That’s What the Bully Pulpit Is For
Peter Wehner’s getting all nervous because certain Republican candidates are saying things that he disapproves of:
One of the GOP presidential candidates (Ron Paul) believes the United States is responsible for triggering the 9/11 attacks. Another (Rick Santorum) has said he would use the presidential bully pulpit to speak out against the dangers of contraception and its role in the moral decline of America (“One of the things that I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the sexual liberty idea and many in the Christian faith have said, you know contraception is OK. It’s not OK because it’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”)
Yet another (Herman Cain), has dramatically shifted his positions on negotiating with terrorists and legalizing abortion within a matter of hours, after having said he would (contra the Constitution) impose a religious test on Muslim Americans. And nowGovernor Rick Perry has indicated he’s not quite sure whether Barack Obama was born in the USA, citing Donald Trump as an authority.
Some of this is correct, but the rest is a mess. For instance, Perry’s comments seem almost totally aimed at tweaking Obama and nothing more. Even Paul’s 9/11 theories are a bit more nuanced than Wehner suggests. As for Rick Santorum, I say good for him. As Mike Potemera points out, it’s rather unlikely that any conservative president will be “calling for the hiring of millions of contraception cops as a solution to joblessness.” Santorum would be using the office of president to discuss an important cultural issue. It’s nothing more than what Michelle Obama has done to encourage efforts to fight against obesity. There’s nothing wrong with using the bully pulpit to discuss social issues and raise awareness so long as you are not actually calling for legislation that impedes personal liberty.
Santorum continues to be one of the few candidates who gets it, in that he understands the nexus between social and economic issues. While others have concentrated on narrow technocratic solutions, Santorum has really been the only one to explain how the breakdown of the family is one of the contributing causes of our economic rot. That’s not to say, by the way, that certain tax and fiscal policies are wrong. In the end, you can’t quite dictate improved sexual mores through executive fiat , so we do need purely economic solutions to the current mess we’re in. But at least Santorum is willing to engage in conversation about social issues. Okay, so perhaps he does so in a manner that comes off as just a bit whiny, but that doesn’t dilute the importance of his message.