Not much of interest to me happening this afternoon, except hearing from Stephen Colbert lookalike Rick Santorum (HT: Amy Hall for pointing out the remarkable similarity). rick-santorum.jpgstephen colbert.jpg

Eloquent and intelligent, Santorum is more presidential–that is, he carries himself with a gravity and seriousness befitting the holder of the officompromisece–than most of the Republican candidates.  His speech was easily the best thus far.
Santorum sincerely lamented the fact that the “party of [his] grandfather”–namely, the Democrats–could not find one candidate who reflected the values of this audience.  This has been a theme of the day so far–numerous speakers (including Tony Perkins) have pointed out the fact that every Democrat speaker was invited, but all of them declined.

But here’s the interesting angle on Santorum’s speech:  he seemed to waffle in his recommendation on whether social conservatives should compromise and vote for a “less than perfect” candidate or not.  At the start, he encouraged us to hold fast and not compromise.  In his extemporaneous addition at the end, he challenged us to “not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Santorum focused instead on Hillary, quoting at length from this exchange with her on the Senate floor about his bill banning partial birth abortion:

Mrs. CLINTON. Does the Senator’s legislation make exceptions for serious life-threatening abnormalities or babies who are in such serious physical condition that they will not live outside the womb?

Mr. SANTORUM. No, if—-

Mrs. CLINTON. That is the point.

Mr. SANTORUM. I understand the Senator’s point. I guess my point in rebuttal is that if you want to create a separation in the law between those children who are perfect and those children who are not—-

Mrs. CLINTON. No—-

Mr. SANTORUM. Please, let me finish. If a child is not perfect, then that child can be aborted under any circumstances. But if that child is perfect, we are going to protect that child more. I do not think the Americans with Disabilities Act would fit very well into that definition. The Americans with Disabilities Act–of which I know the Senator from Iowa has been a great advocate, and I respect him greatly for it–says we treat all of God’s children the same. We look at all–perfect and imperfect–as creatures of God created in his image.

What the Senator from New York is asking me to do is separate those who are somehow not the way our society sees people as they should be today and put them somewhat a peg below legal protection than the perfect child. I hope the Senator is not recommending that because I think that would set a horrible precedent that could be extrapolated, I know probably to the disgust of the Senator from Iowa, certainly to me.

No, I do not have an exception in this legislation that says if you are perfect, this cannot happen to you; but if you are not perfect, yes, this can occur. The Senator is right, I do not.

Mrs. CLINTON. To respond, if I could, to the Senator from Pennsylvania, my great hope is that abortion becomes rarer and rarer. I would only add that during the 1990s, it did, and we were making great progress. These decisions, in my view, have no place in the law, so they should not be drawing distinctions in the law. This ought to be left to the family involved.

   The very fact the Senator from Pennsylvania does not have such a distinction under any circumstances, I think, demonstrates clearly the fallacy in this approach to have a government making such tremendously painful and personal and intimate decisions.

Mr. SANTORUM. I certainly respect the difference of opinion the Senator and I have on the underlying issue of abortion. Again, I think people can disagree on that.  I, frankly, do not agree there should be a difference between children who are “normal,” in society’s eyes–I do not know what that means anymore, what a society sees as normal–and those who happen to have birth defects, severe or not. I do not believe we should draw distinctions.

   Mrs. CLINTON. If the Senator will yield for one final point, I want the RECORD to be very clear that I value every single life and every single person, but if the Senator can explain to me how the U.S. Government, through the criminal law process, will be making these decisions without infringing upon fundamental rights, without imposing onerous burdens on women and their families, I would be more than happy to listen. But based on my experience and my understanding of how this has worked in other countries, from Romania to China, you are about to set up—-

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Pennsylvania has the floor.

Mr. SANTORUM. To liken a ban on a brutal procedure such as partial-birth abortion to the forced abortion policies of China is a fairly substantial stretch, and I do not accept that as an analogy. I do not think it holds up under any scrutiny.

 With respect to the other issue, let the record speak for itself.

By framing his talk around his exchange with Hillary, Santorum transcended the political question of the weekend–for whom should social conservatives vote?–and reminded social conservatives of the broader philosophical challenge that we face in communicating the pro-life message to the world.  That is, Democrats like Hillary Clinton have co-opted the rhetoric of the pro-life movement by claiming they wish to see abortions reduced and that they care about the value of every human being.

Santorum descended on the conference as the defeated but not forgotten member of the pro-life movement and dispensed his wisdom sagaciously and stirringly.  His caution regarding Democrat rhetoric and his call for pro-lifers to articulate our beliefs in a clear, tender, and powerful fashion left a palpable impression on the room.  It was the only moment, except for maybe Fred’s choking up while discussing his daughters, where the room was still in that strange conflation of emotional and thoughtful reflection.

It seems rare in modern politics when politicians rise to the level of statesmen, but today Rick Santorum demonstrated that he has crossed that threshold by giving a speech worthy of a different and more nobler era.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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