and not because of lukewarmness or mediocre candidates, but because both are strong.

    I think Newt has done very well in the debates. I agree that he was derailed by Romney in Florida because I don’t think Newt was expecting Obamaesque lies out of a ‘colleague’, peer, or whatever. Do debates make a president? No. But, it certainly will play when Obama and the Rep nom go head to head. Romney loses, Paul has a minority appeal (fervent as it is), Santorum will look angry and combative – Newt will reveal Obama for the hollow fool that he is.

    As for show, well, this is a celebrity obsessed and fickle culture, so that has some play; however, Newt backs it up with substance and he has delivered in the past. Additionally, his ouster was orchestrated by Republicans who could not handle the necessary negotiation with Clinton and the RINOs who did not want to be restrained. Look what the compassionate conservatism that is Republican policy after Newt was discharged has cost – sickening.

    He does not only lay out a big picture that is conservative, American, faithful and probably populist; but he tells us HOW he is going to get it done, which I suspect is something professional campaign managers detest. The simple fact is that America is headed toward severe decline unless big changes back toward our principles happen and happen now. I am hopeful that we will come out better for it. The Roman Republic’s battles between the populares and optimates preceded a period of Republican stability long before the rise and fall of the Empire.

    I think we can agree that Romney is useless, Paul, although he has some merits, is ideologically a libertarian materialist (doomed to eventual failure) and Obama is extremely dangerous (incompetent as he is). Gingrich/Santorum works for me, and I accept Santorum/Gingrich. I suspect that is the case for most of us.

  28. As for the checkered past, I think that makes him more real and easier to relate to,

    I seem to recall his lieutanant William Paxon, who had been in politics his entire adult life, said he was motivated to seek a career change due to listening to Dr. Gingrich yapping about himself one evening. Mr. Paxon did not actually use the term ‘narcissist’, to be sure…

  29. No question that Newt has an issue with pride (hubris) and being enamored with his own prowess. Then, again, which of us in a position of leadership with natural competence doesn’t have to struggle with that? I was most certainly a self-centered egoist until God knocked me down a few (hundred) notches. I came back to the Church of my infancy.

    Newt has grown into the Catholic Church. Rarely does one choose to become Catholic, especially later in life because it is easy or satisfies your ego. What other Church demands such a total submission? Far easier for an egoist to remain comfortably Protestant.

    It is easy to confuse confidence with pride. I see a man who has been humbled and matured. Does he still have egoist tendencies? Probably. Grace builds upon nature. Newt’s temperament has not changed; however, it seems that his character has and to what does he attribute the change? The Holy Eucharist.

  30. It is overly simplistic to make the inference that the number of children one has renders a concrete understanding of the sacramentality of marriage. Santorum correctly identifies a core problem affecting America’s society today- the destruction of the family. Contraception destroys confidence in God because it says that we do not trust God to design our families. Contraception has the potential to destroy human life that is just beginning in the womb. Santorum, in supporting federally funded contraception, is sanctioning its use.
    The funding of contraception services by people of faith is the way that the HHS mandate is attacking religious liberty. It is by no coincidence that contraception services is the instrument chosen to destroy religious liberty. John Paul II wrote in his Encylical “The Gospel of Life,” “Here though we shall concentrate particular attention on another category of attacks, affecting life in its earliest and its final stages, attacks which present new characteristics with respect to the past and which raise questions of extraordinary seriousness. It is not only that in generalized opinion these attacks tend no longer to be considered as ‘crimes’; paradoxically they assume the nature of ‘rights’, to the point that the State is called upon to give them legal recognition and to make them available through the free services of health-care personnel. Such attacks strike human life at the time of its greatest frailty, when it lacks any means of self-defence. Even more serious is the fact that, most often, those attacks are carried out in the very heart of and with the complicity of the family-the family which by its nature is called to be the ‘sanctuary of life’.”
    This is the very crossroads we find ourselves in today with this current HHS mandate… the legislation of reproductive rights. Most all other Christian faiths have embraced the contraception mentality. The rejection of “Humane Vitae” by prelates in the American Church is the issue that is rearing its ugly head. It is not an issue to relegate to the back. In my opinion, it needs to be front and center for the survival of this country. Finally, we export the contraception mentality to poor nations by attaching contraception services as a requirement for them to receive essential assistance such as food and medicine.

  31. God knows, you can’t please everyone. Go, Rick!

    I am with him on defending the family. But for you, Paul Z, I’ll let it ride.

    God bless.

  32. I dunno.

    It seems an Iowa poll has Obama beating Newt Gingrich 51 to 37. However, pharaoh loses to the others, including Ron Paul.

    I’m shocked.

    Where is the corn belt gratitude for keeping ethanol in 10% of all US gasoline and running up the prices of farmland into the stratosphere?

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