I know, I know: You're sick of reading about Rick Santorum here. And I'm sick of writing about him. So I'm making this campaign promise: If Santorum loses on Nov. 7, I'll never write about him again. And in this column, I'm just going to quote him in his own words.
A lot has been said about Santorum's book It Takes a Family -- its slanders on feminists and liberals of all stripes. But as I re-read it last weekend, one overlooked passage leapt out at me, for what it says not about liberals but about the GOP.
In the passage, Rick argues that while lefties are sensitive to the natural environment, they pay little heed to moral ecology. "Liberals [are] thoughtlessly clear-cutting forests of rich, ancient moral norms, paving them over with contempt," writes Santorum, who apparently learned to torture metaphors in a CIA secret prison. Liberals, he adds, have replaced them with "the moral equivalent of strip malls." (Note to Cranberry Republicans: Apparently, Rick hates your lifestyle. Now you know how the rest of us feel.)
Rick points out, however, that the environment can be healed: "A generation ago, portions of our Great Lakes were dead and rivers caught fire in Ohio, such was the extent of environmental degradation. Thankfully, we did something about it, and today life has returned to lakes, rivers, and streams across America."
Um. "We," Rick? Considering your dismal environmental record, I'm not really sure you get to use the first-person pronoun. Write a 400-page book denigrating "liberals" if you must; just don't try to take credit for their accomplishments at the same time.
Of course, Republicans don't have much other choice. Since Santorum and his peers took control of Congress in 1994, who else's accomplishments can they boast about?
I understand that Santorum is a Lord of the Rings fan, so I'll put this in terms he'll appreciate: Republicans, like the forces of Mordor, can only destroy what others create. They're good at criticizing government, but when it comes to governing, they're helpless. They can't do anything except, well, thoughtlessly clear-cut long-standing government policies and pave them over with contempt. To coin a phrase.
So you have Republicans who sneer at "nation building" in Yugoslavia ... and then give us Iraq. You have Republicans promising to "save" Social Security -- a program that has rescued generations of senior citizens from poverty -- by privatizing it out of existence.
When Republicans do build something, they're usually copying Democrats. These days, Republicans are so desperate that they're boasting of how much pork Santorum & Co. bring home to Pennsylvania. Aren't these guys supposed to be the party of limited government?
Democrats have their failings of course, ethical and otherwise. But is Congress any less corrupt now, after a decade of Republican rule, than it was a decade ago?
Today we have McCandless Republican Melissa Hart seated on the House Ethics Committee -- at a time when the phrase "House Ethics" has never been more of an oxymoron. Supposedly, Hart is busily questioning House members about the Mark Foley page scandal. But if there was a cover-up, Hart has plenty of reasons not to reveal the full extent of it. Five thousand reasons, actually: According to federal election reports compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine.com, in September alone Hart's campaign accepted $5,000 from a political action committee controlled by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a pivotal figure in the Foley investigation.
Even Harrisburg, where we at least have a Democratic governor, looks good by comparison. Sure, there was that pay-raise fiasco. But at least that got fixed. And in recent months, state officials have also voted to increase the minimum wage for state workers. And last year, voters in rural and urban areas alike passed "Growing Greener II," a statewide referendum to increase spending on environmental initiatives.
Sure, Harrisburg's partisan bickering is ugly. But maybe the only thing worse is the absence of it -- at least when Republicans are in charge.
They may not be for long. Earlier this year, state Republicans couldn't even agree on a meaningless, and mean-spirited, ban on gay marriage. And without meaningless, mean-spirited legislation, there isn't much of a Republican platform left -- in Harrisburg or in Washington D.C.
That's why Pennsylvanians are going to punish Republicans this November. And why I hope I'll be keeping my election-year promise. After all, it's about time somebody kept one.