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David Brooks Enters the Sanctimonium Santorum

January 6, 2012   ·   1 Comments

Source: NYTX

Rick Santorum

By Marie Burns:

David Brooks devotes his second New York Times column this week to extolling the virtues of GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Brooks only writes two columns a week. Since even by today’s hard-right Republican standards, Santorum is an extremist, initially I was surprised by Brooks’ hearty endorsement of the former senator from Pennsylvania. After all, Brooks didn’t have such nice things to say about Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain, and they do not oppose the use of contraception (they wouldn’t, would they?) or liken normal gay sexuality to bestiality. (This is not to suggest that Newt and Herb are gay rights advocates. They aren’t. See here and here.) Newt and Herb might be crazy, but they’re not that crazy. Their Kama Sutra of positions against women, gays and whomever are base-pandering political postures, not principled positions. They don’t give a rat’s ass what you’re doing with yours.

So given Santorum’s whacked-out views, I had trouble figuring out why the supposedly moderate Brooks wrote so glowingly of the loony Not-Romney Opus Dei/GOP Candidate of the Moment. Brooks portrays Santorum as a man with genuine working-class roots who “is not a representative of the corporate or financial wing of the party.” In commenting on Brooks’ first I-Love-Ricky column of the week, I posited that “the real reason David Brooks likes Rick Santorum” was this: “Once you get past the creepy sex stuff, Santorum is just another Republican hack, shilling for corporate America and wrapping it in a rhetorical pretense of supporting (white) working-class America.”

I was wrong. Not about the “shilling for corporate America” part, but about the reason for Brooks’ romantic attachment to Santorum.

Brooks himself sets me straight today. In so many of the pretzeled ways the right justifies its draconian policies, Brooks and Santorum have a lot in common. Brooks does give lip service to my original theory in his column today when he implicitly endorses Santorum’s mainstream GOP bona fides: “Santorum’s policies on tax reform, entitlement reform and the other big issues are similar to Mitt Romney’s and most of the other Republican candidates.” But that is not what Brooks finds so attractive in Santorum. What Brooks likes – what he loves, loves, loves – is Santorum’s belief that all of the nation’s troubles are reflections of decadent American morals. That is pure Brooks. Brooks writes,

Santorum argues that government cannot be agnostic about the character of its citizens because the less disciplined the people are, the more government must step in to provide order…. To avert decline, America has to restore its values. Santorum understands that we have to fuse economics talk and values talk.

Yes, indeed. Americans are undisciplined and the government must do something about it. This explains why Santorum must make sure people are only having sex for the purpose of procreation (Santorum evidently would require my husband and me to abstain, since I’m past my procreating years) and the only woman in America who is allowed to have an abortion is Mrs. Santorum. But, as Brooks asserts, there is much more to Rick Santorum than his obsession with other people’s sex lives. To find out what that is, it might be unwise to rely on David Brooks’ latest ruminations on the nation’s moral decline and, in this instance, on how Rick Santorum could help save our virtue. Instead, we turn to someone who really knows Rick Santorum: Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News, who “followed his 12 years on the Washington political stage closely.” Bunch is rightly concerned that

Santorum’s weird sexual bluster can obscure who he really is…., and what truly matters about his suddenly surging campaign…. People obsessing on the ‘man-on-dog’ stuff are missing the bigger picture…. Santorum’s legislative record shows that his real workaday agenda was not so much waging culture wars as protecting the interests of the 1 Percent, the millionaires and billionaires who funded the modern Republican Party. You could say that Rick Santorum is just another politician. But that would be giving him too much credit.

Bunch goes on to recount some of Sen. Santorum’s greatest hits. I can only give you the highlights of the highlights here. So please read Bunch’s full column.

This compassionate Christian conservative founded a charity that was actually a bit of a scam…. In 2001…, Santorum launched a charitable foundation…. Operation Good Neighbor Foundation had actually raised more than $1 million, from donors who overlapped with Santorum’s political fund raising. Where did the majority of the charity’s money go? In salary and consulting fees to a network of politically connected lobbyists, aides and fundraisers….

Likewise, a so-called “leadership PAC” created by Santorum that was supposed to fund other Republicans instead seemed to mostly pay for the lifestyle of Santorum and those around him…. Only 18 percent of its money went to fund political candidates…. What America’s Foundation did spend a lot on with what looked like everyday expenses, including 66 trips to the Starbucks in Santorum’s then hometown of Leesburg, Va., multiple fast-food outings and expenditures at Wal-Mart, Target and Giant supermarkets…. Santorum also funded his large Leesburg ‘McMansion’ with a $500,000 mortgage from a private bank run by a major campaign donor,….

Santorum was never above mingling his cultural crusades with the everyday work of raising political cash. In 2005, Santorum made headlines … for visiting the deathbed of Terri Schiavo…. The real reason he was in the Tampa, Fla., area was to collect money at a $250,000 fundraiser organized by executives of Outback Steakhouses, a company that shared Santorum’s passion for a low minimum wage for waitresses and other rank-and-file workers. Santorum’s efforts were also aided by his unusual mode of travel: Wal-Mart’s corporate jet….

Washington’s lobbyist culture — Santorum was soaking in it. [He] spent much of his final years in government trying to downplay and defend his involvement in the so-called ‘K Street Project,’ an effort created by GOP uber-lobbyist and tax-cutting fanatic Grover Norquist and future felon and House majority whip Tom DeLay…. Santorum was the Senate’s ‘point man’ on the K Street Project….

Santorum had no problem with big government if it was supporting his campaign contributors in Big Pharma…. When Santorum was defeated for a third term in 2006, an internal memo at the drug giant GlaxoSmithKline said his departure from Washington ‘creates a big hole that we need to fill.’ …

The defender of family values was also slavish in his devotion to a large American corporate behemoth, Wal-Mart…. I counted the many ways that Santorum had done the bidding of the world’s largest retailer in the Senate, including battling to limit any increases in the minimum wage and seeking to make changes in overtime rules that would benefit the company and hurt its blue-collar workforce, tort reform to limit lawsuits against what is said to be the world’s most-sued company, and changes in charitable giving laws and of course eliminating the estate tax that would benefit the billionaire heirs of Sam Walton.

David Brooks does not tell you any of this. Rather, he presents Santorum as a paragon of family values who “has sought to use the federal government to nurture healthy communities.” Yet Brooks thinks Santorum does not go far enough. Brooks laments, “Santorum doesn’t yet see that once you start thinking about how to foster an economic system that would nurture our virtues, you wind up with an agenda far more drastic and transformational.” Without chiding Santorum for his support of the One Percent at the expense of the rest of us, Brooks lays out in Brooks-Santorum Speak why other government-funded programs also “nurture our virtues.” One example: “If you believe in the centrality of family, you have to have a government that both encourages marriage and also supplies wage subsidies to men to make them marriageable.” (Wage subsidies to women? Nope. After all, girls have “other assets” they can flaunt to make marriage material of themselves. Just another reason I love David Brooks.) Brooks concludes that “America is creative because of its moral materialism — when social values and economic ambitions get down in the mosh pit and dance. Santorum is in the fray.”

Is he? The indispensable Charles Pierce of Esquire followed “Rick Santorum, papist nutter” from Iowa to New Hampshire, where the candidate spoke at a scheduled event in

an assisted-care facility/nursing home run by Rockingham County … in the southern part of New Hampshire. It has disabled residents on Medicaid and it has 200 people in its nursing-home section, almost all of whom are on Medicare. It is a government-run facility, and a very well-regarded one, which is impossible because, as we all know, the government has no business interfering with the health-care ‘market.’ …

Rick Santorum … treats caveat emptor as a basic principle of human freedom. Toward the end of the evening, he got into a long wrangle about health-care and announced his support for ‘the Ryan plan,’ the Medicare phase-out designed by zombie-eyed granny-starver Paul Ryan. Remember now where he said it — in a well-regarded government-run nursing home containing 200 patients, all of whom depend on Medicare…. Rick Santorum believes that these people are not free. If they were, they’d get up tomorrow morning and shop for the best deal they could find on a open market, which naturally would be run by people in the insurance industry who are living good, decent moral lives, especially in their business practices.

Once again, I urge you to read Pierce’s whole post to get a sense of who Rick Santorum really is and who he stands for. You will get nary a hint of the real Rick Santorum from David Brooks. So, yes, read Pierce. Read Bunch. Skip Brooks.


Marie Burns blogs at RealityChex.com

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Readers Comments (1)

  1. alphonsegaston says:

    Thanks for these two links. I see that
    Brooks is joined in his latest enthusiasm by Charles Krauthammer, who wrote that Santorum is “an admirably worthy conservative alternative to Romney.” (Sorry, don’t know how to make links in comments. I read this in today’s Columbus Dispatch.

     Reply





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