February 24, 2012

There They Go Again

Rick Santorum has been under fire in recent days. The latest controversy surrounding the current Republican front-runner involves no more and no less than a speech he gave back in 2008 and which was posted on The Drudge Report on Tuesday. Well, it was no ordinary speech, since he dared to say that… Satan had “set his sights set on the United States of America.” “The Father of Lies,” he said, “is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition.” Which, at the time, as everybody can easily understand, must have been an appalling revelation to the American people, who never ever imagined they could have found themselves in such an awkward situation, but even more so to the mainstream media folks, who are notoriously honorable men and women. And that’s why, once over the initial shock, and after a brief but thorough soul-searching exercise, those good guys and gals started speaking very badly about Rick Santorum. And now, to borrow from Ronald Reagan, there they go again.

Responding to questions last night about his 2008 speech, Santorum fairly argued that

these are questions that are not relevant to what's being discussed in America today. What we're talking about America today is trying to get America growing. That's what my speeches are about. That's what we're going to talk about in this campaign. If they want dig up old speeches, talking to a religious group, go right ahead and do so, but I'm going to stay on message. I'm going to talk about things that Americans want to talk about, which is creating jobs, getting our country safer and secure and yes, taking on the forces around this world who want to do harm to America. You bet I will take them on.
You know, I'm a person of faith. I believe in good and evil. I think if somehow or another because you're a person of faith you believe in good and evil is a disqualifier for president we're going to have a very small pool of candidates who can run for president.

Very clear and intellectually honest, but also politically appropriate. And quite “presidential.” But that is not the most important point here. The real point is that we now know—and we must thank The Drudge Report for this—that the current GOP front-runner, with his speech about good and evil at Ave Maria University in Florida in 2008, is the true spiritual heir of another much-maligned social conservative, Ronald Reagan, who delivered a similarly fiery speech in Florida in 1983: the famous “Evil Empire” statement (see the video below). That historic speech, says Paul Kengor in a must-read American Spectator piece [Thanks: Sandra Kennedy Schimmelpfennig], is remembered principally, and correctly, as a bold, long overdue utterance of unadulterated truth about the USSR, which Reagan aptly described as “the focus of evil in the modern world.” But the speech, Kengor continues, was much more: “It looked inward at the sins and evils at work in America—as did Santorum’s speech.”

“As I digested the speech,” he continues

I was struck at how so many of Santorum's themes and words -- which were right on the money -- echoed those expressed in Ronald Reagan's historic Evil Empire speech. Santorum ruminated on the "father of lies," spiritual warfare, truth, vanity, sensuality, temptation, pride, education, abortion. Like Reagan, he fears that the "great political conflict" at work in America "is not a political war at all, or a cultural war -- it is a spiritual war." In that war, "the father of lies has set his sights on none other than good, decent, powerful, influential United States of America."
And then, like Reagan, he finished with a message of faith-based optimism for the faithful gathered in the room: "My message to you today is that you will lose, you will lose battle after battle; you will become frustrated, but do not lose hope. God will be faithful, if you are."

What to say? Well, to put it as Rush Limbaugh does,

I'm not saying that Santorum is Reagan. I'm saying that is what is happening with Santorum, the fact that he believes what he believes, is not unique. Many presidents have believed, in fact, far more than not have believed what Santorum believes and have said so. And the media reaction to Santorum is also not unique. It's identical.