(As usual, the agreement with the syndicator means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)
FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 6, 2011
TIME FOR THE OTHER RICK
BY BOB FRANKEN
Andy Warhol famously called everyone's fleeting moment in the spotlight “15 minutes of fame.” In the wild and wacky world of Republican presidential politics, it's more like 15 days. That's about the time it takes for the latest GOP ABM candidate (Anybody But Mitt) to rocket into the poll stratosphere as the great right hope to challenge steady Mitt Romney, and then to flame out.
There has been fleeting dazzle from Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain (now, uh “suspended”), to say nothing of those who decided to avoid the slippery slope, like Sarah Palin, Chris Christie and Donald Trump. Round and round it's gone, settling on one, then the other; in fact, it has landed twice on Newt. But it passed right over Rick Santorum. He has never been able to move from the debates' nosebleed section. Maybe when Gingrich self-destructs, it'll be time for Rick the Other.
He certainly has the conservative credentials, a GOP hard rock as a United States senator from Pennsylvania, until losing a re-election bid in 2006. The way things work is that losing in politics is the prerequisite for a presidential run. Just ask Gingrich. Still, Santorum has never risen much past the three- to five-point level in the preference polls, stuck there while the others took off, still there to welcome them back to obscurity.
Is this his moment? He's someone who comes across as a nice guy with some mean positions. As he and his very, very small entourage have been traipsing around Iowa in what he's calling his “Faith, Family and Freedom” tour -- always at the ready to take on anyone who is against faith, family or freedom -- he has let the world in on the personal sadness that drives his campaign.
The last of his seven children, his 3-year-old daughter, Isabella, was born with a rare debilitating genetic disorder. A major motivation, he says, is the necessity he feels to overturn the Obama health-care law, which he feels will endanger proper medical treatment for her. Many, however, believe he has it backward, because that law actually prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.
It's hard not to be moved by his struggle, but his entire story includes some immovably harsh positions. He is adamantly anti-abortion and rigidly opposed to gay marriage. He defended the traditional family once again in late November with a warning that we protect it with the institution of marriage, our country will fail.” He's also on board with those who want to make sure that before Muslims board an airplane, TSA screens them much more vigorously. Profiling? “Obviously,” he responds, without hesitation.
There's nothing new here. Santorum has always cast himself this way, but it hasn't seemed to work for him. He's so far down that the other candidates patronize him. Bachmann, for instance, tells a reporter he could be attorney general or even vice president in her administration. “I have a very high regard for Rick Santorum,” she gushes, “and I'm not just saying that. I mean that.” Bachmann is down in the basement, too, so big deal.
Actually, he might turn to Andy Warhol for inspiration. After all, both lived in Pittsburgh. Of course, given Warhol's sexual preferences, they probably didn't hang out at the same bars. But Santorum might be encouraged by how Warhol revised the famous “15 minutes” quote: “I'm bored with that line. I never use it anymore. My new line is 'In 15 minutes, everybody will be famous.'” Presumably, that will include Rick Santorum.
The Iowa caucuses are less than a month away, plenty of time for an ABM to rise and fall. So the question is “Why not Rick?” for those who aren't asking “Why any of them?”
© 2011 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.