By REG HENRY
Say what you like about U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, but he is never dull. Currently behind in the polls, the senator has an extraordinary new ad on TV to advance his re-election prospects. The ad is so surprising that Pennsylvania residents are surely searching the skies for the pigs that will soon fly over.
Although connoisseurs of Santorum ads will be disappointed, the senator’s six children do not make another appearance in this latest ad. Darn! Those children were so cute! They didn’t even know they were being shamelessly exploited!
But Santorum has been there and done that, no doubt causing people with bunny rabbits on their stationery to write him letters of support in the face of ridicule by certain mean newspaper columnists who hate kids and cuteness both.
The now famous kiddie ad had made the point very well: The senator is admirably fecund and therefore very moral.
Of course, his Democratic opponent, state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr., also has children, but he has only four of them and so cannot be relied upon. Clearly, he has ignored the biblical injunction to go forth and multiply. Heck, four kids is not multiplication _ it’s addition. I am sure we all agree that we don’t need his sort in Washington.
Now it’s time to move on. Once Santorum had established in our minds that father knows best and fertility is morality, he needed to put a sterner face on his patriarchal image. Senator Dad is no pushover; he is fighting for us and he has taken off the gloves.
That is the theme of his new ad. But to make this feisty point was more challenging because the senator appears to have had his lovable sneer surgically removed for the campaign, just when he needed it to look tough.
It’s a shame that a lion of the Senate has to change his face and character just to please a rabid pack of jackals, but that’s politics for you.
Fortunately, the Santorum campaign in his new ad is able to quote an unimpeachable source as proof of his greatness. Hold on to your hats. In this new shocking TV ad, Santorum’s highly respected source is _ the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Holy cow! Would this be the same newspaper that the senator last year on CNN told an interviewer “is probably one of the most hostile papers in the country toward me.”
Yes, the very same. In an editorial last year, the Post-Gazette praised Santorum for his part in helping to save an Air Force Reserve wing at Pittsburgh International Airport, which had been facing the ax. We called him a “champion,” which the ad quotes.
Actually, the full quote was this: “To be sure, we have had our differences with Sen. Santorum but he was a real champion in this effort.” Yes, differences, to be sure.
Somehow that bit was left out. Santorum also forgot the other people the newspaper praised for their help in saving the wing, including Gov. Ed Rendell and Sen. Arlen Specter. Must have been an oversight.
Why did the Post-Gazette praise Santorum in the first place? Because what we said was true and we are in the business of telling the truth. As with most newspapers, we call ’em like we see ’em. It drives people crazy, particularly conservatives.
But then why did Santorum quote us, of all despised people, causing shocked TV viewers to spit up their potato chips in disbelief? Because, as a wise saying has it, “Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.” The problem with that is the senator isn’t vice-ridden _ he is against naughty amusements _ and we aren’t that full of virtue.
Personally, I put it down to the senator’s great sense of humor. What a wag he is! I love it when he reassures seniors that he has sought to guarantee their Social Security payments when clearly he thinks the whole system is socialism. It’s hilarious. Apparently he thinks they all have bunny rabbits on their stationery.
I detect something else. As much as conservatives like Santorum rail against the media, especially certain newspapers, they have this grudging respect, too. They want to be loved by us, they want us to validate their worth as no one else can, not bloggers, not their own crazed partisans. As much as they look forward to our demise, they’ll miss us if we go.
So let me just say this to Sen. Santorum: We love you, man. And why wouldn’t we? You give us so much great material.
(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)post-gazette.com)