Santorum announces a war on obscenity. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong one

Right-wing GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum upped the ante Sunday on his pledge to launch a war on obscenity if elected to the nation’s top political job.

No, not a war against the obscenity that is American politics and government but an all-out assault on pornography — the kind where people have sex in books, on the Internet and on screen.

Interviewed on ABC’s this week, Santorum said:

We would, of course, as president enforce those laws, because obviously Congress in its wisdom understood that hardcore pornography is very damaging, particularly to young people, and that exposure on the Internet can be very damaging. There are laws against purveying hard-core pornography. And that–we have attorney generals in the country, at least under the Bush administration, who did prosecute that. And this administration isn’t. And I simply said I would follow the law, which I know in the case of Barack Obama can be somewhat of a hefty challenge for him, but we’re going to do it as president.

His self-righteous indignation left GOP veterans shaking their heads:

“Jesus, won’t this guy ever learn,” a top GOP consultant told Capitol Hill Blue Sunday.  “The American people want jobs, they want money to pay their mortgages, they want a future.  They don’t care about dirty books or movies with people screwing on screen.  Hell, if it weren’t for the Baptists ordering dirty videos the porn industry would go bankrupt.”

Here at Capitol Hill Blue, we agree.  We’d rather watch a XXX classic like “Debbie Does Dallas” than another GOP debate any time.  After all, what is more obscene than a bunch of old, smug white men claiming to be leaders? What is more obscene than a political primary season where — at one time or another — the “frontrunners” have included a serial adulterer (Newt Gingrich) and a sexual predator (Herman Cain)?  The GOP is — after all — the party that includes Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, the “hunk” who showed off his pubes in Cosmo.

Santorum also forgets about former Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan of Illinois, whose ex-wife — actress Jeri Ryan — testified in a court deposition that her then husband took her to sex clubs and wanted her to perform sexual acts in public.

Or why doesn’t he talk about Rita Jenrette, the director of research for the Republican Party of Texas, who defected to the other side, married Democrat John Jenrette of South Carolina and then dumped him after he went to prison in the ABSCAM scandal in 1980.

Rita Jenrette on the cover of Playboy

Ms. Jenrette then appeared in nude in Playboy in a photo layout about older women and younger men and told the magazine that she and husband John liked to have sex in public, including the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

Santorum, in typical political fashion, didn’t get specific about what he considered pornographic or just who or what his administration would target.  He also failed to mention that Bush’s war on pornography was — by and large — a bust.  The effort, launched by then Attorney General John Ashcroft — a Bible-thumping Missouri right-winger who lost his Senate seat to a dead man — concentrated on mom and pop distributors of erotic material and the Justice Department lost nearly all their cases — either in original jury verdicts or on appeal.

Ashcroft, a moralizing political hypocrite who also authored the rights-robbing USA Patriot Act, declared sex as “dirty,” ordered naked statues in the Justice Department covered with drapes and launched a full-frontal assault on an elderly couple who owned a book store that sold what he considered to be “dirty books.”  As in most cases, he lost.  Among the “dirty books” cited by Ashcroft in the case:  Playboy magazine, the same magazine where Rita Jenrette, the former GOP research director for Texas, appeared cavorting with her younger lover and the same magazine where a former staff member of former right-wing GOP staff member Mike DeWine — and the author of a sexually-explicit blog that detailed her affairs with married Washington politicians and political appointees — displayed her full-frontal nudity just a few year ago.

Ashcroft and Bush left the producers of porn alone.  Many of them are die-hard Republicans who contribute heavily to the party.

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  1. Lillibet Hunt

    We are in the heated days before the Illinois Republican primary and the voter pushing calls from Santorum’s supporters have approached levels of mendacity that could be defined as a particular type of obscenity. Of the many calls I’ve received, the tally is running 80% Santorum in frankly incomprehensible calls from allegedly pure thought groups that deny affiliation in one sentence, then tout the connection in the next. These folks need some kind of better cover. Perhaps Ashcroft’s drapes could be put to better use.

    Clearly, these are campaign workers without functioning brain cells, and no inkling of how to actually steer a voter using robo-calls. I’ve never laughed so much or so well at the naked accusations without base or common sense. The full frontal falsehoods regarding who has what percentage of the electorate in their camp is also entertaining. Sure, this is Politics Ain’t Beanbag Land.

    Sadly, Lincoln must be spinning in his grave at a speed approaching that of light.

    • Jim B.

      Hi Lillibet!

      Maybe pro-Santorum (anti-Romney) ads are running in the rural areas? I am in the Chicago land area, and I’m inundated by Romney robo-calls and on TV by Romney ads attacking Santorum, but I have not heard nor seen even one pro-Santorum ad.


    • Hal Brown

      Hi Lillibet, my old friend, how’s this for an analogy?

      Santorum thinks he’s the Itzhak Perlman of presidential candidates. I see him as a fiddler with Sydenham’s chorea St. Vitus dancing as he screeches out discordant ear splitting noise from a thrift store violin. He and his tone deaf minions think it’s the Lord’s music. Hallelujah!

      I am glad I live in Massachusetts where even in our Republican town nobody made a fuss when the library unveiled their commissional abstract sculpture, “The Tree of Knowledge” which the librarians all agreed looked like a depiction of the midsection of a woman.

      I put a photo on my Facebook page.

      This is from Wikipedia.

      According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the adjusted per-capita victimization rate of rape has declined from about 2.4 per 1000 people (age 12 and above) in 1980 (that is, 2.4 persons from each 1000 people 12 and older were raped during that year) to about 0.4 per 1000 people, a decline of about 85%. There are several possible explanations for this, including stricter laws, education on security for women, and a correlation with the rise in Internet pornography.

      • Lillibet Hunt

        Hiya, back at you.

        The real trick is to take the thrift store violin and make it sound like a real Del Jesu or Strad, even while Dancing with St. Vitus, or flying a bumble bee. Playing slow is even more difficult on the thrift store version, because all the vibrato in the world won’t make up for a lack of undertones from a poorly carved, overvarnished box.

        That said, the primary is over here. There were some calls that were over the top, and I am also in Chicago. There were candidates over the top. We had results announced early, found here:

        In short, it was Illinois at its electoral best, and that came with ballots that wouldn’t fit into the readers, so someone had to give the judges trimming implements to cut the paper down to size.

        I don’t know what the whole kerfuffle is about morality police suddenly taking center stage, except we now have pretty easy ways of evaluating all the data they have collected for years, and using it for some purpose. It’s like weapons systems. Once you have them, you have to use them for something.

        Of course, one then gets into the Supreme Court’s perennial problem of not having any ability to issue a bright line test of definition of obscenity, but having a liberal budget for popcorn and knowledge only sufficient to identify it when they see it.

        Rape is of course, not all that related to obscenity. It is a power thing, much like censorship. If the morality police really do come out in force, we know that Debbie won’t dare Dallas, or DC. Unless of course, her lobbyists are well paid and her address book never sees the light of day as just another exhibit of an obscene document — to be reviewed (pardon the expression), in camera.

  2. Almandine

    The nip-and-tuck of functional morality – that is, personal behavior – has nothing to do with which politician either does or does not concur, reject, or ignore that behavior.

    Appeal to their authority, or lack thereof, especially by suggesting discriminative “worthiness” of their opinions, misses the point as far as their own narcissistic opinions do, as a basis for any discussion regarding how we should live privately, as individuals.

    The point of the article may be to highlight moral hubris, and Santorum may certainly be vulnerable to such attacks, but to do so only puts oneself into the same category.

  3. Jon

    “I do have a cause, though. It is Obscenity.”

    “I’m for it.”

    Dr. Tom Lehrer, from about nineteen sixty-three, in aside remarks on a record album (probably “That Was The Year That Was”, possibly, “An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer”. Sorry for the lack of detail – references are hiding from me today.

    However, it’s somewhat grimly amusing that, fifty years later, people are still arguing about it.


  4. glennk1949

    Ricky is pathetic. What other group of voters can he manage to offend before losing? Now he wants to piss off every white, brown, yellow and black male he can on his way to obscurity. Yea, ban porn , go ahead Rick why not ban breathing while your at it asshole!

  5. Keith

    Mr. Santorum said:

    We would, of course, as president enforce those laws, because obviously Congress in its wisdom understood that hardcore pornography is very damaging, particularly to young people, and that exposure on the Internet can be very damaging.

    I should think that Mr. Santorum might first look for ways to “protect” young boys from the work of some of the paedophile priests within his own Catholic Church before he goes trying to “protect” the rest of us from pornography.

    Thankfully, it’s becoming ever harder for most Americans (even many who still call themselves Roman Catholic) to blindly accept lectures on what is “abnormal” sexual behavior from an institution that still firmly considers celibacy for its priests to be “normal”.

  6. Sandy Price

    Did anyone here pick up the rantings of the Rev. Terry who announced that all Americans who are not Evangelical Christians should get out of America quickly? I wish I had a dollar for every time I was told to leave America. I even caught this on Reader Rant. There were 4 other forums who wrote the same threats over and over. One forum threatened me personally and caused me to do a search on who this monster was.

    I have often wondered where these Evangelicals ever believed that America was their personal property. To believe that there are only two kinds of Americans, those who believe in Jesus and those who believe in Satan, will destroy America. These folks remove all individual freedoms from the American people. This is my agenda and continue to be criticized for it.

    • Jon

      New Zealand is lovely this time of year. :)

      (PS – That Tom Lehrer quote was from the introduction to the song ‘Smut’)


  7. Keith

    I have often wondered where these Evangelicals ever believed that America was their personal property. To believe that there are only two kinds of Americans, those who believe in Jesus and those who believe in Satan, will destroy America. These folks remove all individual freedoms from the American people. This is my agenda and continue to be criticized for it.

    Sandy, I’m with you.

    If sin exists then Christian fundamentalism is as sinful as sloth, greed or gluttony. It’s a lifestyle that promotes surrender to the temptation to simplify the complexities of life by letting someone else do your thinking for you.

    Indeed, the typical fundamentalist will extol this state of mind as surrender to God. I think they say “let go and let God” or some such thing. Truth be told, it’s simply intellectual laziness.

    As society seems to lose its moral compass and crime and decadence seem unrelenting, the fundamentalist maintains that they have a sure thing in their relationship with Jesus. Everything may be out of control in this world, but they speak assuredly of their salvation and their escape from reality because they’ve “accepted Jesus and are guaranteed eternity with God.”

    Sadly, you’d never know they had found such peace because as a whole they are among the most strident crusaders in judging and condemning other people.

    Their fervor is easily mistaken for anger. As any undergraduate psych major will tell you, such people work too hard at convincing you that they’re right because they’re really still trying to convince themselves.

    Indeed, from my own personal experiences with them, they also seem to be lacking in any semblance of serenity that one would expect from someone that’s on their way to Paradise in the afterlife.

    The fundamentalist Christian will tell you that they are absolutely certain about the meaning of Scripture and it’s the word of God that inspires their lives.

    However, few understand the historical context of their Bible and the multitude of problems with Paul’s contradictory writings. In many cases they decide what Paul should have said then interpret his words to fit their preconceived ideas.

    Most are also suspicious of Catholicism because of its pageantry and “non-biblical traditions.” This is laugh-out-loud silliness being that it was Catholic monks who hand-wrote the bible and passed it along with their own prejudices and political opinions LONG before the invention of the printing press.

    Fundamentalist Christianity was initiated as a reaction to 19th century Protestant liberalism that was seen as a threat to the “basic truths of faith.” The fundamentalists of that time felt a need to firm things up by establishing non-negotiable fundamentals of the Christian faith based on a literal reading of the Bible.

    In today’s arena, we have the same notion from fundamentalists and we have scores of charlatans standing by to take their money to promote the cause. One need look no further than most televangelists and their get-rich-quick shenanigans.

    The Jerry Falwells, Pat Robertsons and Ted Haggards of the world have lived like royalty in multi-million dollar mansions spawned by their preaching. And flying under the radar are a slew of other ministers that have become multi-millionaires by collecting from the faithful and furthering the idea that the Bible is to be read as word-for-word literal.

    All of them promote the letter of the law over the spirit of the law. And every single Christian I have ever heard or met who claims that the Bible is literal truth is hypocritically selective about which Bible passages are literal and which are not.

    A rule of thumb seems to be “If the Bible quote condemns your sins, then it’s a literal rule, if it condemns something I’m doing, then there’s some wiggle room.”

    For example, ask a divorced bible Christian about Jesus’ literal condemnation of divorce. Or ask a wealthy bible Christian about the bible’s condemnation of capitalism and the accrual of interest on a loan. Indeed, the Bible’s blessing of making your fellow man your property through slavery seems to have suffered under closer scrutiny too.

    Clearly, the belief in a literal interpretation of the Bible is a violation of the history and tradition of scripture itself. Scripture was NEVER written to stand on its own apart from the community of sages and storytellers.

    Indeed, only the wealthy and prominent even OWNED a Bible before the invention of the printing press in 1455 and it STILL took centuries before the Bible of today became a best seller.

    Of course the fundamentalists will tell you that it was God who invented the printing press so as to get the Bible out to every Las Vegas hotel room.

    The truth is that a community of believers existed long before the printed texts existed. And those who want to claim a strict “religion of the Bible” should do their homework and face the fact that the Bible itself contains NO list of its inspired books.

    Fundamentalists of all the world’s religions also hold to the frightening notion that there is some exaggerated contrast between this world and the Kingdom of God. They live a very unbalanced, less than wholesome existence of warped spirituality when they talk of “fleeing this world.” “I’m in this world but I’m not of this world” is one of their more arrogant proclamations. This is troubling on many levels.

    Obviously it leads to a lack of concern about important environmental issues. And with crackpots like George W Bush, Mike Huckabee (and now Rick Santorum) as the most powerful proponents of this nonsense, it really makes one wonder if they are all intentionally trying to bring about the Rapture — a notion about the end of the world that springs from the Fundamentalists’ interpretation of events in the Book of Revelation.

    As Sandy has noted, most troubling is the notion that God’s will has something to do with the “American Way.” Some of the founding fathers were Christian but if fundamentalist born-again Christians took the time to actually READ some of the writings of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, they would be sorely disappointed to find that these men had little patience for strict Biblical adherence. They were firm in their stance that “accepting Jesus” was not the means for salvation.

    Franklin consistently attacked religious dogma, arguing that morality was more dependent upon compassionate actions rather than on strict obedience to literal religious orthodoxy. In other words, he believed that acting Christ-like is more important than accepting Christ.

    Jefferson was a Deist. He believed in one God, in divine providence, in the divine moral law, and in rewards and punishments after death. He believed that Jesus was a great moral teacher, but Jefferson ALSO scorned the ideas of Bible-believing fundamentalist Christians. He firmly REJECTED the doctrines that Jesus was the promised Messiah and the incarnate Son of God.

    George Washington was an early supporter of religious pluralism. When hiring workmen for Mount Vernon, he wrote to his agent, “If they be good workmen, they may be from Asia, Africa, or Europe; they may be Mohammedans, Jews, or Christians of any sect, or they may be Atheists.” Historians still argue about his commitment to Deism over Christianity but all agree he was certainly not a fundamentalist.

    When I’m confronted with Christian fanaticism from the types who want prayer in public and the Ten Commandments plastered all over our courthouses, I direct them to the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes as purportedly delivered by Jesus Christ.

    As a Libertarian progressive, I would certainly be amenable to posting the Beatitudes in public if the fundamentalist Christians would ALSO agree to support the sentiment of Jesus’ words such as:

    “Woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation.”
    “Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger.”
    “Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”
    “Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”

    Jesus also said, “Blessed are the peacemakers;” “Love your enemies;” “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God;” “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers — that you do unto me.”

    Clearly, ALL these words are at odds with the lifestyle and preaching of today’s televangelists, Christian fundamentalists and ultra-right wing conservative politicians.