RICHARD JOHN ‘RICK’ SANTORUM
Rick Santorum, 62, represented Pennsylvania as a Republican in the US Senate from 1995 to 2007. A consistent social conservative, he is known for his pro-family, Christian-oriented views toward public policy and legislation, which include his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage and his support of “intelligent design” being taught in school along with evolution. He has said, “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”
Santorum was born in Winchester, Virginia; he and his wife, Karen, have eight children, including a disabled daughter. He was a candidate for president in 2012, coming in second to Mitt Romney, and again in 2016. In 2012 Santorum launched Patriot Voices, a nonprofit with a mission to “mobilize conservatives around this country committed to promoting faith, family, freedom and opportunity” in support of causes and candidates; and in 2013 he became Chairman and CEO of EchoLight Studios, a Dallas-based Christian movie company. Santorum is probably best known today as a CNN commentator.
In 1995 Republicans including Tom DeLay and Grover Norquist initiated the “K Street Project,” whose aim was to place Republicans in lobbying jobs and exclude Democrats. It also pressured lobbying firms to contribute to Republican campaigns by withholding access to lawmakers from firms that did not comply. The project became politically toxic for Republicans in 2004 when the Jack Abramoff scandal broke [see Where Are They Today?, JACK ALLAN ABRAMOFF, VoxFairfax, Oct. 12, 2020; https://wp.me/p9wDCF-1S5]. While some sources indicate that Santorum played a key role, he has denied any involvement.
In 2001 Santorum introduced an amendment to the Department of Education No Child Left Behind funding bill that would have allowed the teaching of intelligent design in science classes; he called it “a legitimate scientific theory.” It failed. By 2005 his attitude had shifted to the “Teach the Controversy” approach: “I’m not comfortable with intelligent design being taught in the science classroom. What we should be teaching are the problems and holes in the theory of evolution.”
Santorum also supported the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, which did become law; it prohibits a form of late termination of pregnancy, with sanctions against those who perform it “and thereby kill a human fetus.” In 2007 the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality in Gonzales v. Carhart.
In the election of 2006, Santorum lost badly to Bob Casey Jr., 59-41%. The loss is widely seen as a negative reaction to his 2005 book, It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, one of four books he has authored, which included statements such as “radical feminism made it socially affirming to work outside the home at the expense of child care,” and compared pro-choice Americans to “German Nazis.” He has also written, “Contraception is a license to do things in the sexual realm that are counter to how things are supposed to be.” In addition, a previous article he had written for The Catholic Online resurfaced, in which he linked liberalism to the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. He wrote, “It is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political, and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.” He was heavily criticized but did not retract his statement.
Perhaps unexpectedly, Santorum does support some more progressive policies, including a hike in the minimum wage and paid family leave. But such areas are few and far between. He is against LGBTQ rights and the liberalization of immigration policy.
The former senator has been caught in some outlandish comments that have been called out as “bogus” by the press. In 2012 he stated that half of all euthanizations in the Netherlands are involuntary, that Dutch hospitals euthanize elderly patients for financial reasons, and that these account for 10 percent of all deaths in that country. No evidence has been found to support such statements, of course, and they resulted in significant backlash in the Netherlands.
Santorum’s history of outrageous statements continues. In 2018, in response to the “March for Our Lives” after the killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Santorum said, “the students should take CPR classes instead of looking to someone else to solve their problems.” The Columbia Journalism Review called the statement “asinine on its face.”
Two more areas will suffice to paint a portrait of Rick Santorum. He has long said that the war on terror can be won, and defended the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, including waterboarding. He stated that former Senator John McCain, who opposed such tactics, “doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works.”
And finally, climate change. Human causation of global warming is “junk science”; global warming is a “beautifully concocted scheme” by the left and “an excuse for more government control of your life.” In reaction to Pope Francis’ encyclical recognizing climate change, Santorum reacted, “The Church has gotten it wrong a few times on science . . . [we should] leave science to the scientists and focus on . . . theology and morality.” And not to put too fine a point on it, he concludes, “Drill everywhere; there is enough oil, coal, and natural gas to last for centuries.”