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Jayne Lyn Stahl Headshot

Comeback for Santorum?

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Pretty slim pickings on the Republican side of the aisle. It's a good thing the presidential campaign season is a year away, but there are already those who want to make their intentions known.

If, as has been said, the "early bird catches the worm," the field is filled with early birds like Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, and maybe even Sarah Palin. Neither Bachmann, Romney, nor Palin could pull off a teflon campaign; all three face serious caveats.

Palin is too easily "refudiated," and as for Bachmann, is the country really ready for a president in pumps who wants to criminalize what has been, for generations, Congress's favorite activity?

As for Romney, the right is already attacking him for doing to Massachusetts what it insists "Obamacare" will do to the U.S.

More to the point, now that they've won the gun debate,the issue neoconservative Republicans have in their crosshairs is choice. And, who better to emerge from the ashes like a born-again phoenix than Rick Santorum who, brilliantly, is now seizing on the "civil rights" theme gays and lesbians have used to overturn "don't ask, don't tell" to make abortion the signature issue of the 2012 presidential campaign, at least for Republicans.

Yes, savor the irony. The man who, nearly a decade ago, as senator from Pennsylvania, had the temerity to tell the AP that consensual homosexual sex in the privacy of one's home is the same as incest, adultery, or polygamy, wants a clean start. Those comments, back in 2003, caused Log Cabin Republicans to vehemently oppose him, as well as forcing him to step down as chair of the Republican Senate Caucus.

But, friends, Rick Santorum is back, and he's counting on your short-term memory.

Earlier this week, in an interview with CNSNews.com, Santorum claimed that President Obama should be against abortion because he's black: "Well if that person, human life is not a person, then, I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, 'We are going to decide who are people and who are not people."

And, later on he told CBN he's "disappointed that President Obama, who rightfully fights for civil rights, refuses to recognize the civil rights of the unborn in this country."

Bingo! Brilliant, he's found the hook. How can Obama fail to "recognize the civil rights of the unborn in this country?" In one fell swoop, Rick Santorum has transformed anti-abortion activists, including maybe even those who killed Dr. George Tiller, into civil rights leaders.

Where did he get the cojones to do that? A quick peek at Santorum's past reveals that the former Pennsylvania senator is both a social and fiscal conservative who served in the U.S. Senate from 1995 to 2007 where he actively endorsed legislation that not only led to a ban on partial birth abortions, but to cuts in Social Security, as well as welfare reform. Clearly, then-Senator Santorum didn't consider the civil rights of poor children whose Aid to Dependent Families payments were slashed. Instead, he chooses to exercise his vocal cords about what he calls the "civil rights" of those yet to be born. Who cares that nearly one in five children in this country lives in poverty?

Before his Senate run, Santorum spent four years in the House where, back in 2001, he tried, and failed to insert language into the No Child Left Behind bill that touted so-called intelligent design, and denigrated evolution. And, while he is no longer an elected representative, this is a man who already has a built-in audience as a contributor to the Fox News Channel, the same channel that hosts Sarah Palin.

Among his early accomplishments, he represented the World Wrestling Foundation, arguing against federal anabolic steroid regulations as he doesn't consider wrestling a sport. What is it then, Mr. Santorum? A civil right? Rest assured that a Santorum presidency would rank up there with that of George W. Bush as an environmental catastrophe.

Among his last legislative accomplishments, Santorum is the senator credited with introducing the phrase "Islamic fascism."

His positions are textbook neoconservative and closely aligned with those of the Tea Party. He is a fan of deficit reduction, privatizing Social Security, welfare reform, overturning Roe v. Wade, and bolstering notions of intelligent design, all of which are now mainstream Republican values.

The parallels between Bachmann, Palin, and Santorum are inescapable, but there is one big difference. Santorum can point to decades of experience. This may not sound like much, but the only other candidate floating around the idea of throwing his hat in the ring who has more experience is Mitt Romney. But, Romney has another big negative to Republicans besides the parallels to Obama's health reform legislation. Romney was for abortion before he was against it, and in this political climate, that's going to cost him dearly.

Something else about Romney; he may not be politically ambitious enough. In the early days of his political career, Santorum was dubbed the "most ambitious" politician by a Pennsylvania magazine. Scared yet?

Even more scary is that Santorum's position on abortion is largely the same as that of Randall Terry who has long been a rabid crusader against choice, and who also says he wants to be nominated to run for president, but as a Democrat, and against Obama. Go figure! A Democratic candidate running against choice? Nah!

As an article in Raw Story suggests, Randall Terry's election campaign is largely meant to be a ruse, and is really about finding a legal way to produce graphic television ads that depict abortion procedures, as he has in the past, and run them during the 2012 NFL Super Bowl, and playoffs. He already found his platform. He will run on affirming the "civil rights" of a one inch fetus while working to eviscerate social programs designed to protect the rights of everyone else.

Of course, in the end, neither Rick Santorum nor Randall Terry will win their party's nomination which doesn't obscure the fact that a woman's constitutional right to determine her own reproductive destiny will be a major issue in the 2012 presidential campaign.

We'd like to think we have a two party system, but it's shrunk to one and a half.

If what's happening now with health reform is any indication, had Democrats strongly defended the Second Amendment the way Republicans have, we would have the strictest gun control laws in a generation.

The left, and those Democrats who want to preserve and protect a woman's right to choose, are going to have to be as passionate about its defense as the Republicans have been about their right to bear arms, or Roe v. Wade will soon become a footnote in a heavily redacted history book.