Santorum against the World

By Dougherty, Michael Brendan | The American Conservative, July 3, 2007 | Go to article overview

Santorum against the World


Dougherty, Michael Brendan, The American Conservative


The ex-senator sets the Culture War aside to preach paranoia in our time.

FORMER SENATOR Rick Santorum earned the sobriquet "the believer" during his time in Washington. A staunch Catholic, he made cultural conservative issues his personal crusade, frequently giving impassioned speeches on behalf of the unborn and leading the effort to amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Though self-effacing and affable in private, on the Senate floor he became a scourge in the hands of an angry God.

That manner won him few admirers outside the value-voters set, and in 2006 the Iraq War became a political millstone around Santorum's thin neck. After taking the worst thumping in the contested Senate races, he seemed destined to disappear. But instead of cashing in at a lobbying firm or cruising on his reputation through the conservative dinner circuit, the senator embraced the war issue. Now he is building support for regime change in Iran among social conservatives and refraining the war on terror into a much larger conflict that stretches back over a millennium. In his right hand, he holds a growing list of America's enemies, and he's reading off their names to everyone who will listen-at think tanks, on Christian radio, and perhaps soon at a theater near you.

In his post Senate speeches, Santorum has explained how he transformed from culture warrior to foreign-policy warrior: "As I went on the campaign trail, it was very obvious to me that we were losing the war. Yes, we were losing the war in Baghdad to some degree, but more important we were losing the war on the streets of Pennsylvania" Collapsing public support, in Santorum's mind, was the result of a failure to "name the enemy" and educate Americans about the nature of the threat. "They didn't think there was any consequence of losing, they didn't think we could lose and even if we did, it didn't matter."

The former senator is quick to remind, "I still care very deeply about the social conservative issues. Can America continue to be a great country if it is no longer a good country, or a moral country? That is the long-term crisis that America faces. But I saw a more immediate short-term problem in the foreign policy arena" For Santorum, this short-term problem is global in scope, involving not only "Islamofascists" but also Latin American populists and Russia. Solving it requires the full moral, diplomatic, and military effort of the American people in a struggle he says will demand more than World War II did of the greatest generation.

In many ways, Santorum's latest project builds on his reputation as a social conservative. After leaving office, he immediately became a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a think tank built to promote what it calls "the Great Western ethical imperatives" in Washington. The EPPC is known for its groundbreaking work on life and family issues. Now the former senator writes up a bulletin for the center called "The Weekly Threat Roundup," which regularly details the nefarious doings of Iran and Venezuela-an alliance particularly troubling to Santorum.

For years, James Dobson, the Christian psychologist and popular radio talkshow host has been following Santorum's efforts on behalf of socially conservative values. They both recently made Time's list of the 25 most influential evangelicals, a true feat for a Catholic like Santorum. Like many evangelicals, Dobson's interests now include foreign policy. In May, he dedicated two days of his show to broadcasting a Santorum stemwinder. In it, the former senator explained that his current work is "a family issue, because it concerns the security of every family in this nation." Moving on to his list, Santorum asked impatiently, "Did you know that Venezuela will shortly spend $30 billion to build 20 military bases in neighboring Bolivia, which will dominate the borders with Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil?" And this was of no small concern because Latin American leftism is apparently in alliance with Islamic fascists. …

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