Hats off to Santorum, he understands politics
Philadelphia Daily News (04/11/2005)
By John Baer
MY HAT'S OFF to Rick Santorum.
I mean it. Say what you want, this is one pol who works it.
Whether it's flying off to Rome to the pope's funeral, or putting out news he personally met with the pope five - count 'em, five times
- he knows how to touch his bases.
More Catholic, one could say, than, well, you know.
And take his trip to Florida and his national TV appearance after visiting the hospice where Terry Schiavo was dying.
A masterpiece of timing, an exceptional use of his time and a good example of how politics is played by the big boys.
Make some news, do a little pandering, raise some money and, oh, yeah, comfort a suffering family.
Wait, raise some money? Yep, that's what the trip was about.
Maybe you thought it was about Santorum's deep commitment to the culture of life.
After all, the passionately conservative Republican was pretty visible in the controversial case, getting lots of ink and airtime. He argued that Schiavo was denied due process and her right to life. He called state and federal court refusals to intervene "unconscionable."
And at the critical moment, right near the end, the day before she died, there he was (uninvited) with her family.
Reportedly the only member of Congress to go, he said was in Florida on "a lot of other business."
Well, there was a town meeting in Tampa, near the hospice, with two other Republican senators selling President Bush's Social Security reform. See, Santorum's a leader in the U.S. Senate, chairman of the Republican Conference.
But that meeting was canceled at least two days earlier.
On Wednesday March 30 Santorum said on national TV, "We canceled it on Monday."
Why? According to the Tampa Tribune, "out of respect" for Schiavo's family.
A spokesperson for the event said, "We just didn't think it was appropriate to go into the region and do a big policy event at this time."
Apparently, though, it was appropriate for a politician seeking re-election to go into the region and do political events at this time. Even if he didn't talk about them.
Santorum told MSNBC-TV, according to the March 30 "Hardball" transcript, he was in Florida because, "I had other plans to - and other meetings." (Schiavo died March 31.) What he didn't say was the plans and "meetings" were fund-raisers for his '06 re-election effort
There was a luncheon in Orlando and a dinner in Miami on March 29 with Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, a luncheon in Tampa March 30 hosted by Outback Steakhouse, which is headquartered there, and a dinner that night in Palm Beach hosted by execs from Revlon.
The trip was made on a Wal-Mart jet paid for by Santorum's campaign fund.
Total take, according to Santorum finance director Rob Bickhart, was about $250,000 (en route to an April 15 FEC filing expected to show the senator with close to $3 million already).
So my hat's off.
Down and back on a corporate jet, grab a quarter-mill, get some national attention. This, my friends, is poetry in motion.
What's that you say? Seems a tad crass to cash in on a heartbroken family and get your mug on TV because you happen to be in the neighborhood lining your pockets?
If you cancel one event "out of respect," why not others?
Doesn't the culture of life outweigh the culture of cash?
Well, your problem is you just don't understand politics (and, hey, Jesse Jackson went down there!) or the way it's played by the big boys.