Sunday, September 11, 2005

Philadelphia Inquirer | 09/11/2005 | Tom Ferrick Jr. | Santorum barks but has no bite

Philadelphia Inquirer | 09/11/2005 | Tom Ferrick Jr. | Santorum barks but has no bite: "Posted on Sun, Sep. 11, 2005

Tom Ferrick Jr. | Santorum barks but has no bite
By Tom Ferrick Jr.
Inquirer Columnist
I hope Sen. Rick Santorum's staff isn't still trolling LexisNexis for their boss, looking for quotes where he questioned the Bush administration's policy in Iraq.

If they are, I wish them bon voyage, because they ain't coming back.

LexisNexis is a splendiferous online database that contains an ocean of information: the contents of hundreds of newspapers, magazines, specialty journals, legal briefs, transcripts of TV news shows, congressional hearings, etc.

Santorum sent his staff scurrying there last month after he was criticized by Bob Casey Jr., his Democratic opponent in next year's Senate race in Pennsylvania.

Casey (gently) chided the Republican incumbent for not using his leadership position in the Senate to ask "tough questions" of the Bush administration about the conflict in Iraq.

Not true! Santorum replied.

He had been generally supportive of the Bush policy in Iraq, he said, but had expressed concerns about aspects of it "publicly and privately."

Trouble was, no one could find those statements. Not the Casey campaign. Not the reporters who went looking. Not even Santorum's staff after days of LexisNexis diving.

Santorum's response to this?

"I do a lot of interviews on TV, on radio, with print reporters who don't happen to write everything I say. The fact that it hasn't turned up in print doesn't mean I haven't said it."

Can you hear me now?

Which opens up these possibilities:

One. Maybe he was out of cell phone range when he said it and no one could pick it up.

Two. Maybe he thought he said it, but only dreamed it. (That's happened to me. Has it happened to you?)

Three. Maybe he said it, but reporters who heard it thought: a Senate GOP leader criticizing the administration on Iraq? That's not news.

Four. Maybe he never made any critical statements but didn't want to admit it because he would look like an administration lapdog. Weef! Weef!

You pick one.

Finally, LexisNexis came through. Santorum's staff found a statement he made in 2004 in response to reporters' questions about a decision to turn over security in Fallujah to poorly trained Iraqi troops after U.S. troops had taken the city.

"There are concerns - I have concerns - about tactics and decisions that were made," Santorum said. "I think you'll find a lot of Republicans who are very willing to second-guess our tactics in Fallujah, for example."

He added: "And, in my opinion, it was not the right call, but you know what? That's not my decision."

Weef! Weef!

John Brabender, Santorum's media consultant, said: "This shows he is not afraid to stand up to the administration, or to say things could be better."

Ruff 'n Tuff

I'm not making that up. Brabender really said that.

Santorum's problem here is a political one. He has supported the administration's policy in Iraq and has not criticized any significant aspect of it. In short, he has been a loyal soldier.

But he faces a tough reelection campaign. He sees the opinion polls that show the public turning against the war. He knows others have raised legitimate questions over strategy, tactics and progress of the war.

So he's doing the waffle.

If it were Arlen Specter, we'd all shrug and say: Well, what else is new?

But this is Rick Santorum, the guy who has made his rep as a no-nonsense, straight-talker.

There's no mistaking Santorum's usual style, his take-no-prisoners prose. Want a sample?

Here's a Santorum statement criticizing the President for "once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell Congress how much this operation will cost. And, he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home."

That's not Santorum on Bush and Iraq in 2005. It's Santorum on Clinton and Kosovo in 1999.

But that was then, this is now.

Weef! Weef!"

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