Is Santorum Too Religious?

Rick Santorum has become the alternative to Mitt Romney because the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania comes across as, to use his words, “the conviction conservative” in the GOP presidential primary. While Romney burned through millions in big-donor contributions, Santorum ran a bare-bones campaign. In December, The New York Times ran a graphic on the candidates’ entourages. Team Romney traveled with a 30-seat plane, a campaign bus, security, advance staffers and an average of four other aides. Santorum’s fleet and crew consisted of a Dodge Ram pickup and the occasional staffer.

He’s the underdog — the grandson of an Italian immigrant coal digger — who believes his humble roots can gain him traction in Middle America. Santorum has written that he stands up to “the ‘Bigs’ — big news media, big entertainment, big universities and public schools, big businesses and some big national labor unions, and of course, the biggest Big of all, the federal government.”

Problem: He has no business being the GOP presidential nominee.

The 2012 general election ought to be about the role and finances of the federal government, but Santorum is mired in a traditional values war.

In a 2008 speech at Florida’s Ave Maria University, Santorum described the war as not a political or a cultural war, but “a spiritual war. And the father of lies has his sights on what you would think the father of lies, Satan, would have his sights on — a good, decent, powerful, influential country, the United States of America.”

I’ll defend to the bitter end Santorum’s right to his deeply held religious beliefs. But a man who wants to be president and represent the American people shouldn’t talk like an exorcist.

In an October interview with the blog “Caffeinated Thoughts,” Santorum claimed, “I’m not running for preacher.” He actually said that after he asserted that contraception is “not OK, because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

Do not make the mistake of believing that Santorum’s religious beliefs always skew right. As a senator, he supported legislation to allow convicted felons to vote.

When a super political action committee that supports Romney released misleading ads that suggested Santorum voted to allow felons to vote from prison, Santorum challenged Romney in a South Carolina debate: “I would ask Gov. Romney, Do you believe people who were felons, who served their time, who’ve exhausted their parole and probation should … be given the right to vote?”

Romney gave the politic answer for a GOP primary: No. Not Santorum; he believes in personal redemption.

The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger picked up Santorum’s “big” ax as he wrote of an Ohio crowd’s enthusiasm for Santorum’s criticism of the mandate-heavy Obamacare. “People could live with big. It’s too big that’s getting to them,” wrote Henninger as he lauded Santorum’s stand as a salvo for “personal freedom.”

But Santorum is not big on personal freedom. He wrote in his 2005 book, “It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good,” that the Framers wanted freedom more “for the common good” than they did for individuals. He also praised Judeo-Christian thinkers for calling “the liberal kind of freedom by its real name: slavery to sin.”

Sin? That would make for a great stump speech if Santorum were running to be America’s ayatollah.

As for Romney, he may be a “big,” but he has enough humility to understand that a president’s job is not to scold and sermonize, but to persuade and to lead. And you don’t get elected telling voters how sinful they’ve been.

Email Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@sfchronicle.com. To find out more about Debra J. Saunders and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Debra J. Saunders

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Debra J. Saunders is a conservative columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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  • Waynergf

    Couldn’t disagree more.  It *is* a spiritual war…it *is* about traditional values…and “personal” freedom has been pushed to such an extreme that the family, the foundation of *every* nation, is threatened with extinction.

  • Gadjmljj

    Whether people want to admit it or not…..we are both body and spirit.  And the spiritual “reality” of things should NOT just be talked about by priests and “alatollahs”.
    In fact our “spiritual” reality is much more important than our physical reality….although I am not advocating that our government regulate spiritual matters…..I am saying that to talk openly about them in government is what we need to get back to.
    The person we put in office as president should reflect the people….and if we are Christians…..it should show by our leadership.  Right now we’re not showing a very good image of ourselves with president Obama.

  • WarriorPundit

    It is not that he is too religious, it is that he is too honest. The media is too focused on his religious beliefs and positions, which just so happen to be the same as the Catholic faith with which he follows. So they feel they can bash Catholics and marginalize the social issues all at the same time – which benefits the current administration.

    The “problem” that you discuss in your article is that he is willing to TALK about these issues. Had the Bishops/Clergy talked about these issues from the pulpit, perhaps there would not be such a religious hole that needs to be filled.

    And I agree with Waynergf, there is a spiritual war going on out there. And if life, families & religious values are to be left out of the debate, then we have all already lost.

  • Maxrebo229

    Why shouldn’t religious values be up for debate? Why should we endorse such close-minded thinking? Not everyone is of the same religious background, it’s only natural that we ask questions. The “spiritual war” is a creation of those who are too closed minded to accept that there are other spiritual beliefs other than orthodox Christianity. We were a nation founded on religious freedom, not Christianity. I don’t wish to have your christian values thrust upon me, and religion has NO PLACE IN POLITICS.

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