The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
home
Monday, Oct. 27, 9:27 a.m.
Columnists | Opinion

Political columnist: Storm isn’t over: Santorum considers other options

The race for the Republican presidential nomination finally ended Tuesday when Rick Santorum suspended his campaign. Santorum’s announcement means the inevitable has become reality: Mitt Romney will oppose President Barack Obama in November’s general election.

Santorum didn’t say why he’s leaving the race. Some have suggested his daughter Bella’s illness — she has Edwards syndrome, a genetic disorder whose sufferers only live to the age of 10 at a 1-in-100 rate, and was also recently hospitalized with pneumonia — led Santorum to throw in the towel.

Pragmatists believe Santorum realized he couldn’t win and didn’t want to be embarrassed by a loss in his home state of Pennsylvania, which holds its primaries on April 24. By building on the base he created in this campaign, Santorum could come back stronger in four years. Of course, people said similar things about former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2008, and Huckabee declined to run this year even though he would have been a front-runner.

There are also suggestions that Santorum quit the race because he was offered something else. This is not out of the question; in 2008, when Obama had already won enough delegates to be assured the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton used the fact that she had won a large number of delegates to get face time at the party convention and an appointment as secretary of state.

If Santorum suspended his campaign because he was offered a cabinet post, we’ll likely find out in the coming weeks. But what position might he have been offered? A column from the Washington Post late last month raises an interesting — and disconcerting — possibility.

The column’s author, Carter Eskew, cites reports from his own paper that “conservatives are suggesting that, to unite the party, Romney should appoint Santorum as attorney general, John Bolton as secretary of state and Newt Gingrich as ambassador to the United Nations.”

John Bolton is best remembered as the man who couldn’t win Senate confirmation as U.N. ambassador because he doesn’t believe the U.N. should exist. Former President George W. Bush pushed him through in a no-contest recess appointment.

In a 2009 op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, Bolton compared President Obama to Ethelred the Unready, “history’s paradigmatic weak leader,” because of Obama’s diplomatic efforts in the Middle East. As secretary of state, Bolton would be the country’s chief diplomat.

At least Gingrich agrees with some of the U.N.’s stated goals. However, in his book, “To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine,” Gingrich says “[r]edistributing wealth is not some side project at the United Nations; it is the organization’s main purpose today.” In a 2006 interview with the Washington Post, Gingrich called former President Bush’s stance toward Iran and North Korea “appeasement.” Diplomacy doesn’t seem to be his main concern.

The most concerning idea is that Santorum could become attorney general of the United States. Eskew compares Santorum to A. Mitchell Palmer, another Pennsylvania native who, as Woodrow Wilson’s attorney general, conducted raids against radical leftists and anarchists and generally used his power to harm political enemies.

So who would Attorney General Santorum go after? In short, everyone.

Santorum made an anti-pornography crusade a key issue for his presidential campaign, stating that “America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography.” He has vowed to strictly enforce federal obscenity laws, which would not endear him to the 43 percent or so of Americans who view porn online, according to The Week.

Santorum also has alienated the gay community and its allies. In a 2003 interview with the Associated Press, he compared homosexuality to polygamy, adultery and incest, and implicitly, pedophilia and bestiality. This led to an online campaign that coined a new, not-fit-for-print meaning for the word “Santorum.”

In the interview, Santorum reiterated his belief that “[t]he right to privacy is a right that was created in a law that set forth a [ban on] rights to limit individual passions. And I don’t agree with that.” Santorum believes states should have the right to have anti-abortion and anti-sodomy laws, because individuals hold no natural right to privacy.

Civil libertarians, too, have good reason to oppose Santorum as attorney general. Earlier this year, Santorum said he hoped the U.S. government had been involved in the alleged assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists and asserted our right to do so: “And if people say, ‘Well, you can’t go out and assassinate people,’ well, tell that to Awlaki. … We’ve done it for an American citizen.” Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen whose assassination last September in Yemen remains controversial.

Hopefully this discussion is academic. In order for “Attorney General Rick Santorum” to be a possibility, Romney has to win.

But if he does, we need to hold Romney accountable for his cabinet appointments. That’s because Rick Santorum as attorney general is an even worse idea than Rick Santorum as president.

 

Mike Emery is a fourth-year sociology student. His political columns will appear every Thursday.