Deep South Tuesday.

 
So despite polls predicting that Santorum stood no chance, and foreseeing Romney potentially wrapping things up last night, Rick only went and grabbed both Deep South states. Reaction round-up below.

Silver:

[T]hese were the sort of states that Mr. Romney was “supposed” to lose based on their demographics. Although the polls overestimated Mr. Romney’s standing, projections based on demographic models did reasonably well.

Mr. Romney will not have such excuses, however, if he loses Illinois, which votes a week from today. It’s the only contest that evening and Mr. Romney is thought to be the favorite there, although polls and my demographic model show a fairly tight race.

Mr. Romney will have a significant lead in delegates even if he loses Illinois. But a loss there would be more characteristic of those scenarios where he falls short of a delegate majority and needs help from super delegates and other unpledged delegates to win the nomination.

Sullivan:

If this were a race between [Romney] and Santorum, he would have been wiped out tonight. The pressure on Gingrich to quit will be intense, but if Adelson wants to keep financing him, his own ego would rather rip his own party apart than concede to allow a final fight for victory between Mitt and Rick.

So the odds of a brokered convention rise slightly; Romney remains unable to get any serious momentum; and Santorum keeps winning the vote of those earning under $50k. The evangelical vote against Romney remains solid, unchanging, resilient. The dynamic of the race has not altered; it has complicated marginally in Santorum’s direction.

Continue reading

Super Tuesday round-up.

photo (16)

I presumed that if Romney squeezed through in Ohio (which he did, just – full results here) then everyone would call this thing a day. But apparently not. The margin of victory over Santorum in that crucial swing state was so small, and Romney’s ability to attract conservatives and evangelicals still so weak, that the questions are likely to linger for at least a little longer. And if Newt put his ego to one side and let Santorum take Romney on alone, the race would be quite something. It looks like commentators have a consensus on this.

Walsh:

Romney lost Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota to Santorum, even after his advisors were suggesting a Tennessee win was possible, and would prove their man could carry the South. Even where he won, it wasn’t pretty – Ron Paul got 41 percent of the votes in Virginia, where Newt Gingrich and Santorum weren’t even on the ballot. Romney decisively carried Massachusetts – his actual home state – and Idaho, where the electorate is heavily Mormon, indicating he’s able to win states with a lot of Mormons and states that he’s claimed as home, and not much else.

Tobin:

Santorum’s victories in Tennessee and Oklahoma not only will pump new life into the Pennsylvanian’s campaign, the results also reinforce Romney’s problems with conservatives. Rather than spending tomorrow talking about Romney’s inevitability, the discussion may be more about his continued difficult in closing the deal with his own party’s base.

Sullivan agrees:

Santorum won three states and basically tied in Ohio. That keeps him afloat with some forward direction, especially given the upcoming primary states where Santorum has a demographic edge. The fact that he did this well despite being buried by Romney ads and money in Ohio is a real achievement. Romney, for his part, still cannot win blue-collar votes and still cannot nail down evangelical support. He comes away with many more delegates, but few bragging rights. In Ohio, he won everywhere Obama will win in the fall.

If Newt bowed out, we might have a real cotest. But he won’t. So we have, perhaps, the worst of all possible worlds for the GOP: a front-runner who cannot be stopped, but who is losing altitude against Obama with every vote, and being slimed by Republican rivals for at least another month. Even his stump speech has deteriorated. And his unfavorables continue a relentless rise.

As does Jones:

Romney will have to endure at least another seven weeks of primary warfare, and even longer if he fails to land that ‘knockout blow’ in the five primaries (including New York and Pennsylvania) on 24 April. The happiest campaign team this morning will no doubt be the Obama one.

Frum also notes that despite grabbing delegates, Romney faces a serious amount of apathy:

Outside the Federalist heartland and the peculiar Virginia ballot, Republicans won’t accept Mitt Romney. Against such a weak field, for Romney to be battling to carry Ohio is deeply, deeply ominous. The donors all made up their minds months ago. The rank-and-file are refusing.

The Economist:

Mr Romney continues to struggle with tea-party supporters, evangelicals and voters who describe themselves as “very conservative”, according to exit polls. He also has not yet won any Southern states, bar his limp preeminence in Virginia. In other words, Mr Romney has not yet won over the heart of the Republican Party. And all that is despite outspending Mr Santorum and the others by a huge margin across the board.

Bernstein offers a reality check and a different emphasis:

[T]he bottom line is that he won the most states, the most votes and the most delegates; he has overall won the most states, votes and delegates; and he has a solid lead in national polls, money and endorsements. It’s not just that no one has ever lost a nomination after building this kind of lead; it’s that no one, since the modern system was fully in place in the 1980s, has ever come close to losing after building this kind of lead. So it goes on, but for all the fun of close vote counts in the occasional state, there’s really not very much suspense here.

And Cassidy:

Unless Newt Gingrich drops out quickly and endorses Santorum—not much chance of that: see below—it remains virtually impossible to see how Mitt can be denied the nomination. But, oh, what a painful victory march it is turning into.

 

Santorum, freedom and happiness.

The Economist digs this gem up from Santorum:

’Happiness’ actually had a different definition, ‘way back at the time of our founders. Like many words in our lexicon, they evolve and change over time. ‘Happiness’ was one of them. Go back and look it up. You’ll see one of the principal definitions of happiness is ‘to do the morally right thing.’ God gave us rights to life and to freedom to pursue His will. That’s what the moral foundation of our country is.

I have few problems with equating morality and happiness, but when this philosophical belief becomes the crux of one’s politics, and when it grows to be seen as a licence for imposing one’s own obviously correct whacky morality on everyone else for their own good – that’s when America must get worried. Santorum thinks his natural law logic is flawless, and he thinks we can liberate gays by banning same-sex marriage.  The nerve is quite shocking.

There are some things, I believe, we can all agree on as the valid content of a political morality which we do feel entitled to be bold about when it comes to enforcement. I don’t doubt the legitimacy of installing secularism and defending the right to freely pursue one’s own idea of what the good life is, assuming one uses this liberty in a way consistent with the freedom of others to do likewise. And that’s what America is really about, and its diversity reflects that.

But Santorum’s not interested in it. He’s blind to the fact that this is most reasonable. Because of his special relationship with God, he knows the exact details of the good life, and he’ll help you by coercing you into copying it. By ‘the pursuit of happiness’, what we must realise is that the Founding Fathers really meant the ‘freedom’ to follow the dictates of Catholicism as revealed specifically to Rick (not as revealed to the Vatican, because they get it wrong on torture). So don’t dare think freedom requires the ability to use birth control. Because that’s contrary to how things ought to be.

Sullivan summarises the ideology:

America is a special nation because of this unique founding on the Judeo-Christian God. It must therefore always be guided by God’s will, and that will is self-evident to anyone, Catholic or Protestant, atheist or Mormon, Jew or Muslim, from natural law… [In] its fusion of explicit religion and explicit politics, [the GOP] is itself, in my view, an attack on America – and the possibility of a civil republic.

Michigan primary round-up.

Nate Silver forecasts that tonight’s big one is too close to call, but Romney just about has the best chance of winning.

Cassidy bucks the trend and predicts a Santorum snatch. His reasoning:

In several of the previous primaries, the polls have underestimated Santorum’s strength. It happened in Iowa. And it happened again in Colorado and Minnesota. Michigan is bigger and more urban than any of those states, which might suggest caution in making direct comparisons—the polls in Florida didn’t underestimate Santorum’s support—but I still think it might be worth a point or two in Santorum’s favor.

Also:

Michigan is an open primary, where anybody can register as a Republican for the day and vote. It’s also a strong union state. I can imagine many union members wanting to vote against Romney both for personal reasons (his job-slashing tactics at Bain Capital and his opposition to the auto bailout) and to saddle the Republicans with an unelectable candidate: Santorum.

Kornacki also looks at what’s going wrong for Mitt.

Jon Stewart lays into Santorum’s ‘snob’ outburst amongst other recent speech-blunders here. Anderson 360 fact-checks the snob claim here, as does Politifact here.

Secular Santorum.

This might sound mental, but hear me out. Watch this interview clip courtesy of Mediaite.

So here we have him defending the role of faith in public life and professing anti-secularism. That fits the tone of his campaign, and coheres with statements like this where he defends the right of states to ban contraception on the grounds that birth control is a licence to do things ‘contrary to how they are supposed to be’.

That sounds like both the real Santorum and his liberal media caricature: using Christian natural law theory as a litmus test for legislation. The epitome of illiberalism that he seemingly espouses.

And yet then in this clip he comes out in overt support for what he seems to shun: the idea that he can oppose such things on a personal level without wanting to impose such contentious views through law on others!

What’s going on here? Which one is a lie? Is he deceiving the general public in mainstream media interviews for fear of alienating independents, and thus with an eye to any future general election campaign in which he’ll have to look more moderate? Or, is he deceiving his party base, conjuring up support by making such mental claims about banning birth control merely to distinguish himself as the Christian candidate?

I really can’t tell.

Empathy block.

David Frum weighs up just how horrid the likes of Santorum must look to American youth:

Right now, hundreds of thousands of young Americans are using birth control to delay pregnancies they want, but feel they cannot currently afford… Think about how last night’s debate sounded from the point of view of such people… They are starting their careers in the worst economy since the Great Depression… The party on display on the stage in Mesa proposes that most of the burden of fiscal adjustment fall on their generation—while exempting the more fortunate generations now over 55. And as they try to cope responsibly with these harsh circumstances by postponing fertility, they hear one of our two great parties debating whether they are doing something morally objectionable.

Rick has a solution, of course.

Abstinence.

What, you thought ‘love making’ meant more than creating kids?

[Update] Interestingly, Weigel’s slideshow of Santorum voters – in pictures and with accompanying rationales – shows they’re not all as old as one might expect.

Santorum’s selective Christian ethics.

[Y]ou break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative.

Sullivan laments Santorum’s attempt to run on an overtly ‘Catholic’ manifesto whilst advocating torture:

I conscientiously dissent from the Magisterium on marriage equality, contraception, and women and married priests. But I publicly acknowledge that I am dissenting and this is not the hierarchy’s view and that I am not representing the Magisterium. Santorum, it seems to me, needs to be just as explicit in his statement that he dissents from his own church on the question of the inviolable dignity of the human person. He is advocating crimes “deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles”. He is proposing to “break” a human person, without even due process. He is standing as the publicly Catholic foe of human dignity.

It’s very easy to lower one’s own moral standards when it comes to issues of war, crime and punishment, so the ability of Catholic politicians to deride condoms whilst championing water-boarding doesn’t surprise me. But we should at least get to hear Santorum’s attempt to explain his stance. He would, no doubt, resort to mere assertion without argument, or at best he’d wheel in some sickening form of consequentialism (‘it’s necessary to save American lives’). I’m reminded of Anscombe:

But if someone really thinks, in advance, that it is open to question whether such an action as procuring the judicial execution of the innocent should be quite excluded from consideration—I do not want to argue with him; he shows a corrupt mind.

The indescribable repulsiveness of Rick Santorum.

Your country needs you. It’s not as clear a challenge. Obviously, World War II was pretty obvious. At some point, they knew. But remember, the Greatest Generation, for a year and a half, sat on the sidelines while Europe was under darkness, where our closest ally, Britain, was being bombed and leveled, while Japan was spreading its cancer all throughout Southeast Asia. America sat from 1940, when France fell, to December of ’41, and did almost nothing.

Why? Because we’re a hopeful people. We think, ‘Well, you know, he’ll get better. You know, he’s a nice guy. I mean, it won’t be near as bad as what we think. This’ll be okay.’ Oh yeah, maybe he’s not the best guy, and after a while, you found out things about this guy over in Europe, and he’s not so good of a guy after all. But you know what? Why do we need to be involved? We’ll just take care of our own problems. Just get our families off to work and our kids off to school, and we’ll be okay.

It’s sort of the optimistic spirit of America but sometimes, sometimes it’s not okay. It’s going to be harder for this generation to figure this out. There’s no cataclysmic event. It’s going to be hard. You understand it — you’re here. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t get it. But what about the rest of America, do they understand what’s happening? Is anybody telling them what’s happening? Is anybody reminding us who we are, what made us great, and what these assaults are all about — to clear the way?

PM Carpenter is similarly sickened, but also at the US media for not reporting this for what it is: a direct comparison of Obama to Hitler.

The WP write-up confirms his claims.

(Image: Screenshot from RCP).

Rampant Rick.

I thought the title would make a nice change from the textbook ‘Santorum surges’.

So Romney got beaten bad last night, losing all three Mid-West contests. He scored less than half of Santorum’s vote share in Missouri, polled even behind Paul in Minnesota, and lost Colorado after winning it comfortably four years ago.

Bernstein confesses shock, but insists on caution:

We don’t know whether [Santorum's] able to win a (real, delegate-selection) primary, with the much higher turnout that entails… And then Romney’s money advantage should help him plenty in the multi-state Super Tuesday events. In other words, it’s a long, long, way from a very good night to actually becoming a plausible nominee. Much less the actual nominee.

Cassidy agrees this was a Black Swan, and similarly denies the race is now open once more.

But Begala seems to think this is Big, and gives reason to laugh at any arguments about money:

His super PAC outspent Santorum’s by a 40-to-1 margin. Forty to one. And yet Mitt Romney lost. He lost to a guy who lost his home state by 18 points the last time he was on the ballot there. There’s a technical term in political consulting for a performance like that: it’s called sucking. If Romney can’t beat Rick Santorum, he needs to find another party to run in.

He also mocks the suggestion that Missouri is irrelevant because the result has no impact on delegate allocation:

Technically accurate, politically untrue. Romney losing a nonbinding primary to Santorum is like the New York Yankees losing an exhibition game to a church-league softball team.

Kornacki agrees:

the bigger story is what amounts to a meltdown for Romney, who would like us all to believe that he’s the candidate of inevitability. But the inevitable candidate isn’t supposed to get crushed by 30 points, as Romney did in Missouri. And he’s not supposed to finish a very distant third, 10 points behind Ron Paul, as he did in Minnesota. And he’s certainly not supposed to let a candidate like Rick Santorum, who before tonight had barely been relevant since the Iowa caucuses, post the clean sweep Santorum just did.

Ezra Klein fleshes out the financial message:

all else being equal, it’s better to have lots of money than not enough money. But in politics, all else is rarely equal. And the “all else” can sometimes matter more. It’s clear, for instance, that there are a large number of Republican voters who just don’t really want to vote for Romney. Indeed, his money might even be proving a little counterproductive. It’s so well known that he’s backed by massive superPACs, and it’s so widely reported that the superPACs are going aggressively negative, that it’s led to some bad media coverage for the Romney campaign. It’s likely part of why voters say, by a 2-to-1 margin, that the more they hear about Romney, the less they like him.

Nate Silver stresses just how unforeseen this was:

The betting market Intrade gave Mr. Romney about a 97 percent chance of winning Colorado entering the evening. But he lost the state by 5 points to Mr. Santorum.

I’ve given up trying to think for myself about what the latest twist could possibly mean, but I think that one thing it confirms beyond doubt is that enthusiasm for Mitt is non-existent. If Santorum does the impossible and wins this thing now – or indeed if Gingrich comes back from the dead again (why not?) – Obama’s a shoo-in. But even if Romney eventually emerges as the Republican candidate, he’s going to have to unite a base hostile to his Mormonism and bland, plastic persona that only settled on him as the least-worst option after a painfully long match of mud-slinging in a blood-bath. And even if you happily pick to drink piss because the alternative is (literally) eating shit, that’s not a recipe for inspiration and victory against the most charismatic President in decades. Especially not when your main and only message is that Obama is a socialist that has destroyed the US economy, just as things start to look up. He’s a dreadful candidate, and everybody knew it. At the minimum, last night was a reminder.

What does pro-life mean?

According to Monbiot, you’re ignorant and guilty of an obvious fallacy if you oppose abortion whilst promoting capital punishment:

This is classic, sloppy, liberal claptrap. Santorum may be a shit, but he’s perfectly capable of holding the position that an innocent foetus has a moral status, and is arguably a person, and thus abortion in all instances constitutes murder and is thus necessarily wrong. And nothing there commits him to giving up his concurrent belief that persons can do things that change the boundaries of what we can do to them: namely, if someone commits a heinous crime, it may be the case that they come to deserve the death penalty. Think what you like of that, but don’t tell me believing one makes you an idiot for thinking the other.

Debate reaction.

The dullest in a while, and maybe of the lot. NBC asked the crowd to keep quiet, and so there was no mad rapturous applause for Newt’s pandering, and just a general aura of flatness came to dominate the atmosphere.

If that was the cost of decent debate, fair enough. But it wasn’t. On foreign policy, the questioner asked the candidates to hypothesise a situation in which refugees flocked to Cuba (clearly an issue close to Floridian hearts), and all of a sudden Santorum, Gingrich and Romney managed to slyly descend into talking as if Cuba was the Next Big Thing in waiting: the replacement for the USSR and now Iran, once they’ve finished that latter new war. Gingrich out-pandered them all by talking of invasion. The most crazy moment came when Romney tried to crowd-please by saying Castro meeting his maker would be a great moment (and it worked; one of the only outbreaks of applause). And then before we knew it Gingrich was even disputing Mitt on that point, noting Castro would in fact be far away from God in hell, not heaven, to even greater applause. I shit you not.

Mitt had a few moments where Newt was on the back-foot, but nothing felt like a killer blow to stop the surge. And his Obama-hatred continues. He couldn’t even talk about fucking space exploration and NASA without slagging off Obama and talking about his lack of vision for the country.

Oh, and when they got onto tax policy, Mitt pointed out to Newt that under the latter’s plans for 0% capital gains rates, Mitt would not have paid a dime on his $24m income last year. Gingrich just nodded, and gave some kind of rationalisation to do with the fact that Mitt’s creation of jobs justifies it. Sigh. I couldn’t work out why Mitt pointed this out, except perhaps to note the absurdity of Newt’s plan, not realising the status quo in which he pays 15% is hardly less absurd.

I doubt this will change things. From RCP:

Ignore the average. Note only the latest, from Insider Advantage, was conducted after last week’s debates, and it fits perfectly with the soaring Newt narrative. Expect a few more to confirm the trend. I can’t see last night having changed anything. And when the CNN debate arrives on Thursday and the loud crowd is back, Newt will surely cement his lead and ensure pandemonium follows.

Anyway, tweet of the night:

Debate analysis.

So I stayed up for most of it, but I missed the start which may turn out to be all that matters. Clip here. Newt managed to massacre the open marriage issue and even get an attack on Obama into his defence. He’s a damn good performer, whatever you think about him, and to steal the show and entrance the crowd once again was quite remarkable. He will surely win South Carolina now, and with the announcement that Santorum in fact won Iowa, the feeling a few days ago that Romney was winner in waiting has quite incredibly vanished. No more so than because Mitt proceeded to sink even further in a debate he needed to win.

Sprung grasps the absurdity of the Newt moment:

Newt’s little show of high moral dudgeon when asked at the opening gun about his ex-wife’s allegations of cruel, self-serving betrayal is getting rave reviews as performance art. And it was an astounding display of the Audacity of Hubris. In the space of a minute or two, Gingrich managed to blame or condemn questioner John King, the news media, his ex-wife and Barack Obama for his being forced to address the consequences of his serial adultery.

It’s no mystery why the audience of Republicans so instinctively and passionately rallied to Gingrich’s defense. His final line was the key: that the liberal media is out to get Republicans and will stop at nothing to destroy them is an absolute article of faith on the right. It’s why so many conservative leaders claimed that Herman Cain was the victim of a liberal smear when he was confronted with sexual harassment charges in November. Never mind that the conspiracy theory made no sense (why would liberals take down a candidate they’d love to face in the general election?); logic has little to do with this. Likewise, the left would be thrilled to face Gingrich next fall, but that didn’t stop Rush Limbaugh from arguing on Thursday afternoon that the Marianne Gingrich interview was part of a media plot to take out the former speaker.

What Gingrich did brilliantly on Thursday night is to articulate this paranoid victimhood in a clear and compelling (for his audience, at least) way. It’s the same basic trick he pulled in this week’s other debate, when he connected with another strain of the persecution complex: that honest, tax-paying Republicans are the victims of a dependency class of poor people and minorities that Democrats intentionally enable.

As Sullivan noted, Romney’s big moment was CNN’s ingenious digging up of a quote from his father about the virtues of showing you’re clean by releasing tax returns for 12 years, not just one. Would Mitt follow suit? ‘Maybe’. I shit you not:

that word – “maybe” – in answer to a direct and simple question is devastating.It not only makes him look shifty; it makes him look as if he doesn’t respect his own father’s honorable example. Just a dreadful few minutes for Romney.

Cohn:

What is in Mitt Romney’s tax returns? I have no idea, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s even more damning than speculation has suggested. Romney’s answers on the tax questions were rambling and unclear, which is remarkable for a candidate who is so intellectually sharp, who prides himself on careful preparation, and who had to know the question was coming. This issue has rattled him, obviously, and I’m eager to find out why.

Other than this, we had the usual mixture of lies about Obama turning America into a socialist nuthouse. I think we even reached a new low with Romney claiming Obama is taking away the rights of American citizens. Hmm. His main thought there is the sin of state-led healthcare, which got interesting when he had to talk about his own legislation, and defend that whilst condemning and vowing to repeal Obamacare, despite the latter being merely a federal copy of his own state-level plan.
The consensus seems to be that Santorum was runner-up, but that’s only because he was in bulldog mode whilst Mitt crumbled, and Ron Paul got sidelined as normal. The contrast, incidentally, now we’re down to 4 candidates and Paul stood on the side, was even more striking than before between 3 broadly textbook conservatives and a distinctively radical libertarian. But we never got onto foreign policy or Iran, and so the main meat of Paul’s position, his isolationism and realism about the financial limits of American hegemony, was kept off the table.
But Santorum doesn’t convince. He has none of the Gingrich swagger and arrogance, and throughout his attacks he carries a look on his face of that can only be described as fearful; he comes across as constantly nervous, not quite believing what he is saying, no moreso than when preposterously suggesting POTUS is ‘slashing’ defence spending because he doesn’t care about veterans. He even confessed he wouldn’t change anything about his campaign because he’s ‘amazed to be in the final four’. He thinks it’s the fucking X Factor.

But maybe nerves is better than Romney’s brand of bullshit.

Michael Crowley:

You could accuse Mitt Romney of murdering a drifter in Laredo and he’d respond with an attack on Obama.

ThinkProgress:

Romney says you vote for him because he’s “someone who’s lived in the real streets of America.” … Mitt says he “understands America’s values.” He’s also very familiar with the Cayman Islands’ tax laws.

Sigh. But at least Borowitz reports that Callista is happy:

I love these debates because they’re the only times I know for sure where Newt is.

On to Florida…

Gay marriage and Santorum’s fallacies.

Long, tedious breakdown from The Atlantic here. But a killer quote:

Although gay couples won’t be able to conceive children together — something traditionalists regard as a core purpose of marriage — even the current legal regime permits marriages among people who cannot conceive children. Sterile people and folks who marry past childbearing age are two examples. (That there is no interest in prohibiting such unions makes gay-marriage proponents suspicious that inability to conceive in fact drives the controversy).

Someone, please, put this in a debate to him. And Mitt, Newt and all the others for that matter, so they can no longer dogmatically assert and beg the question in saying ‘I believe marriage is between a man in a woman’, implicitly invoking their justification that marriage is crucially about procreation.

A philosopher’s approach to the issue here.

Republicans and freedom.

It might seem odd that a set of candidates so intent on imposing their Christian agenda upon a nation can simultaneously claim to be beacons of freedom, and in a sense it is odd. Most people understand freedom to mean one is able to do a variety of things, and you are conversely oppressed to the extent that your activities are instead interfered with. And yet, Rick Santorum claims liberty is the key issue in his campaign, as he also pledges to consider the prospect of states banning condoms, if they so wished, on the grounds that it encourages a sexual order contrary to how things ‘ought to be’.

You heard right. A man claiming to be about freedom wants to employ the state to coerce you with threats into no longer using those little pieces of rubber to prevent pregnancy. He genuinely thinks not only that he should be able to control American citizens and their lives and choices in that way, but that he can do so without jeopardising liberty.

Is this remotely defensible? Well, clearly not, and I’m the first one to find it repulsive and absurd. But I can think of three ways in which he could at least try to claim he’s not committing an obvious contradiction in talking this way:

  1. Obviously nobody protests that a candidate is unfairly attacking their freedom when they support laws banning murder. The whole point being, of course, that we don’t value in any sense the freedom of someone to kill somebody else without their permission. Now, no, I’m not suggesting using a condom is analogous to murdering. But in Santorum’s mind, both are wrong, and perhaps for similar reasons: they’re contrary to the will of God. And if that’s the criterion for the permissibility and subsequent legality of something, you can see why he can convince himself that he can run the two together without batting an eyelid. “Of course you shouldn’t be free to use contraception. Doing stuff like that isn’t what we mean by freedom.”
  2. This is probably only a more sophisticated way of saying the same thing, but there is a tendency for us to talk of freedom in terms of achieving an end goal. Buddhists talk of the ‘liberation’ of reaching Nirvana, existentialists of breaking free from social conventions and living authentically according to your true desires, and, similarly, Christians can talk of the ‘freedom’ that attaches to following their interpretation of Scripture. This is a surprisingly popular way of understanding freedom. It is, clearly, in direct conflict with the idea of freedom as having a variety of choices (instead it’s about following the one path – the ‘right’ one) – but it’s still a tradition with backers from Plato through to Rousseau. It’s an understanding of freedom that Isaiah Berlin called ‘positive’ liberty. Santorum could claim he’s forcing us to be free by helping us to see the ‘perversions’ of sex not geared towards procreation, and by encouraging us to follow the True Path instead. I know, I know. But it’s an option…
  3. Finally, and I imagine, given his limited intellectual capacities and non-existent acquaintance with political philosophy, that this is what he in fact has in mind, he may just think that freedom isn’t about social issues. For some reason in America, their two leading values of capitalism and liberty have been conflated so badly that what it means to be free is to be buying and selling things, period. There is no liberty beyond the realm of economics. Now this goes some way to explaining their apparent ignorance of the fact they claim to be promoting liberty despite staunch conservatism on social issues, and it also explains their implicit opinion that big government spending wise (not in bedroom-invading terms) is oppressive: it involves taking lots of your money.

All three options are deeply objectionable and shouldn’t be mainstream opinion in any decent society. But they are a few ways of making Republicans sound slight less simple. Look at it as the flawed but intriguing substance a charitable interviewer could add to their horrible soundbites.

Shit Santorum Says (Episode 190,839)

The man so wise in his dogmatic Zionism when it comes to the Middle East, so much so that he was willing to dub the Palestinians ‘an invented people’ now claims he’s an expert on Iran:

After I left the United States Senate, I wrote and lectured around the country about Iran. [So vote for me] if you’re looking for someone who has some understanding and knowledge and has had success in trying to shape Iran policy.

On the difference between the American and French Revolutions? Evil atheism.

There were no God-given rights [in France] because there was no God. [And] what happened? Tyranny and the guillotine.

Why his social and economic policy are part of the same package. Or, why gays cause recessions:

We cannot have a strong economy unless the family is a strong foundational unit of our society. The term economy comes from the Greek word, `home.’

And then the man who is open to banning condoms claims liberty is his main concern and government has got too big.

But no worries, voters love him:

“Rick Santorum’s grasp of the issues is deep,” said Alan Lord, a 45-year-old engineer from Lexington who supported former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee four years ago and visited with Santorum in West Columbia last week at an overflowing town hall-style meeting. “I watch him and he clearly knows what he’s talking about.”