Don’t Pick Rick, says Mona Charen in the National Review Online. His strident socially conservative rhetoric leaves him with too many vulnerabilities as a candidate in race that isn’t fundamentally about social issues at all.
I’ll give an amen to Charen on this one.
While I can respect Sen. Rick Santorum‘s conviction, he absolutely is the wrong presidential candidate for the GOP. The problem may not primarily be his social conservatism – though his views do seem to be a bit formulaic and reactionary at times. It’s that he doesn’t know how to express them in a semi-secular political square and a pluralistic, media-driven age.
His vernacular is out there at times, at least given the context, and he sometimes doesn’t seem to realize that not everybody is coming where he’s coming from when he makes a moral argument on a political topic. That doesn’t mean you have to change your views, Rick, but sometimes it means you have to approach the issue with a certain deft-sensitivity and self-awareness.
The other thing is that Santorum seems too focused on religious issues at times. In fact, the whole contraception flap is a perfect example. Now, he’s not the only Republican to be guilty of this (way too many have been), but why on earth has nobody pointed out that this is not only a matter of conscience (that Catholic organizations not be forced to provide contraception to employees, directly or indirectly through insurance), but a basic matter of economic and personal freedom? Santorum, et al, hit relentlessly on the religious angle.
But that was quickly diffused by Team Obama (“Don’t have the church do it, just make their insurance companies pay for it”). Had Republicans argued not only the right of conscience issue but also the basic personal liberty issue, the subject might not so easily have been swept off the table. Is Santorum okay with other government health insurance mandates, or just those that happen to rustle the feathers of the Roman Catholic church?
In fact, now that we’re on that topic, let’s ask this: Why should Santorum, who voted for the massive 2003 expansion of Medicare (the largest entitlement expansion of an entitlement program until Obamacare, if I’m not mistaken), be surprised and upset at all that government is involving itself in health care?
Make no mistake. This is the Republicans’ year. 2008 was made for Obama, and 2012 is made for the GOP standard-bearer, whoever that person be. Do we have a perfect candidate? No, obviously not. That person has not stepped onto the stage just yet. But mark my words: If we nominate Santorum, we will lose this election that should have been ours.