Opinion

SCOT LEHIGH

Rick Santorum plays an edifying role on CNN

Rick Santorum provides a valuable window into modern conservative thinking.
Lesley Becker/Globe staff illustration
Rick Santorum provides a valuable window into modern conservative thinking.

CONSERVATIVES REGULARLY COMPLAIN that their point of view isn’t adequately represented in the mainstream media, which is one reason I’m so glad that former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum has become a regular on CNN.

He brings a remarkably clarifying conservative take on things.

I first encountered Santorum back in happier days, when he was riding a wave in Iowa by virtue of having visited every one of its 99 counties as he campaigned for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. A man whose political career had apparently ended when he was trounced in his bid for a third Senate term, he seemed about to rise like a Phoenix from the electoral ashes.

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Or perhaps a parrot; as he campaigned across Iowa, Santorum repeated almost every hysterical right-wing charge about incumbent Barack Obama. At an event in Marshalltown, he spun out this golden oldie: In his first year in office, Obama had embarked on an international apology tour.

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“When he went out around the world in his first trip and apologized for America, it was because he thinks that America needed to be apologized for,” he said.

That claim was both specious and silly, one aimed at appealing to tinny “my country right or wrong” patriotism. Yes, Obama had signaled a change in direction from the more unilateral George W. Bush administration, but as any number of fact-checking organizations have noted, he actually did not go out and apologize to the world.

Afterward, I caught up to Santorum and asked why, given the fact-checking consensus that the charge was baloney, he had repeated the claim.

“Because he did,” he replied.

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Had he read Obama’s actual speeches and looked at what the fact-checkers had said?

“I have.”

Well, then, how did he justify making a clearly erroneous charge?

“Because I believe it is true that he did,” Santorum replied. Someone whose mental gears spin a little faster might have seen the next question coming, but it seemed to catch Santorum flatfooted.

But why did he believe that was true?

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“If it’s a matter of opinion, I have an opinion that he did, thanks,” he said.

And that was that.

As a CNN commentator, Santorum has continued in his Admiral Fauxagut “Damn the facts; full speed ahead” mode, routinely making arguments that would embarrass an eighth-grade debater. Thus it was that on Saturday, during a discussion of the March for Our Lives, he trafficked in the usual conservative charges that the young marchers were pawns being manipulated by “the Hollywood elites and the liberal billionaires” and so on.

He then offered up this patented piece of opinion product: “How about kids, instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes, or try to deal with situations where there is a violent shooter, that you can actually respond to that?”

(Why stop there? Perhaps they could hold bake sales to buy their school its own ambulance.)

Host Brianna Keilar was puzzled. The march actually was a way of taking action, she observed.

“Yeah, they took action to ask someone to pass a law,” Santorum scoffed. “They didn’t take action to say, ‘How do I, as an individual, deal with this problem?’ ”

(Damn this representative democracy of ours, where young people expect their congressmen to care more about their safety than their own fealty to the NRA.)

Those put off by arrant stupidity are angry at Santorum and demanding that CNN fire him. (Uh-oh: Santorum might have to go on an apology tour like the one he imagines Obama undertook in 2009!)

Not me. I’m truly grateful he’s on CNN.

After all, one normally has to tune in to night-time Fox News to get such an edifying picture of modern conservative thought in all its, um, complexities.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.