January 2008

Top Stories
• Editorial: Ben Burrows
• More Jewish Dems
• United Nations First
• Naval Hanukah
• Israel Consensus Shift
• Letters to the Editor

Special Dossier
• Annapolis

Media Watchpost
• Rick Santorum

In Their Own Words
• Josh Shapiro
• Flaura Winston

Networking Central
• Dems. Abroad Israel

• Torathon XXII
• Hannukah Rotunda
• Jewish Relief Agency

Teen Voice
• Friendship Circle
• Failure To Communicate

Raising A Mensch
• Leora Turns Two

Living Judaism
• Tu b'Shvat Lessons

The Kosher Table
• Taste of Tu b'Shvat

Free Subscription

Past Issues
2008 J


    Email This     About     Subscription     Donate     Contact     Links     Archives  

Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)

Rick Santorum
From U.S. Senator to Political Pundit.

-- Bruce S. Ticker

It's vital that we put aside politics to find new and effective ways to confront Ahmadinejad and Iran's mullahs. As one presidential candidate recently stated: "The Iranian government uses the billions of dollars it earns from its oil and gas industry to build its nuclear program and to fund terrorist groups that export its militaristic and radical ideology to Iraq and throughout the Middle East."
Rudolph Giuliani? Mitt Romney? Fred Thompson? No, it was the can't-we-all-get-along candidate, Barack Obama.
-- Rick Santorum, The Elephant in the Room, The Philadelphia Inquirer

The statement was written by a middle-aged father who holds a law degree and until recently served 12 years in the United States Senate. It was a statement that got past the legion of highly-paid and supposedly skilled editors at a major metropolitan newspaper.

Rick Santorum recorded these words in his third outing as The Philadelphia Inquirer’s highly touted new columnist in a piece headlined "Put aside politics to confront Iran." It was word play on the very comment that Rodney King made 15 years ago, and Santorum applied it to another African-American (one who happens to have a reasonable chance of becoming the Democratic candidate for president).

I feared I might be over-reacting to what appeared to be an overly flippant racial remark. A friend assured me that I was on the right track. Rodney King pleaded -- in the wake of the South Central riots that left 55 people dead, 8,000 arrested and damage to property valued at $1 billion –

The 1992 Los Angeles riots were triggered by the acquittal of police officers in the beating of Rodney King. King was beaten after a car chase. This clip shows the King statement: Why can't we all get along? It also shows the arrival of National Guard. The late deployment of the Guard was criticized at the time.
People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?

The riots in the heavily black community were touched off by the acquittal of four police officers who were videotaped beating King on March 3, 1991.

It is a fair assessment to maintain that Santorum mocked the words of a man whose beating symbolized the worst of a racially polarized period. Worse, it validates the belief of many citizens that Santorum’s political agenda was to suppress poor Americans, many of whom belong to racial minorities.

Santorum should have known better than to link Obama's political platform to the 1992 race riots in South Central Los Angeles, and his editors should have caught the error. Perhaps he wrote, or revised, his commentary in haste to hook onto the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) from the day before that Iran ended its nuclear program in 2003; by coincidence, the release of that report appeared exactly on the date of Santorum’s column.

At best, Santorum made an error in judgment. He certainly did not think this through. Like an editor once told me, journalists print their mistakes and this particular newspaper - the winner of multiple Pulitzer Prizes - has a substantial and sophisticated audience.

What is troubling is that Santorum’s innuendo follows a spike in the incidence of racist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant public animus that exposes stark prejudice in the United States and elsewhere. These incidents are flustering in light of a solid sophistication that has developed in relations among the races, religions and various ethnic groups in the United States. Though bigotry still exists, we have made great strides in curtailing its grip on us.

So it is confounding that Santorum’s column appeared the very day that a presidential candidate, who will likely exploit his White House position on behalf of right-wing religious fanatics, pandered to voters who are skeptical or disdainful of the principles of Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith.

Don Imus on the radio.

At about the same time, Don Imus returned to the airwaves several months after he made racist remarks about the women’s basketball team from Rutgers University. Imus might have thought he was being funny, but there is nothing funny about a noose hanging from a public school’s tree in Louisiana, at Columbia University and at a construction site in Philadelphia. Swastikas also appeared in a Brooklyn neighborhood and once again at Columbia. Synagogues have been vandalized in the Bronx’s Pelham Parkway section and two communities on Long Island.

Mainstream Protestant denominations seek to boycott Israel. Academics and journalists in Great Britain have already resolved to do so. A prosecutor in Louisiana is accused of inequitable law enforcement and a North Carolina prosecutor exploited racial and sex crimes issues by prosecuting three young white men whom he knew to be innocent of serious crimes. An Arab-American principal was forced to quit after a questionable comment provoked accusations of running a terrorist school.

Such incidents seem to be crawling out of the woodwork in the past few years, though of course they have occurred before. It just seems that they happen each time we look around these days.

Nothing in particular has occurred to provoke racial or other ethnic bashing. Israel has been moving in the right direction, as it offered Arabs an independent state in 2000 and completely pulled out of Gaza. Islamic terrorism raises legitimate questions about Muslims here, but it does not justify persecution of Arabs and Muslims.

In fact, I find relations among different groups in general to be much better. Shortly after World War II, both my parents faced blatant anti-Semitism at work that employers could never get away with now. When Sidney Poitier was the only African-American movie star 40 years ago, there are now plenty of prominent African-American actors in starring roles.

A most telling sign that Jews are accepted in American society was the success of "Seinfeld." If nine years of "Seinfeld" could not incite a wave of anti-Semitism in America, nothing could. In retrospect, this acceptance made it no surprise that Joseph I. Lieberman was nominated vice president (if not actually elected by the popular vote in 2000).

Is there something wrong with people getting along? How does Obama qualify as a believer that people should get along? Does this mean that candidates as varied as Hillary Clinton and Fred Thompson oppose the notion of people getting along? Santorum, a Republican who was voted out of office last year, does not explain this remark.

Santorum has freedom of speech, but one might think that not even he would be so insensitive, and that responsible editors would have flagged a tasteless phrase that is far removed from the issue at hand.

Did you enjoy this article?

If so,

  • share it with your friends so they do not miss out on this article,
  • subscribe (free), so you do not miss out on the next issue,
  • donate (not quite free but greatly appreciated) to enable us to continue providing this free service.

If not,