Rick Santorum's Convictions


The cover story of the November 6 National Review (not available online) is a paean to Rick Santorum by John J. Miller that makes me look forward to the Pennsylvania senator's defeat next week. If Santorum loses to Democrat Bob Casey Jr., "a GOP aide" says, "a lot of Republicans who aren't as gutsy as Santorum would conclude that social conservatism is for losers." And that would be bad because…?

I realize social conservatives are a big part of NR's audience, but Miller offers economic conservatives, the other major component of Frank Meyer's grand fusion, little reason to root for Santorum, aside from the fact that he supported welfare reform (so did Bill Clinton) and "has served as a leader" on Social Security, which seems to mean he favors Bush-style baby steps toward "personal" (not "private") retirement accounts. On the down side, he opposed NAFTA, supported steel tariffs, and considers Bush's immigration reforms "too lax."

Santorum, who is famously against gay marriage because of its implications for man-dog love, "was an architect of the effort to ban partial-birth abortion" and "demonstrated that he's willing to take political risks to promote a culture of life" by "visiting the brain-damaged Terri Schiavo in Florida last year." He brags that he is "public enemy number one of the pro-choice and gay community." You gotta love him for that. Well, maybe not, but Miller argues that you at least have to admire him for sticking to his beliefs. "Santorum is clearly a conviction politician," says Miller.

Except when he's not. When Pat Toomey, the former congressman who is now president of the Club for Growth, challenged Arlen Specter, one of NR readers' least favorite Republicans, in the GOP primary two years ago, Santorum sided with his fellow Pennsylvania senator instead of his fellow conservative because he figured Specter had a better chance of winning the general election. Miller attributes this decision to "Santorum's apparent unwillingness to stay away from controversy." In short, Rick Santorum has the guts to condemn gay marriage and to sacrifice his principles when it's politically expedient.