[Surprisingly, the adult-film actress and the students have it — credibility, that is — and the senator and the president do not.]
— RECENT HEADLINES —
“Trump’s Lead Russia Lawyer, John Dowd, Quits, Sites Client’s Refusal to Take Advice” (3/22/2018)
“Trump Tweet-Announces Nat’l Sec. Adviser Change: John Bolton in, H. R. McMaster Out” (3/22/2018)
“Sec. of State Rex Tillerson’s Last Day in Office, Slams Russia Over Past Year’s Misbehavior” (3/22/2018)
“Stock Market Drops 742 Points Over Fears of President Starting Trade War With China” (3/22/2018)
“Stock Market Drops 424 Points Over Fears of President Starting Trade War With China” (3/23/2018)
“Gucifer 2.0, Hacker of DNC Emails, Proved to Be GRU (Russian Intelligence) Agent” (3/23/2018)
“Incoming Nat’l Sec. Adviser Bolton Linked to Cambridge Analytica and NRA-Russia Links” (3/23/2018)
“Parkland, Fla., HS Shooting Survivors Lead Nationwide Gun Control Rally; 800,000 in D.C.” (3/24/2018)
“Former Sen. Rick Santorum Urges MSD Students to Take Responsibility — Learn CPR and Mount Stop-Bullying Campaign — ‘instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem’” (3/25/2018)
“Stormy Daniels Does ‘60 Minutes’ Interview; Little New Info but Now on Record” (3/25/2018)
“U.S. Closes Consulate, Boots 60 Russian Diplomats Over U.K. Nerve-Agent Attack on Former Spy and Daughter; 70 Diplomats From 20 Countries Also Expelled; No Personal Words From Trump” (3/26/2018)
“CNN Poll RE: Affairs: 63% Believe Women, 21% Believe President, 16% Oblivious” (3/26/2018)
“Stormy Daniels’ Attorney Announces Defamation Lawsuit Against Trump Lawyer Cohen” (3/26/2018)
“Facebook CEO Zuckerberg Will Testify to Congress RE: 2016 Campaign Data Breaches” (3/27/2018)
“9 Senate Democrats Ask Top 5 DOJ Officials in Line of Succession Under Rosenstein for Commitment to Protect Bob Mueller, Even if Ordered to Fire Him, Mirroring a Watergate-Era Strategy” (3/27/2018)
“Kim Jong Un Meets With Xi Jinping in China, Confirms 2 Countries’ Bond Is Still Strong” (3/27/2018)
“Trump Nickname in D.C. Is ‘Spanky,’ per Fmr. Watergate Prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste” (3/27/2018)
“Spurned by Major League Lawyers, Trump Elevates Andrew Ekonomou From AA Minors” (3/27/2018)
“Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, While Running Trump’s 2016 Presidential Campaign, Were in Touch With Business Associate Whom They Knew Had Ties to Russian Intelligence” (3/28/2018)
“Trump Lawyer Reportedly Discussed Manafort, Flynn Pardons w/ Their Lawyers in 2017; Trump Was Prepared to Pardon Flynn; Dowd’s Exit Could Mean He’s Liable for Obstruction of Justice” (3/28/2018)
“Trump Tweet-Fires VA Secretary David Shulkin; Dr. Who Fudged Trump’s Weight/BMI In” (3/28/2018)
“Judge Allows Emoluments Suit Against Trump to Go Forward, Based on D.C. Hotel Income” (3/28/2018)
The events from this week’s news present a topsy-turvy illustration of credibility — who has it and who doesn’t. Making headlines were a senator, a president, an adult-film actress, and a bunch of high school students.
Surprisingly, the adult-film actress and the students have it — credibility, that is — and the senator and president do not. Actually, this might not be surprising if you know who the principals are: which senator, which adult-film actress, which president, and which high school students.
The Students and the Senator
Converging last weekend were remarks by the students and the former senator:
“I’m here on this stage today and I’ve been working every day for my 17 fellow Eagles who were pronounced dead because of gunfire. I am here for every person that has died at the hands of gun violence and for the many more whose lives were irreparably changed because of it.”
(Tarr, Delaney, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student; March for Our Lives rally; Washington, D.C.; 3/24/2018.)
“Six minutes and 20 seconds with an AR-15 and my [deceased] friend Carmen would never complain to me about piano practice. … Alex Schachter would never walk into school with his brother Ryan. … Gina Montalto would never wave to her friend Liam at lunch. … We all [up here on stage] know what this is like. And it is up to us to stop it. So one last final plug: Get out there and vote. Get out there and get registered.”
(Gonzalez, Emma, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student; March for Our Lives rally; Washington, D.C.; 3/24/2018.)
“I would give everything to have one more day, one more hour, one more second with the sweetest boy in the world.”
(Schachter, Max, father of Alex, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student killed in last month’s Valentine’s Day mass shooting; March for Our Lives rally; Washington, D.C.; 3/24/2018.)
“How about kids, instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations where there is a violent shooter and you can actually respond to that? They took action to ask someone to pass a law. They didn’t take action to say, ‘How do I as an individual deal with this problem? How am I gonna do something about stopping bullying in my community? What am I gonna do to actually help respond to a shooter?’”
(Santorum, Rick, R-Pa., 2012 presidential primary candidate, former U.S. senator; CNN’s State of the Union; 3/25/2018.)
We’ll get to the CPR-for-gunshot-victims issue in a moment.
The students vs. the former senator. Now that’s juxtaposition. Rick Santorum is well-known as a man of little credibility. Conversely, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students have become a national model for articulate, passionate, altruistic social change.
Rick Santorum was first elected U.S. senator from Pennsylvania in 1994 but came into his un-credible own as a prominent Barack Obama basher during that president’s first term (2009-2013). He tacitly accepted birtherism (the belief in the myth that Obama was not a U.S. citizen, therefore was an illegitimate president). By tacitly, I mean he passively supported the ugly, racist movement without coming right out and saying President Obama was foreign-born. Like the majority of GOP members, he also conspicuously didn’t disaffirm the concept or repudiate its proponents.
Santorum touted his presidential endorsement from Joseph Farah’s World Net Daily, “an extremely nasty, conspiracy-minded cesspool of far-right fearmongering” (per The Nation’s Ben Adler) and a relentless champion of birtherism. Santorum went on to write for Farah’s publication. During the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, in an interview with CNN’s John King, Rick did something rare for him: when pressed by King, he begrudgingly admitted he didn’t think the president was Muslim. He also said, however, he didn’t feel an obligation to refute the statements by those who espoused that Obama was a Kenyan-born Islam worshipper.
During debate on the Senate’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Rick authored an amendment to promote the teaching of intelligent design and question the academic standing of evolution in American public schools. The amendment was defeated, in no small part due to a coalition of nearly 100 scientific and educational organizations that protested the wording’s implication that evolution was not widely scientifically accepted. In 2002 Santorum called intelligent design “a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes.” He later softened this stance slightly as political winds shifted.
Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign came up with the concept of theological secularism to criticize President Obama’s faith:
“[Obama has] some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology.”
(Santorum, Rick, R-Pa., 2012 presidential primary candidate, former U.S. senator; campaign event, speaking to a tea party group; Columbus, Ohio; 2/18/2012.)
When asked for clarification, Santorum told CBS News’ Bob Schieffer that he was not questioning the president’s faith:
“Well, I was talking about the radical environmentalists. That’s what I was talking about: energy, this idea that man is here to serve the earth, as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the earth. And I think that is a phony ideal. I don’t believe that that’s what we’re here to do — that man is here to use the resources and use them wisely, to care for the earth, to be a steward of the earth, but we’re not here to serve the earth.”
(Santorum, Rick, R-Pa., 2012 presidential primary candidate, former U.S. senator; CBS’ Face the Nation; 2/19/2012.)
The next day, Santorum’s national press secretary, Alice Stewart, also claimed Santorum wasn’t questioning Obama’s faith:
“He was talking about radical environmentalists. There is a type of theological secularism when it comes to the global warmists in this country. … He was referring to the president’s policies, in terms of the radical Islamic policies the president has, specifically in terms of energy exploration.”
(Stewart, Alice, R-, 2012 Santorum presidential primary campaign press secretary; MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports; 2/20/2012.)
Theological secularism. Like dry moistness — or dirty cleanliness — or black whiteness. Got it? To be fair, Ms. Stewart corrected herself on the use of one Freudian slip of a word. After her interview, while the show was still on the air, she called Andrea’s people to say she misspoke when she used the word Islamic.
But theological secularism still stands.
At this point in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, Rick Santorum was surging. Mitt Romney would eventually win the nomination in May, but that was not a foregone conclusion in February, when second-place Santorum was unexpectedly rising in the polls. Many GOP leaders were nervous:
“It’s crazy talk. … If [Santorum] is the nominee, given what he said over the last week … there’ll be a blowout the likes that no one has ever even imagined before.”
(Schmidt, Steve, R-, 2008 McCain-Palin presidential campaign chief strategist; MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell; 2/20/2012.)
CPR for Gunshot Victims
Rick Santorum is one of many Trump surrogates who make the cable news rounds supporting the president and his policies. He’s also one of many right-wing zealots who have attacked the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and their allies. This is helpful in trying to figure out the inanity of Santorum’s thinking about the legitimacy of the students’ gun safety legislation advocacy, through their March for Our Lives rally and their Never Again MSD movement.
Again, Rick said this: “How about kids, instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations where there is a violent shooter and you can actually respond to that? They took action to ask someone to pass a law. They didn’t take action to say, ‘How do I as an individual deal with this problem? How am I gonna do something about stopping bullying in my community? What am I gonna do to actually help respond to a shooter?’”
Note that Santorum is regurgitating, in code, the NRA’s primary talking point: “stopping bullying” and “respond to a [emotionally troubled potential] shooter” are clear references to mass shootings as solely a mental health problem rather than an access-to-military-style-weapons problem.
Experts on the effects of gun violence had a field day with Santorum’s comments:
(Sher, Heather, MD, Florida-based radiologist; Twitter post; 3/25/2018.)
“Mr. Santorum, CPR doesn’t work if all the blood is on the ground.”
(Buyske, Jo, American Board of Surgery executive director; Twitter post; 3/25/2018.)
“Survival rate of pulseless trauma victims who get CPR at the scene: VERY, VERY LOW.
Survival rate of people who don’t get shot in the first place: MUCH, MUCH BETTER.”
(Bell, Rebecca, University of Vermont Medical Center pediatric critical care doctor; Twitter post; 3/25/2018.)
Rick Santorum’s stupidity and vacuous NRA pandering: PRICELESS.
But Santorum shot back:
“Relying on more government to focus on guns is a mistake.”
(Santorum, Rick, R-Pa., 2012 presidential primary candidate, former U.S. senator; Twitter post; 3/26/2018.)
Did you catch the “more government” dog whistle to tea party refugees? As if Congress’ failure to protect U.S. citizens from gun violence — i.e., “less government” — is preferable? Mr. Santorum, your arguments are nonsensical. Whether one is passionate or apathetic about the enormous number of American mass shooting deaths and injuries caused by lunatics, one knows that the way to effect change (that is, save lives) is to change the law.
The NRA knows this, which is why they are compelled to attack movements like Never Again MSD with the violent passion of a Sarah Palin momma grizzly. The NRA (and Sarah) is willing to accept the collateral damage of mass shootings as the price to pay for unchecked freedom to own any flavor of gun — which is not a constitutional right, by the way. Conservative (and other) Supreme Court justices have stated the Second Amendment allows restrictions on firearm power and access.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas students have it exactly right, notwithstanding Rick Santorum’s admonition to learn CPR and stop bullying. Over the past decades it has been terrifyingly, devastatingly, sorrowfully clear that the only way to mitigate American mass shootings and resulting casualties is to change the law.
How did slavery end? By opponents fighting a war to change the law.
How did unjust child labor end? By opponents fighting to change the law.
How did women get the vote? By proponents fighting to change the law.
How were civil rights bills passed? By proponents fighting to change the law.
Movements are mysterious things. But when a righteous one develops, often through unforeseen, tragic circumstances, we need to nurture it to its full potential.
So go Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students. They might just have the articulate passion, energy, organization, backing, and young-person wisdom to accomplish something.
Laying the Groundwork for a 2016 Donald Trump Presidential Run
As I said, Rick Santorum, Trump supporter, knows what he says makes no sense, but he says it anyway. He says it because right-wing xenophobes, homophobes, and gun fanatics will run with it, in spite of critically thoughtful pushback from experts and thinkers. He derides students for organizing to change gun laws rather than drawing up anti-bullying posters or taking CPR classes. During the Obama years, he straddled the fence between personally not making outright racist, birther statements while tacitly giving approval to those who did.
Like the president, Rick Santorum avers that he is anti-PC, against political correctness. But PC is simply the avoidance of terms, descriptions, and policies that are discriminatory toward certain groups of people. Santorum and Trump’s anti-PC-ism is a defense for the continued use of offensive, bigoted language and policies with apparent impunity. Vehemently opposing political correctness gives them a red anti-PC herring to hide behind.
It is the Santorums of the GOP who laid the groundwork for a President Trump. Donald did not rise to the presidency on his good looks (or manners). The Republican Party made a deal with Beelzebub after Barack Obama’s 2008 election. In return for tea party support of anti-Obama obstructionism, the GOP looked the other way and gave tacit approval to race-baiting, white nationalism, and gun-rights absolutism. The colossal mendacity and lack of critical thinking was astonishing. The Donald saw his opening, and Republican leaders ultimately lost their influence. Forget tacitness. Trump openly cheered the rampant intolerant nativism, the NRA, and anti-PC sentiment. The base cheered him back, and he took over their party.
Now the Republican Party is Donald Trump’s party. The members of its thoughtful minority have either left or gone dormant. We can thank Rick Santorum and his brethren. Santorum would not denounce birtherism: “It’s not my job to refute it.” Santorum kowtows to the NRA: Sporting one of their hats he announced, “I make the argument that there’s nobody who’s done more for the Second Amendment and been stronger on that issue than I have.” Santorum thinks climate change is “junk science” and “a beautifully concocted scheme” created by “radical environmentalists” and anti-business Democrats. Santorum scoffs at the scientific theory of evolution and wants to teach creationism and intelligent design in public schools.
I don’t have the evidence, but I believe there’s a relationship between anti-PC-ism, climate change denial, and evolution denial. I believe the evolution-deniers intentionally deny climate change to hasten end-times, and thereby, the Rapture, blaming it all on dark-skinned immigrants. But it’s just a theory.
If Rick Santorum had real integrity, he would be Amish, not Catholic. Hell, even the Pope has said the Bible and evolution are not incompatible. But if Rick wants to disavow science, then he should disavow all of it. If he disbelieves the evidence for climate change and evolution — even though it was developed under the same strict standards of scientific research and inquiry as the evidence for radio transmission and internal combustion — then Rick Santorum should be living where men grow beards without mustaches, women wear bonnet coverings, and everyone helps out with each other’s barn raisings. He should never make another telephone call or ride in a car. Or if he does, at least he should have to bother a non-Amish neighbor for the favor. ■
(Isolated portions of this article were based on my book, Barack vs. the Anti-PC: Laying the Groundwork for a 2016 Donald Trump Presidential Run [2017, Big Table Publishing]).