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    What does Rick Santorum think about the Duggars now?

     Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City last week. He is expected to announce his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination Wednesday. (AP Photo)

    Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City last week. He is expected to announce his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination Wednesday. (AP Photo)

    In Pennsylvania today, Rick Santorum is launching another born-to-lose presidential campaign. The politician who lost his ’06 Senate re-election by 18 percentage points will again try to sell himself as a foreign policy hawk and defender of traditional moral values. You’ve heard it all before.

    But I’d sure love to hear what he thinks these days about his old pals, the Duggar family.

    Surely you know what has happened to the right wing’s favorite wholesome role models. Josh Duggar, the eldest offspring – of the TLC Network’s 19 Kids and Counting reality show fame – was outed last week as a child molester. Duggar, 27, confirmed a police report that he had molested five underage girls, four of whom were his sisters, back when he was a teenager.

    This, from the guy who ran the lobbying arm of the gay-hating Family Research Council. His big argument (at least until last week) was that gays were predatory threats to underage straight kids. He said that he opposed gay-friendly laws because “children are a gift from the Lord.” He said of the Duggar clan, “Our family is like the epitome of conservative values.”

    We’ll get back to Santorum in a moment. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.

    But when Jim Bob Duggar – the patriarch of the epitome of conservative values – learned about his son’s molestations in 2002 and 2003, he gave Josh a slap on the wrist. Josh was sent to a Christian treatment center for three months of counseling; turned out, the so-called center was the home of a family friend who wasn’t a counselor. Jim Bob, and his wife, Michelle, finally contacted the cops 16 months after the initial allegation. They arranged for Josh to speak with an Arkansas state trooper, who reportedly gave Josh a “very stern talk.” Such was the extent of Josh’s punishment.

    As for the Arkansas trooper, he’s currently in jail on an unrelated child pornography rap. Oh, and did I mention that when family patriarch Jim Bob ran for the Senate in 2002 as an exemplar of moral values, he declared that incest should be treated as a capital crime and punishable by death? I kid you not, these hypocrites make satire superfluous.

    Josh no longer runs the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council; he resigned last week, and the FRC website, which initially urged us to “pray” for the family, has purged him from the home page. And TLC has purged 19 Kids and Counting from its programming schedule.

    Anyway. We were talking about Santorum.

    Here’s what Santorum said about the Duggars just six months ago: “Karen and I have gotten to know the Duggar family, particularly Michelle and Jim Bob, personally over the last few years and have been inspired by their amazing family. They have chosen to raise their children in a faith-filled home, encouraged kindness and generosity, to work hard and to have a fun-loving spirit.”

    And no wonder. Santorum and the Duggars were tight as ticks during the ’12 primaries. He was their kind of candidate (“Rick Santorum has the family values that we hold dear in our hearts”), and they were his kind of family. They stumped for him during the Iowa caucuses, vetting him with social conservatives, and helping him squeak by Mitt Romney. They crafted a video called “19 Reasons to Vote for Rick Santorum.”

    Josh even came up with the bright idea of renaming the Duggar bus “the Santourin’ Express.” And just a few months ago, Josh was still lauding Santorum as guy who always puts God first, who’s always “standing up for the most vulnerable among us.” And just 17 days ago, Josh tweeted birthday greetings to Santorum, along with a best bros photo.

    So. The Duggar clan’s precipitous downfall is now a week old. What has Santorum said about it?

    Remember, this is a politician whose impulse is to run his mouth on just about everything – Iran, gay sex, abortion, taxes, the minimum wage, sweater vests, you name it. What’s Santorum’s take on the chasm that separates the family’s wholesome Christian-values image from its tawdry reality? Does he think that the gay-molesters argument has been undercut, in any way, by the Duggar revelations?

    We don’t know, because Santorum hasn’t said a word.

    I’m not even sure this is good politics. Religious conservatives are dominant in two early primaries, Iowa and South Carolina, and many reportedly feel that Josh Duggar should be forgiven, in the spirit of Christian charity. Mike Huckabee, who will vie with Santorum for those voters, is out there staking that turf by defending the family (“Good people make mistakes…Janet and I want to show up and stand with our friends. Let others run from them. We will run to them with our support”).

    But not Santorum. I guess rank hypocrisy can silence even the most talkative tongue.

    ——-

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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