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James Peron

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Santorum Debates Out of Both Sides of His Mouth

Posted: 05/10/11 10:33 AM ET

When it comes to big government moralism, few Republicans can match Rick Santorum. He has always been one of the more extreme theocrats within the GOP and nothing has changed since Pennsylvania voters wisely threw him out of the U.S. Senate in 2006. Santorum is an advocate of the junk science called "intelligent design" and is a leader in the anti-gay movement.

He said that polygamy, adultery and sodomy are all "antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family." An ultra-orthodox Latin-Mass Catholic, Santorum went so far as to blame the epidemic of Catholic priests molesting children on "political and cultural liberalism," based on the assumption that Boston "lies at the center of the storm." Apparently, the senator was unaware that the problem was worldwide and just as prevalent in conservative areas as liberal ones. Nor can one ignore the fact that priests are part of a very conservative Catholic culture.

Santorum is staking out the extreme right flank of the Republican party. At the recent Republican debate in Greenville, South Carolina, he was asked about comments by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels that the GOP should "declare a truce" on their culture war against social freedom. As you can see from the video, Santorum was adamantly opposed to the idea.

Santorum launched a mini-sermon. Unfortunately, it was in English and not Latin, which might have made it a bit more palatable. Apparently, he believes that respecting the rights of others to make their own choices is anti-American. He said that the idea of a truce on attempts to control people's private lives means one "doesn't understand what America is all about." It now appears that what America "is all about" is denying people freedom and equality of rights before the law.

Santorum launched into rhetoric about the right to liberty and how people need "to be free" to "pursue their own dreams," but he seemed to be saying that the dreams they had to follow was "to serve their God, and to serve their family and community." This is not individual rights, only the right to be servant to others. This was followed by some comments about "strong families" and that "if we abandon that, we have given up on America."

He didn't directly answer the question and he certainly blew a lot of hot air, but the essence of his answer was that if the Republican party doesn't hammer away at people it dislikes, on private moral issues, then the Republican party is giving up on America. The only way to protect freedom is to stop people from being free, in the name of the family.

But later in the debate, Santorum was asked about the private morality of a Republican friend of his, Newt Gingrich. Gingrich would know something about the moral issues Santorum screams about, firsthand. While married to Jackie, Gingrich began an affair with Marianne Ginther. He and Jackie eventually divorced and he then married Marianne, until he began an affair with Callista Bisek, a woman 23 years younger than him. He and wife #2 were then divorced, so he could then marry Callista.

On the Christian Broadcasting Network, Gingrich tried to blame his infidelity and dishonesty on his love for America.

"There's no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate."

Please note the pathetic disavowal of personal responsibility. Gingrich describes his affairs as "things" that just "happened," not something he actively pursued.

Given Santorum's mini-speech about the need to actively pursue moral issues, and his claim that adultery and sodomy are equal threats to America, you would think he'd be all over Newt. But no.

When it comes to Republicans, instead of all those other sinners, Santorum has a very different viewpoint. Asked if he had a problem with "Gingrich's past personal behavior," he evaded giving a yes or no answer. Instead, he lectured on the propriety of passing judgment on others.

"I think that you should be very careful about how you deal with those issues, because all of us make mistakes. And just because we make mistakes, we shouldn't be all that inhibited from going out and saying what's the truth."

Worse, yet, according to Santorum, when people point out the moral hypocrisy of the Theopublican Right, they are being bullies. Santorum went on the attack.

"And there are some who like to cower people, like to bully people, so from standing up for things that are important in society that we personally fall short on. And so I'd say to Newt Gingrich, stand up for the truth and let the chips fall where they may."

Apparently, when Republicans want to use the force of government to impose their moral values on the entire country, that's "what America is all about." But if critics notice them when they cheat on their wives and dare mention it, they are bullies. Bullies typically use force against weaker individuals -- much the way Santorum wishes to use force of government to destroy the relationships of gay couples. Using state coercion against a small minority of people surely is more similar to "bullying" than is pointing out the hypocrisy of moralists on the religious right.