It Takes a Book

According to Bethany Mandel of Commentary, the Santorum Surge is sending journalists scurrying to the libraries or to Amazon to read the book the Pennsylvanian published in 2005 explaining his political philosophy:

For the first time since his failed 2006 reelection campaign for Senate, journalists are pouring over Santorum’s book It Takes A Family and picking out what, in their minds, are the most offensive parts. Santorum is currently under fire for comments in the book (which he attributes to his wife) that discuss how “radical feminists” have devalued women who choose motherhood over going into the work force. With journalists at every major news organization waiting on their own copies to arrive since Santorum’s unlikely sweep last week, there will certainly be more potentially explosive tidbits from the book. The year after the book’s release, we saw the most conservative excerpts of the book quoted in and out of context in his opponent’s attack ads, and many analysts have cited these as a contributing factor in Santorum’s 18-point loss, a historic margin for an incumbent Republican Pennsylvania U.S. senator.

I’d suggest those waiting for their copies of Santorum’s book read or re-read the review Bill Galston wrote for the Washington Monthly in 2005. As anyone familiar with Galston’s work would expect, he didn’t do a drive-by assessment of Santorum’s sound bites or just quote his most controversial statements, but came seriously to grips with the then-Senator’s efforts to reconcile illiberal pre-Vatican II Catholic social thinking with American individualism. You should read the whole thing, particularly given Santorum’s current status as the polling front-runner in the GOP presidential race. But as an appetizer, here is Galston’s conclusion:

In the end, Santorum does not have the courage of his convictions. The logic of his argument should lead him to conclude that parents are not free to raise and educate their children in ways that undermine universal moral truths and socially essential virtues. He shrinks from this conclusion, I suspect, because he understands that his fellow citizens would never accept it. Yet, his premises point straight toward the ultimate concentration of state power we call theocracy. Nothing could be farther from the intention of the Framers in whose name Santorum claims to speak.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.