Rick Santorum is a bright, well-intentioned guy. But the idea that he is the strongest candidate the Republicans can nominate for the presidency strikes me, with all due respect, as ludicrous. Put aside the fact that Santorum lost his last race by 18 points in his home state of Pennsylvania: not exactly an auspicious way to kick off a presidential campaign. Rather, consider that Santorum has always been most passionate about the social issues. Is that really what the GOP wants to talk to voters about in 2012, when the country–the Brokest Nation In History, as Mark Steyn puts it–is $15 trillion in debt; when the Obama administration has driven our economy into the most prolonged funk since the Great Depression; and when Barack Obama has instituted the most corrupt system of cronyism in American history? Seriously?
The fate of a Santorum candidacy was foreshadowed this morning in Santorum’s appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation. Follow the link to read the entire, sad transcript. Here are the questions that Bob Schieffer asked Santorum, verbatim:
You are the leader in the polls this morning. And I have to say you were very busy yesterday. The Associated Press led its story of your appearance in Columbus, Ohio, by saying, quote, “Rick Santorum questioned Barack Obama’s Christian values.” That was after you lashed out at the President’s proposal on energy of all things when you said this.
RICK SANTORUM (Republican Presidential Candidate/Former Pennsylvania Senator): It’s not about you. It’s not about you. It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs.
RICK SANTORUM: It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology.
BOB SCHIEFFER: So, Senator, I’ve got to ask you. What– what in the world were you talking about, Sir?
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, how does that translate into some sort of theology that the President’s theology is not based on the Bible. I mean that suggests that he’s not a Christian.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I– I don’t want to just spend the whole program on this, but was your use of the word theology, perhaps, you could have had a better word than that? I mean, don’t you know that, or do you wonder that– that might lead some people to suggest that you were questioning the President’s faith?
BOB SCHIEFFER: At another stop in Columbus, you took on the President on prenatal care for expectant mothers. Here’s what you said at this– in this passage.
RICK SANTORUM: One of the things that you don’t know about Obamacare and one of the mandates is they require free prenatal testing in every insurance policy in America. Why? Because it saves money in health care. Why? Because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and therefore less care that has to be done because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator, I– I have to ask you to– to give some explanation of that. You sound like you’re saying that the purpose of prenatal care is to cause people to– to have abortions, to get more abortions in this country. I think there are any number testing, I think any number of people would– would say that’s not the purpose at all.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I– I know you know what you’re talking about. I know that well. I know you also had another child that was stillborn. But–
RICK SANTORUM (overlapping): And I was–
BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): Didn’t you want to know about that, just a minute.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Just hold on.
RICK SANTORUM: But what my– my child was not stillborn. My child was born alive.
BOB SCHIEFFER: All right.
RICK SANTORUM: –and he lived two hours.
BOB SCHIEFFER: All right.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I stand corrected on the stillborn. You’re absolutely right. I simply misspoke. But, Senator, do you not want any kind of prenatal testing? I mean would we just turn our back on science that this is something that expectant mothers should not go through, that it’s best not to know about these things ahead of time? I mean is that what you’re saying here?
BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): You’re not saying. Let me just ask you, you’re not saying that the cause of this, that the President looks down on disabled people, are you? You’re not accusing him of that?
BOB SCHIEFFER: And– and how you feel about this. Another thing that raised a few eyebrows yesterday, Senator, you questioned the value of all things at the public school system. Now here’s what you said about that.
RICK SANTORUM: But the idea that the federal government should be running schools, frankly, much less that the state government should be running schools is anachronistic. It goes back to the time of industrialization of America when people came off the farms where they did home school or have the little neighborhood school and into these big factories. So we built equal factories called public schools.
BOB SCHIEFFER: So, there you are, Senator. I mean, are you saying that we shouldn’t have public schools now? I mean I thought public schools were the foundation of American democracy.
Santorum did a reasonably good job of fielding these questions. But does anyone seriously believe that it is in the Republicans’ interest for the 2012 presidential election to center on theology and gynecology? Here is Schieffer’s last question of Santorum:
BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator, I want to thank you very much for being with us this morning. I had hoped to ask you about some questions about the economy. But, frankly, you made so much news yesterday, out there on the campaign trail, I felt compelled to ask you about that. Thank you so much for being with us.
That pretty much says it all. With Santorum launching one social issues bomb after another, there is no time to talk about the economy. Is this the Democratic Party’s dream, or what? In a national poll that came out today, Santorum is leading Mitt Romney by eight points among likely Republican voters. Can Republicans possibly be that foolish? Is it conceivable that a president with Obama’s lousy record could coast to victory, virtually by default, because the Republicans nominate a candidate who would rather talk about gynecology than debt? At the moment, that prospect does not seem far-fetched.