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Santorum Ignores Economy – Makes his Religion a Problem for Voters

more from Hrafnkell Haraldsson
Wednesday, March, 21st, 2012, 7:54 am

The media is slowly becoming wise to the fact that Rick Santorum’s campaign is fueled by religion, not the economy. His stance on issues is religious, his rhetoric is religious and his appeal is not to fiscal conservatives but to social conservatives, to those on the religious right who menace our democracy with the specter of theocracy.  As Politico observes, “Since winning primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, Santorum’s standard remarks have generally excluded an economic plan — the heart and soul of the message his chief GOP rival, Mitt Romney, repeats at event after event, day after day” and that  “During two events in the Chicago suburbs on Friday and in a handful of Sunday appearances in Louisiana, primarily at churches — Santorum didn’t once mention jobs without being prodded by a questioner.”

I say the media is slowly becoming wise…some are slower than others – for example, Jack Cafferty at CNN who manages to notice that Santorum doesn’t care about the economy but somehow doesn’t notice that his focus is on his own religion instead. Still, he got the question right: is Santorum doing himself in? It is difficult to draw any other conclusion when as of Monday Santorum’s economic stance is this: “I don’t care what the unemployment rate is going to be. It doesn’t matter to me.”

All he wants to talk about (rhapsodize might be a better word) is being a Christian, and he seems particularly to love the fundamentalist meme that Christians are a persecuted minority in this country despite law after religiously-motivated law that prove the opposite is the case. This religious focus is in part proven by the outcome of the Illinois Republican Primary where, despite the fact that a solid 30 percent of the population is Catholic, the religiously driven Santorum lost hugely to the Mormon Mitt Romney, repeating a trend established in Michigan and Ohio. The evidence suggests that while Santorum’s religion sells to the socially conservative base, this base does not include women to judge by his wife’s eagerness to reassure them that her husband loves them (except, apparently, in Alabama), or Catholics, who are gravitating toward Romney or out of the party altogether.

Catholics have noticed, even if the mainstream media is slow to catch on. Interesting how the mainstream media and the Catholic Church have appeared equally clueless. But it’s a studied cluelessness. As Frank Bruni wrote in a Times op-ed the other day, the Church is invested in its own survival and wants to play the victim (as it has even when it’s the persecutor). The mainstream media is more than happy to report on Republican claims of persecution without letting on that it’s the Republicans who are the persecutors.

But even as he complains about the attention he is getting, Santorum keeps doing and saying things to draw attention to his religious focus. You ask, what has he done now? There is the (for him) unwelcome attention drawn attention to his reaction Sunday to a speech by Greenwell Springs Baptist Church pastor Dennis Terry. Speaking in his own church, which happens to be Tony Perkin’s home church, gave voice to fundamentalism’s disenfranchisement of the constructed other. Santorum applauded this speech, which said very clearly, as Right Wing Watch reports that America “was founded as a Christian nation” and those that disagree with him should “get out!”

Watch the video from Right Wing Watch:

I don’t care what the liberals say, I don’t care what the naysayers say, this nation was founded as a Christian nation, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob, there’s only one God. There’s only one God and his name is Jesus.

I’m tired of people telling me that I can’t say those words. I’m tired of people telling us, as Christians, that we can’t voice our beliefs or we can no longer pray in public. Listen to me, if you don’t love America and you don’t like the way we do things, I got one thing to say: Get Out!

There is no possible way to misunderstand these words. There is no other way to interpret applause as anything but approval.

But once the backlash set in, Santorum began to stumble over explanations of his applause and Terry began to claim he was misquoted and his words twisted out of context, without actually telling us what part of his very clearly enunciated (and recorded) words are being misquoted and twisted (as if his words as spoken weren’t twisted enough).

This is what Santorum had to say in his own defense – hardly an improvement on his visible reaction, and again proving his proclivity for dishonesty:

“I didn’t clap when he said that. I do remember him saying that, I said, well, I wasn’t quite sure he was saying it for himself, I wasn’t quite listening to everything to be honest with you. But I wasn’t sure whether he was speaking for himself or speaking generally, but I didn’t clap when he said that because it’s not how I feel.”

“If the question is, do I agree with his statement that America shouldn’t do that? No, if he was speaking for himself he’s obviously allowed to believe what he wants to believe but, obviously I believe in freedom of religion and all religions are welcome and should be. I think I’ve made that pretty clear throughout my campaign that I believe very much in freedom of religion, and folks should be able to worship whoever they want to worship and bring their thoughts in the public square and have at it and give them the opportunity to make their faith claims, and make their claims to reason and any other claims. That’s what America’s all about. As far as I’m concerned they should be here and make their arguments the best they can.”

This is certainly not the message Santorum has repeatedly sent in speech after speech, including his recent faux pas over JFK’s 1960 speech about separation of church and state, which, Santorum said, made him want to vomit.

Which brings us to Pastor Terry’s attempts to extricate himself from the embarrassment of being caught saying exactly what he thinks.

Watch the video from Right Wing Watch:

When this ploy (at least he didn’t use the expression ‘urban legend’) didn’t work, Terry released an exclusive statement to David Brody at CBN and as might be expected, played the ever-popular martyr card, with his persecutors being “Muslims, Hindus, people of different religions or no religions.” Again no surprise, since in his speech he stated that we (Americans) “don’t worship Buddha, we don’t worship Mohammad, we don’t worship Allah!”

Right Wing Watch points out that when Terry quoted himself he left out the crucial first words of his speech, “I don’t care what the liberals say, I don’t care what the naysayers say, this nation was founded as a Christian nation  …”

It’s a lot easier to play the victim when you alter the evidence. There is a reason the Nazis tried, belatedly, to destroy evidence of the death camps in 1945. There is a reason President Nixon tried to destroy the evidence of the Watergate break-ins. But as so often happens, Republicans continually fail to understand the nature of modern technology: we can watch and listen to him make his speech any time we want, again, and again, and again. Neither Terry nor Santorum can destroy the tapes.

Terry claims that he loves America. But he doesn’t and his words prove it. As I argued yesterday and have argued on other occasions here, fundamentalists don’t love America; they love a fantasy America that has never existed, an America that is the product of their twisted imaginations. And Tony Perkins, whose Family Research Council is identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, proudly  and unsurprisingly doubled down on Terry’s hateful message, just in case we didn’t understand it the first time, again framing the fundamentalist war on the Constitution in religious, not political terms:

“I think it’s time we made clear that we’re not going to back up, we’re not going to shut up, and we’re not going to give up!”

In fact, Perkins thinks “there is not a better church in the United States of America than right here.”

This is as clear and ringing endorsement of the message of intolerance Christian fundamentalism has been sending since the 1960s. And after Terry’s speech and Santorum’s applause, various news outlets, Politico, The Associated Press and others, had questions for him about the incident. Both HuffPo and the New York Times addressed it, as did the Washington PostAndrea Mitchell on MSNBC reported it, ABC even picked up on it. Rick Santorum would do well to realize that we are watching and listening to his words and that he won’t be able to hide from them as we approach Election Day 2012. The vitriol he uses to attract the base will splash onto him, and losing to Mitt Romney (as seems ever more likely) might, in the end, be the best thing that ever happened to him.

Photo from the Washington Post




Santorum Ignores Economy – Makes his Religion a Problem for Voters was written by Hrafnkell Haraldsson for PoliticusUSA.
© PoliticusUSA, Wed, Mar 21st, 2012 — All Rights Reserved

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