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    Rick Santorum still wants to be your president

    Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks in Cranberry, Pa. (Jae C. Hong/AP Photo, file)

    Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks in Cranberry, Pa. (Jae C. Hong/AP Photo, file)

     

    On the original Saturday Night Live, John Belushi played a character called The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave. I flashed on The Thing yesterday when I channel-surfed to Meet the Press and saw Rick Santorum.

    Fresh from being vanquished in the ’12 GOP primaries by the likes of Mitt Romney, and currently in his sixth year of elective exile after being waxed by 17 percentage points in the worst incumbent senatorial defeat in Pennsylvania history, Santorum is still jonesing to lead the nation. Yesterday he uttered the magic words: “I’m open to looking into the presidential race in 2016.”

    If only.

    Wouldn’t it be a kick if Santorum tried again? Just to have him on that debate stage? Imagine the possibilities: Chris Christie has Rand Paul in a headlock, Marco Rubio is getting booed for his immigration reform apostasy, and meanwhile, Santorum is running to the right of the pope by opining yet again on the immorality of gays. What a ratings bonanza that would be for the cable networks.

    And Santorum is serious about being up there. Word is, he’s mapping another run with his loyal inner circle, and he’s heading back to Iowa this month, presumably without his sweater vest. Plus, he used his Meet the Press appearance to play some politics – insisting that the current terrorist “chatter,” and the resulting embassy closures, have happened only because President Obama is a wimp.

    Politicizing terror? Gee, I never saw that one coming.

    Santorum said, “I think it’s really a consequence of the policies of this administration. I mean, if you look at Benghazi and what happened there. We had an attack on our embassy. We’ve seen really nothing other than coverups….And I’m sure if you’re looking at it from a terrorist perspective, you say, ‘Well, here’s an administration that’s pulling back, that’s timid, and an opportunity to go after additional embassies.’ So this is to me a direct consequence from what we saw in Benghazi. And the general program that this administration has, which is not being aggressive…”

    As he frequently demonstrated in 2011 and 2012, Santorum is a veritable full-employment program for fact-checkers. Yesterday was no exception:

    1. Benghazi wasn’t an embassy, it was a CIA annex. CIA director David Petraeus (a one-time Republican demigod) started the “coverups” by suggesting in memos that the attack on Benghazi should be characterized as spontaneous. He didn’t want Americans to think that the CIA had suffered an intelligence failure.

    2. The terrorists who live under constant threat from Obama’s killer drones – a drone program that far exceeds anything Bush and Cheney ever tried – are not likely to view this president as “timid.”

    3. American liberals, who routinely assail Obama for perpetuating a range of other Bush-Cheney counterterrorism policies, hardly view this president as “timid.” Nor do Americans whose phone records are routinely tracked by the NSA. Nor do the whistle-blowers and journalists who labor under an unprecedented threat of federal prosecution.

    4. And if, as Santorum claims, the current threats can be traced to Obama’s alleged timidity, what explains the fact that terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets were actually far greater in number during the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush?

    So says the Global Terrorism Database, which is compiled by the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. In terms of frequency, terrorist attacks on diplomatic targets peaked during those 12 years. Republicans like Santorum would never accuse Reagan of being “timid” on terrorism – yet not even Reagan’s alleged muscularity deterred terrorists from bombing the U.S. embassy in Beirut twice within a single year. The death toll, in those two attacks alone, exceeded 80.

    Santorum’s cheap rhetorical trick notwithstanding, there’s no simplistic cause and effect linking heightened terrorist resolve to presidential timidity. The current chatter could just as easily be the consequence of bad guys craving to hit back at a U.S. administration that has wounded them severely.

    But hey, with respect to that ’16 presidential race, Santorum might as well try. Somebody has to fill that yawning Republican vacuum. In a Pew poll two weeks ago, Americans were asked to name the leader of the GOP – and a combined 56 percent either said “Don’t know” or “Nobody is.” (Among those who were named, John Boehner led with 10 percent – probably on name recognition alone, unless there’s something impressive about leading a governance-averse caucus that has now cast 40 worthless votes to repeal Obamacare.)

    So go for it, Rick. Pennsylvania’s sole contribution to the White House is James Buchanan, who haplessly abetted the nation’s drift to civil war. Surely you couldn’t do worse than that. I think.

    ——-

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

    Speaking of Twitter, this weekend I achieved a personal-best 160 retweets for this entry: “What does it say about newspapers that Bosox owner John Henry can buy The Boston Globe for less money than he’s paying his second baseman?”

    Yup, the Globe went for $70 million (a 93 percent drop in the paper’s value since 1993), while Dustin Pedroia recently re-upped with the Red Sox for $100 million. That says it all.

     

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