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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

If I Had Any Character At All...

Who knew? It seems like only yesterday I was explaining that the bizarre comments of righty small-fry are not mine to defend. Now Sen. Rick Sanitorium, the number three Republican in the Senate leadership, offers up some profound thoughts on homosexuality and privacy.

First, my valiant defense. The early press reports suggetsted that he equated homosexuality with incest and polygamy:

'If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything,' Santorum said in the interview with the Associated Press.

Good news! The AP put the parenthetical "gay" in there as their attempt at a clarification. In the unedited transcript, it seems like Santorum was making a more abstract point about privacy rights generally.

Well, that is the end of the sprited defense. Santorum's theory of privacy rights as presented here is absurd. I accept his theoretical point that there ought to be some limits on a right to privacy. In fact, I suspect that Robert Bork addressed this at his infamous Senate hearing, in an exchange with Sen. Kennedy, and I may get around to looking it up. However, the limits that Santorum suggests are ridiculous - bigamy and polygamy as private consensual activities? If he is taking about group orgies, well, whatever turns you on. But actually getting a marriage legally recognized and making a spouse eligible for the employee health care plan, Social Security benefits, and what have you, is hardly something done in the privacy of the home. I am not a highly paid public legislator, but I suspect we could outlaw polygamy without also outlawing group sex. And my impression is that we as a society are drifting away from criminalizing adultery. Santorum is talking crazy talk here.

But are his comments homophobic, or just stupid? Well, the other bit that attracted attention seems to be this:

AP: I mean, should we outlaw homosexuality?

SANTORUM: I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships. And that includes a variety of different acts, not just homosexual. I have nothing, absolutely nothing against anyone who's homosexual. If that's their orientation, then I accept that. And I have no problem with someone who has other orientations. The question is, do you act upon those orientations? So it's not the person, it's the person's actions. And you have to separate the person from their actions.

I don't see how that works. OTOH, he seems to be presenting the standard position of the Catholic Church (and not only is Santorum Catholic, he was 1997 Catholic American of the Year!), so I am not sure that this will, or ought to, disqualify him from public office.

My Bold Prediction - This is not Trent Lott, so Santorum lives! Libertarian-minded conservatives shudder, fundamentalist style conservatives applaud.

OK, delicious backstory, and stop me if you knew this. Reading about Santorum's election to the Senate in 1994, I stumbled across these two tidbits:

The Republican moderate establishment, led by Specter, was decidedly unhappy with the prospect of Santorum, whom they viewed as too conservative and too pro-life. As the primary season unfolded, Specter began fishing for a primary challenger. Theresa Heinz, wife of former Senator John Heinz, David and Julie Eisenhower, and Barbara Hafer, the state's Auditor General, were mentioned as possibilities.

And, a bit later,

But, in the eleventh hour, two campaign flaps, one minor and one major, almost derailed the Santorum campaign. The minor flap involved Santorum's November 2nd statement on an Erie talk radio show that Theresa Heinz, the wife of deceased Senator John Heinz, had failed to endorse him because she was romantically involved with U.S. Senator John Kerry, Democrat from Massachusetts. Santorum was responding to remarks made the week before by Theresa Heinz when she told a University of Pittsburgh audience that Santorum was "the antithesis of John Heinz," and she was not going to vote for him.

Life is a circle. And, in a mini-Update, we see that the Kerry connection continues: allegedly it was the spouse of Kerry's campaign manager that inserted the word "gay" into the transcript.

UPDATE: Why Santorum will survive: it's mostly Dems screaming. The blogosphere was a great early alert on the Lott debacle. On the right, Reynolds and Sully called for his scalp early, (as did many others) and the rest is history.

With Santorum we see Volokh defending him. Reynolds criticizes Santorum's content, but does not call for his public execution. Sullivan is aghast, but his call for Santorum's ouster is not quite as clear as his post titled "Trent Lott Must Go". Here it is:

They [Santorum's comments] are not a relic of a bigoted past, as Trent Lott's were. But they are an expression of a bleak future, in which tolerance and privacy are subject to the approval of "moral" majorities and enforced by the police. If that truly is his view, he needs to explain it further. And the Republican party has to ask itself if it wants an unconservative extremist as one of its leaders.

I stand by my Bold Prediction. When the Republicans start sacking Catholics for talking like Catholics, then you will have a headline.

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