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February 09, 2012

Santorum Is A Conservative By Reputation, But Not By Deed

“Ladies and gentlemen, I don't stand here to claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.”

That's what Rick Santorum said after Republican voters in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado gave him impressive victories this week over his Republican competitors. It is an awful, almost idiotic statement. Both for what it concedes and for what it claims. As to the latter, I have a house plant that's a conservative alternative to Barack Obama. No more need be said on that point.

As to the former, Santorum concedes that he's not a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. How could he? Santorum was a pro-union congressman-turned-senator for 16 years, with notable votes against the National Right to Work Act and for the Davis-Bacon prevailing (read: union) wage law. He voted to increase the minimum wage six times and tried to put a union representative on an IRS oversight board. He also voted to exempt IRS union representatives from criminal ethics laws.

For a country finally coming to grips with the public policy problems with unions---particularly government employee unions---Santorum would make an awful national leader. Don't get me wrong, he's saying the right words now, but back when he was in Congress he wasn't exactly on our side. He excuses himself, of course:

"And you need to remember, I was from the state of Pennsylvania. State of Pennsylvania does not have a right to work law. The state legislature and our governor for a long time had rules in place that were inconsistent with right to work.

"And I wasn't, as United States senator, representing the states of Pennsylvania going to go down and by federal vote change the law on the state. I believe the state has the right. If they want a union dues requirement, that the state should be able to do that."

So he stood for state's rights on the union issue. Conservatives may find something admirable in that, I suppose. At least we know he's familiar with the Tenth Amendment, unlike Obama and the Democrats. Oh, wait:

"As a president, I have a very different point of view. I have already signed a letter and sent it to the national right to work that I would sign a national right to work bill because now, I'm no longer representing that state."

Well, nevermind. I guess union rights aren't a state right after all. Or maybe state's rights don't matter because now he's no longer representing a state? Oy.

Santorum makes a similar claim about his former support for Davis-Bacon prevailing wages, noting that he worked for a state that had a "large percentage" of state contractors working under state prevailing wage laws. Is it possible that Santorum is unaware that as president he would be working for a country that has a "large percentage" (aka 99%) of federal contractors working under the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage law?

Santorum had a fairly long career inside the Beltway and he's from a blue industrial state, so some poorly-explained flip-flops like these are bound to crop up. But Santorum's lack of conservative bonafides is worse than just some flip-flops. He is remarkably not adopting a "very different point of view" on issues that were central to the Republican and Tea Party resurgence in 2010.

His paean to earmarks and ridicule of earmark opponents should be enough to disqualify him. The $100 million dollars he secured for a clean-energy facility in Pennsylvania should be raising eyebrows, not to mention his go-along-to-get-along vote for the Bridge to Nowhere. The total cost of Santorum's earmarks tops $1 billion. He went so far as to sue Donald Rumsfeld to prevent base closures in Pennsylvania. And he joined Democrats to prevent Republicans from cutting and reforming food stamps. These weren't isolated or unusual votes for Santorum and he continues to believe that they were the right thing to do. As a result of votes like these, Santorum has a lower ACU rating than, for example, Newt Gingrich.

So, please, don't pretend to me that Santorum is an outstanding conservative. He's a presidential candidate with a recent, suspicious, and only partial commitment to mouthing conservative beliefs. A man once wisely said, "A track record is a pretty good indication of what you’re going to do in the future." It was Rick Santorum.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 09:29 AM

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