Twice I have seen America on the brink of losing the boundaries of political reason that have kept us stable and free for well over two centuries—-during the McCarthy uproar of the 1950s and in the Nixon era leading to the resignation of a lawless president before he could be impeached.
Rick Santorum is no McCarthy or Nixon (yet) but he has the same wild disregard for truth and rational discourse and, like his predecessors, is being abetted by a compliant media giving “equal-handed” treatment to fear-mongering and traditional standards of sanity.
Sarah Palin elicited outrage by positing death panels for the old, but Santorum goes further by claiming that, under new health care laws, doctors are doing the same with newborns:
“Let’s take a child who is high cost and who...the medical profession increasingly is looking at as less utility, less value than others in society: ‘I don’t want to see this patient. This is going to be a real cost for me. I’m going to get nailed on this one, so let’s minimally treat, let’s not treat all because it’s going to be such a cost to the system.’ That’s happening now.”
Evidence for infanticide? None, except in Santorum’s imagination, but horse-race journalism is too interested in primary polls to “nail” him on such wild charges.
Instead, the GOP nomination contest is now not about the economy but a holier-than-thou zealot’s prescriptions for a diverse nation, as superPACs, including one funded by a firearms manufacturer, line up to support Santorum.
While approving of his theological bent, the Wall Street Journal advises him to lie low while campaigning: “Mr. Santorum must resist the temptation to run for president on ‘Humanae Vitae,’ the 1968 papal encyclical prohibiting artificial contraception...A presidential debate...is simply not the vehicle for clarifying the coherence of the Catholic Church's view of human sexuality.” But once he gets into the White House, separation of church and state would be a memory.
Neither Joe McCarthy nor Nixon was this far off the American track before being derailed by majority opinion. In tomorrow night’s debate, hapless Mitt Romney will be prepped to attack Santorum’s far-out views but may only succeed in eliciting sympathy for him.
Among media questioners, will there be even a pale version of Edward R. Murrow or Woodward and Bernstein to bring out the essence of what the nation is facing now?
Update: Payback for Santorum’s loony past starts with unearthing a 2008 speech at Florida’s Ave Maria University in which he warned, “Satan has his sights on the United States of America!”
In the speech, he warned, “Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that have so deeply rooted in the American tradition.”
For those who believe in Satan, the question arises: Could Santorum be a double agent?