Santorum's tactics seem like big pile of ...
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No one in modern American politics exemplifies the inner tension between vulgarity and piety better than Rick Santorum.
Though the former Pennsylvania senator loves to contrast himself favorably to Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney when he believes it is to his advantage, he trails both his rival and the incumbent president in the temperament department.
Former Gov. Romney has had a lot of bad days lately, but on his worst day it would be hard to imagine him cursing at a New York Times reporter and bragging about it in a fundraising letter.
During a campaign stop in Racine, Wis., over the weekend, Mr. Santorum used an attack line against Mr. Romney he believes has been working for him lately: "[Romney] is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama. Why would Wisconsin want to vote for someone like that?"
New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny approached Mr. Santorum at a campaign event Sunday evening and asked him to elaborate on his comments from the night before.
After all, insisting that Mr. Romney was "the worst Republican in the country to run against Obama" is a very audacious statement. It dovetails with a comment Mr. Santorum made the previous week about it being better to vote for Mr. Obama than a wishy-washy Republican moderate like Mitt Romney.
"You said Mitt Romney is the worst Republican in the country," Mr. Zeleny said, repeating the thrust of what Mr. Santorum said, but without the context of the criticism the pugnacious candidate has used of Mr. Romney's track record on health care. "Is that true?"
"I didn't say that," Mr. Santorum immediately snapped. "You guys are distorting what I'm saying."
That flurry of indignation was followed by a plaintive "Stop lying." It was what he said next that made it especially newsworthy: "Quit distorting my words. ... It's bull....."
Because Mr. Santorum has been criticized by fellow Republicans in recent days for implying that voting for Mr. Obama makes sense if Mr. Romney is the nominee, he might have been feeling an extra level of defensiveness. Still, Mr. Santorum wouldn't be a politician if he didn't try to milk the moment for everything it was worth.
Within hours, the Santorum campaign had turned the incident into a fundraising opportunity. "I'm Ready to Take on The New York Times," the headline on his email to potential donors screamed.
Though Mr. Santorum, a former Fox News commentator, recently accused that network of being in the tank for Mr. Romney, he wasted no time in getting to friendly media ground to spin his version of events.
"If you haven't cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you're not really a real Republican, the way I look at it," the potty-mouthed pietist told the giggling anchors on "Fox & Friends" on Monday morning. Beaming from ear to ear, you could see why his old college buddies nicknamed him "Rooster."
"It was one of those harassing moments, and after having answered the question a few times, sort of comes back with the same old-fashioned, the same old spin," he said, smirking with all the self-satisfaction of a monk who would happily give up a lifetime of celibacy for a few seconds of sin if the right offer came along.
"I just said, 'OK, I've had enough of this you-know-what.' And so that's what I did. Look, we're out there slugging away. We're the candidate out there that's mixing it up, and we're mixing it up," he said to a giddy Gretchen Carlson, who could barely contain her admiration for his mature expression of Christian manhood.
Of course, Mr. Santorum's odd protestations that the media are distorting his message is laughable given his own shameless track record as a distorter of his opponents' positions. It must be a relief to him that his time in the media spotlight will soon be over.
First Published March 27, 2012 12:00 am