Jewish World Review Jan 9, 2012/ 14 Teves, 5772
Santorum in the Lions' Den
By Roger Simon
A candidate appears before a hostile crowd, where with the sheer weight of his courage, calm and courtesy, he wins over the angry lions, or at the least those people watching it later on the nightly news.
There is a trick to this for the candidate, however: Even if bitten, never bite back.
The candidate, and not the lions, must be the object of sympathy.
Which Rick Santorum forgot all about at a campaign stop here on Thursday, five days before Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. The event was a small one, something called the College Convention 2012, sponsored by New England College, a small four-year institution in Henniker, N.H., with about 1,000 undergraduates and a mascot called "Patty the Pilgrim."
Santorum entered the room to a smattering of applause and a nearly silent standing ovation. (Some might have been standing to get a better view of him.)
He stood behind a lectern, gripping its sides for dear life. This was not the Rick Santorum of a few days ago, who had won, tied or narrowly lost (take your pick) the Iowa caucuses.
There, he was dazzling on the stump. He was organized, enthusiastic, seemingly sincere and (largely) lucid. But as he began to speak here, he seemed both defensive and combative.
He mentioned New Hampshire's proud "first in the nation" primary status and then said darkly, "When you fight to be first, you have to do it right, and I would challenge you to do it right."
The crowd was restrained, as in utterly silent.
Santorum then attacked President Obama for believing in government by "the top down."
"We declared independence from a king who believed in government from the top down," Santorum said, "a king who ruled by divine right, a right he believed given to him by God."
Some kids looked at each other as if to ask: Is this going to be on the final?
"The right to life is a controversy these days," Santorum said and then added in a mocking tone: "'What are you doing in my bedroom?' Well, the right to life has nothing to do with the bedroom!"
While everyone was grappling with that, Santorum explained that when the Declaration of Independence promised life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it did not mean happiness as we know it today.
"Happiness is not enjoyment or pleasure," Santorum said. "Happiness means to do the right thing. To do not what we want to do, but what we ought to do."
Santorum also attacked the American education system "Why do we concentrate on what George Washington did wrong?" he asked. "He had slaves. If that's all you've learned, you haven't learned the great things he's done."
He also tried a joke: "My teleprompter is way back there, you just can't see it."
This was met with polite, but utter, silence.
"America is not a melting pot," he said. "It's a salad bowl."
Then he took questions.
A young woman, she looked about 18 or so, stood and said she wanted to ask about gay marriage.
"I am surprised I got a gay marriage question in a college crowd," Santorum said sarcastically.
She was undeterred. "How about the idea that all men are created equal and (have) the right to happiness and liberty?" she asked.
"Are you saying that everyone should have the right to marry anyone?" Santorum replied with a smirk. He knew where this was going. He had done this before.
"Yes," the student said.
"So anyone can marry several people?" Santorum said gleefully. Aha! He had spring his trap.
"No," the young woman said, shaking her head.
"What about three men?" Santorum asked.
The crowd began booing.
"That's irrelevant," someone shouted.
This was met with "whoots" of approval from the crowd.
"But what if someone can only be happy if he or she was married to five people? Santorum asked the young woman.
"Boo!" went the crowd.
"That's not the point," the young woman said. "That's not what I'm talking about. But in my opinion, yeah, go for it."
"It's important that if we're going to have rational discussion, we have to have reasoned thought!" Santorum said, drawing a mixed response.
Boo! Whoot! Boo! Boo!
"Then marriage really means whatever you want it to be," Santorum said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
Whoot! Whoot! Whoot.
Then Santorum fired what he thought was going to be his silencer, his unarguable point of logic.
"A man and a woman is the best relationship to raise children," he said, underlining "children" with his voice. "When we deny children that birthright, then we are harming children and harming society!"
The young woman made no reply, but just shook her head.
Santorum looked triumphant and a few minutes left the room with a smile on his face.
Rick Santorum, who has a B.A., M.A. and a J.D., has served two terms in the House and two terms in the Senate, knows how to beat up a teenager in a debate.
Hear his roar.
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