I probably shouldn't comment on last night's debate since I've only seen Santorum's No Child Left Behind answer and the final question about misconceptions, in which Romney was apparently so afraid to bring up anything that might be construed as a weakness on his part that he awkwardly refused to answer it. But anyway.
Philip Klein writes that Santorum "stumbled badly" and explains the problem with "taking one for the team" in the Bush years:
The very problem with the Bush era was precisely that too many Republicans decided to be team players rather than push back against the president when he was violating conservative principles. It's this very "team player" mentality that the Tea Party movement, in part, was created to combat. Santorum spent the early part of his debate touting his opposition to the Wall Street bailout, but his argument tonight about taking one for the team leaves little doubt that he would have voted for the bailout had he still been in the Senate in 2008. It was much easier for him to sit back and criticize the policy when he was out of office. Santorum's comment about his unwillingness to stand up for his principles when they clashed with Bush on NCLB was especially ironic, because it came moments after he used the word "courage" when he was asked to describe himself with one word.I think that last point is a bit harsh. It's not always cowardly to "take one for the team." But while we're speculating, how would Romney have behaved as a US Senator during the Bush years? I've no doubt he would have been a team player, but I'm not sure which team he would have been playing for. (And when has courage entered into his political calculations?)
How should Santorum have answered differently? He was honest. He said he made a huge mistake on that vote. I'm glad he didn't try to employ some phony spin to defend the policy. Again, compare and contrast: Romney's huge mistake is one he not only continues to defend (lamely and deceptively) but touts as the greatest achievement of his term as governor of Massachusetts.
This might sound like excuse-making and maybe it is, but: Things are a little different now in 2012; the reign of Obama has educated some conservatives on the truly disastrous effects of big government, and his pedal-to-the-metal acceleration toward the cliff's edge has increased the urgency to turn things around. As a nation, our consciousness has been raised (though not enough) on monster spending, debt, borrowing, and government intrusiveness. When Santorum says he'd do things differently as president and argues for giving parents and localities more control over their kids' education, I'm willing to believe he means it. Whereas with Romney, I have trouble believing anything he says at all. Here he is having it both ways on Obama's Race to the Top policy.
I haven't seen Santorum's answer on Specter and I'm not sure I want to. Santorum is not perfect. But again -- compare him to Romney. Or compare Romney to Specter. See what I mean?
PS: A friend, in an email:
Santorum, asked to use one word to describe himself and he said, "courage." Terrible answer. Couldn't say "conservative?"Yeah. What was Romney's answer?
*Just saw the clip. It was "resolute." He must mean in his pursuit of the office.
Debate video: Birth control question
Romneycare, Specter, and the Pill. Oh my.
Linked at Michelle Malkin -- many thanks.
Most recent posts here. Twitter feed here. Amazon store here.