America is one hell of a country, according to Rick Santorum

“The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.” ~from Paradise Lost “This is not a political war at all,” Rick Santorum told Catholic…

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Santorum calls Foster Friess’s Bayer aspirin comment a “bad joke”

Back in Foster's day they walked five miles uphill both ways just to get Bayer aspirin to put between their ladyfolk's knees.

Rosie Gray, writing at BuzzFeed, chatted up Rick Santorum about the unfortunate comments his SuperPAC backer, Foster Friess, made about contraception earlier:

Rick Santorum wasn’t very amused by his friend and super PAC backer Foster Friess’ comment today about using aspirin as birth control.

Today on MSNBC, Friess said “Back in my days they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives,” adding, “The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

Asked about the quote outside the Oakland County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner here in Novi, Santorum wasn’t at first aware of the incident — but when it was described to him, he told BuzzFeed “I’m not responsible for every bad joke one of my supporters makes.”

Friess will be appearing on MSNBC again at 10 tonight to “set the record straight” on his aspirin remark, he tweeted earlier.

Speaking with Lawrence O’Donnell this evening, Friess played dumb, saying: “Back in my days, they didn’t have the birth control pill, so to suggest that Bayer Aspirin could be a birth control was considered pretty ridiculous and quite funny. So I think that was the gist of that story, but what’s been nice, it gives an opportunity to really look at what this contraceptive issue is all about.”

Right, the part about putting the aspiring between girls’ knees had nothing to do with it.

“I have been blessed by contraceptives,” Friess went on, inexplicably. “It’s an important thing for many women. it’s allowed them to advance their careers and make their own choices. That’s what’s special about America. People can choose. That’s what’s so annoying about this idea that President Obama forcing people to do something that is against their religious beliefs and that’s what the issue’s about, where Rick Santorum, as I said earlier, you know what his position is, but yet he’s never had any attempts, in fact, has even funded contraceptives to fight aids in Africa.”

What an odd shuffle. It’s almost as though Santorum and Friess are coordinating their message, and when Santorum expressed his distaste for Friess’s joke, Friess backed away from it. Not surprising, really, given Santorum’s meteoric rise in the polls and his need to start appealing to larger swaths of the American public. One can only play the far-right social conservative card in so many settings. After a while you need to diversify.

The problem for Santorum is that he really can’t shake his social conservative bona fides. That’s his strength and his weakness. Despite what Politfact might say, a majority of Americans are not hardcore so-cons, and most Americans are pro-birth control. 2011 was the first year that most Americans voiced a favorable opinion about gay marriage, for that matter. Santorum’s politics are a dying breed.

I hope he wins the nomination, even though I’m pretty sure he won’t.

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Santorum benefactor Foster Friess tells women to put an aspirin between their knees to use as contraception

I don’t know if Foster Friess, the billionaire supporter of Rick Santorum, is representative of all of Santorum’s supporters, but I get the feeling he is. Which is great, because if Santorum wins the nomination, that means that all Barack Obama has to do is role tape of this sort of bad crazy and he’s sure to win:

“Here we have millions of our fellow Americans unemployed. We have jihadist camps being set up in Latin America, which Rick has been warning about, and people seem to be so preoccupied with sex. I think it says something about our culture,” Friess said. “We maybe need a massive therapy session so we can concentrate on what the real issues are.”

He continued: “On this contraceptive thing, my Gosh it’s such [sic] inexpensive. You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”


Friess’s ties to Santorum go back a few years. He donated to Santorum’s miserable 2006 campaign to no avail. I think his money is going down the drain this time around, too, but it’s his money and if he’d rather spend it trying to prop up a losing candidate with seriously antiquated ideas about sexual equality, he’s welcome to it.

For that matter, the culture wars represent a losing battle for the right, regardless of the money they burn to wage them. It’s a question of dying ideas and the dying demographics who hold them. I’m all for keeping an eye to tradition, and making sure that as society evolves we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, but part of evolution is to cut off limbs. If we’re to really grow as a culture and a people, we have to get past the notion that somehow women are inferior or that they shouldn’t have control over their own destiny. And we need to get beyond the idea that sex is icky, too.

For conservatives or people like me who actually do value a certain brand of conservatism, this means keeping an eye on how to run a properly limited government – not extend ourselves so far overseas, not fall too deep into debt waging wars and locking up nonviolent offenders. It means modesty instead of hubris. There is much to be said for a conservatism of doubt and a conservatism that urges caution and skepticism toward power. That’s not on display on the right anymore, but it isn’t to say that it couldn’t be. Certainly Ron Paul strikes me as the most tempermentally conservative presidential candidate we’ve seen come out of the GOP in a long time.

Over at Forbes I talk about why women ought to be allowed into combat, by the way, contra Santorum. If Israel can do it, so can America.

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Our immigration policy is anti-family

Our immigration policy is a disgrace

The story of Felipe Montes is horrifying but not an isolated incident. Montes, who had lived in the United States for nine years before being deported, left behind his wife Marie and their three children. Their youngest had just been born a couple months earlier, and Marie had fallen ill. She survived on disability with Felipe gone. And, of course, the story only gets worse from there:

 Less than two months after their baby was born, just two weeks after Felipe was loaded onto a plane and deported to Mexico, the Allegheny County child welfare department took the children from Marie and put them in foster care.

Allegheny County has already convinced a judge to end family reunification efforts with Marie Montes. She wants the children to be placed with their father. “If they can’t be with me, I want them to be with him,” she said. “Nobody is a better father than he is.”

But next week, on February 21, the county’s Department of Social Services plans to ask a judge to cease all efforts to reunify the family and put the children into adoption proceedings with foster families. Though Felipe Montes was his children’s primary caregiver before he was deported and has not been charged with neglect, the child welfare department nonetheless believes that his children, who have now been in foster care for over a year, are better off in the care of strangers than in Mexico with their father.

For Montes, this feels tantamount to kidnapping.

“I cannot find the words to tell you how important my kids are to me. I would do anything for them,” he told, speaking on his cell phone in Mexico while on a break from his job at a farm. “In this world there are many injustices. At the very least, I would like them to send my kids to Mexico.”

The tragedy here underscores a larger tragedy with the US immigration system. US-born children who are deported with their undocumented parents are not counted by the government, not included in their tallies. When we hear that 400,000 undocumented immigrants were deported, how many of those took their US-born children with them? What are the true figures?

The tragedies stack up. When Felipe Montes was deported, his economic productivity was lost. That’s an immediate loss for the country and his community. A worker and a consumer simply disappeared from the local economy. Worse still, his wife could no longer support their children due to her illness and the loss of income. That obviously has a direct economic impact on that family (not to mention the emotional impact.)

Compounding the economic strain this created, now the the taxpayer is footing the bill for the childrens’ welfare, sucking even more money out of the economy and pumping it into the badly broken foster care system. It’s one thing if kids are taken from truly abusive homes and placed into foster care – that’s a state service born out of inevitability and mercy. But when it’s the result of an immoral immigration policy that is at once harmful to the broader economy and to the lives of very real, very innocent people it’s just unconscionable.

Colorlines has a full report on the growing number of children – numbering in the thousands – who face a similar fate. But countless more face deportation themselves. These are real people, torn by force from the only home or family they’ve ever known because of a rule that is at once economically backwards and utterly devoid of compassion.

We should be encouraging immigration – as much of it as possible – and the free movement of people across borders. The side effects of our immigration policy are so numerous: coyotes smuggling people in horrifying and often life-threatening conditions; sexual assault of women and girls who try to emigrate from their home countries; the destruction of families; economic hardship and unnecessary suffering. The list goes on and on and on.

Economic illiteracy and unbridled nationalism fuel our immigration policy. Real people suffer the consequences. Real people, despite their linguistic dissimilarities and darker skin, suffer because of abstract, old-fashioned ideas about borders. In the case of the Montes family, the youngest child – now one year old – lives with a different foster family than his brothers. Felipe has never met his youngest son, having been detained prior to the child’s birth.

As a parent, I cannot even begin to imagine this – to imagine first being detained during the birth of my child, and then to learn that they’d been taken away by the state and placed with strangers. The heartbreak is too much. The choices we ask people to make are too enormous. It should weigh heavy on our mind, those of us who face no such calamities.

It’s just inexplicable to me that people who tout their “family values” bona fides could support such a monstrous policy.

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‘George Romney deserved a better son’

George Romney opposed Barry Goldwater's extreme rhetoric

This exchange between Mitt Romney’s father – then Michigan governor George Romney – and Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee at the time, is fascinating.

Actually, it’s especially fascinating given that Ron Paul is in the race against Romney-the-younger this time around, and Paul shares many of Goldwater’s more unfortunate views on the Civil Rights Act. He also has some of the same dubious associations.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think Ron Paul comes off as a heck of a lot less crazy than someone like Santorum, and leaps and bounds more honest than Romney, but the Ron Paul newsletters raise many of the same concerns about Paul’s past choices as George Romney raises about some of Goldwater’s associations.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney displays none of his father’s courage or frankness, none of his honesty whatsoever. The younger Romney comes across as a fake, through and through.

It’s too bad, really. Reading George Romney one does realize how badly this country needs two grown-up parties and not one grown-up party and one party throwing a perpetual temper tantrum.

At a time when the Republican ticket consisted of a man who opposed the Civil Rights Act, George Romney was saying things like: “The assassination of Martin Luther King is a great national tragedy. At a time when we need aggressive nonviolent leadership to peacefully achieve equal rights, equal opportunities and equal responsibilities for all, his leadership will be grievously missed.” George Romney even marched in civil rights marches.

Of course, these days we have Newt Gingrich saying that the first black president is the “food-stamp president” and that black people are all dependent on government largess. And we have Rick Santorum saying that women really ought to be governed by the laws of Christ rather than the laws of America when it comes to their own bodies.

Wouldn’t it be nice if George Romney’s son could speak out against this sort of nonsense the way his father spoke out against similar nonsense several decades ago?

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Ron Paul winning delegates despite losses

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Mistermix captions the above video:

[I]t turns out that Ron Paul has another reason to be smiling ever time he announces that he “lost” a straw poll. His supporters are being elected as delegates in bigger numbers than the straw poll totals indicate.

It works like this: Romney, Santorum and Gingrich supporters vote in the straw poll, then leave. Paul supporters vote in the poll and stay around for the county business meeting to be elected delegates. Because those delegates are completely loyal to Paul, not to the straw poll results, Paul, not Romney, Gingrich or Santorum, might actually be winning the caucuses. So, who the hell knows how many delegates any Republican has at this point.

Paul has a very organized campaign. His people know what they’re doing. They aren’t messing around. The media may not take Paul seriously, but Paul and his people are deadly serious, whether or not Paul actually thinks he can win.

If he takes enough delegates, it’s going to be a really interesting nomination this year. I have no doubt that Santorum or Gingrich will eventually come around and support Romney if push comes to shove. But Paul’s supporters are another bunch entirely.

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Every sperm is sacred

Now that death panels are a thing of the distant past, the real threat to liberty in this country is apparently the pill, something that we’ve had for over half a century and that a majority of us thought was a fairly settled debate. Of course, since the right is adamantly opposed to providing life-saving universal access to healthcare we instead get yet another front in the culture wars.

Now the administration has changed course in the right direction on the contraception mandate:

Today, the White House did the right thing for women, public health and human rights.  Despite deep concerns, including my own, based on what transpired in the past under health reform, the White House has decided on a plan to address the birth control mandate that will enable women to get contraceptive coverage directly through their insurance plans without having to buy a rider or a second plan, and without having to negotiate with or through religious entities or administrations that are hostile to primary reproductive health care, including but not limited to contraception.

Under this plan, every insurance company will be obligated to provide contraceptive coverage. Administration officials stated that a woman’s insurance company “will be required to reach out directly and offer her contraceptive care free of charge.  The religious institutions will not have to pay for it.”

This is the right move. A smart, effective way to get past the objections on the right. And it pushes us one tiny step closer to shedding employer coverage altogether.

Even before the changed policy, public opinion was squarely behind the administration:

A solid 56 percent majority of voters support the decision to require health plans to cover prescription birth control with no additional out-of-pocket fees, while only 37 percent are opposed. It’s particularly noteworthy that pivotal independent voters support this benefit by a 55/36 margin; in fact, a majority of voters in every racial, age, and religious category that we track express support. In particular, a 53 percent majority of Catholic voters, who were oversampled as part of this poll, favor the benefit, including fully 62 percent of Catholics who identify themselves as independents.

It will be interesting to see how Republicans respond to this latest move by the president. The reason it’s an issue at all is simple: just as the economy starts to heat up, Republicans panic and pick a fight over something bound to whip up the fervor of the angriest of culture warriors: no death panels this time, no, this time it’s contraception. But actually that’s not quite right either. That’s just a code word for abortion.

Of course, we’re not talking about a mandate to cover abortions, we’re talking about a mandate to cover birth control. Some people on the fringe of this debate equate the two, but a huge majority of Americans disagree. A majority of Catholics disagree, for that matter.

I think of the Affordable Care Act as the wrong law at the right time. Or the right law at the wrong time. I can’t quite decide. Either way, it’s a vast improvement over the status quo, and yet doubles down on one thing that I can’t stand about our healthcare system: employer-provided coverage. The problem with American healthcare isn’t too much government, it’s too many middle-men, and third-party coverage is the most glaring middle man of all.

The exchanges built into the new law are another story, mirroring systems in place in Germany and Switzerland. Germany is the economic powerhouse of Europe, and Switzerland is about as close to a libertarian paradise as anywhere on earth. Our healthcare law should, over time, push us toward something quite similar. Cries of socialism are particularly vapid given the countries in question.

The difference between here and everywhere else in the world is that in America everything revolves around the culture wars.

I don’t think the Republican party actually cares one bit about birth control. They’re just using the issue to obstruct the ACA at every turn. It’s silly, childish, and manipulative. That social conservatives don’t feel entirely burned and jaded by the GOP’s cynical politicization of their issues is telling. Social conservatives made a deal with the devil when they decided to use majority-rules democracy to further their goals, and now the piper must be paid. Diminishing returns on diminishing demographics.

I fully support the right for women (and everyone, for that matter) to have full, unfettered access to healthcare and birth control and preventative medicine. These things will save us money and make the country safer and more prosperous. A woman’s right to have control over her own body is sacrosanct as far as my conception of liberty is concerned. And women who don’t want to use contraception don’t have to. Nobody is forcing them to do anything.

The fact that employer’s provide insurance to their employees is profoundly stupid, an accident of history, a huge part of why we’re in the straits we’re in when it comes to our badly mangled healthcare system. This latest move by the president actually puts a dent in this system – it’s a victory both for women’s rights and crafting a smarter, more efficient, and more fair system of healthcare.

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What Obama’s Up Against

Not-Romney is one candidate with two heads, one of which is very large.

Nate Silver thinks the GOP primary is going to be a long, protracted race, noting that it bears a “resemblance to something like the 1984 Democratic contest or the 1976 Republican race.” Mondale won in 1984, and Ford beat Reagan in 1976, but both primaries were close calls, and neither Mondale nor Ford inspired their respective parties.

Still, I’m not sure either one had as abysmal an outlook as presumed front-runner Mitt Romney does in this race:

Meanwhile, the two not-Romney candidates – Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum – are nipping at Romney’s heels making sure that neither one has any real chance at stealing the nomination.

And of course Ron Paul has his base of support which will likely neither grow nor dwindle in the coming months.

Now, it’s almost not even worth talking about anyone in the Republican field except Romney – the race is still his to lose as far as I’m concerned. All that Santorum’s win Tuesday achieved was to further split the not-Romney vote. That doesn’t hurt Romney – if anything it helps him. So long as both Gingrich and Santorum keep winning primaries, neither is likely to drop out. And Romney is flush with cash, a well-organized campaign, and the support of the Republican Establishment. He may not have the adoration of the now all-but-defunct Tea Party, but that hardly matters.

Romney’s real problem is President Obama.

Rest assured, the president will be well-armed with Super PAC money, campaign contributions, and a well organized network of volunteers both online and in the trenches. As the economy starts to warm up, Romney’s key selling points begin to wither. The private sector businessman routine won’t resonate if unemployment is falling, at least not with moderates and independents. He can’t really drum up culture war issues, either, given his Mormonism and his history as a moderate on social issues. And his extremism in the primary will hurt him with independents in the general, as will the negativity of his rivals, none of whom are likely to stop throwing punches any time soon.

If Ron Paul goes third party, this will almost certainly hurt Romney more than Obama.

So it’s no wonder Obama seems happy these days. The Republicans, for all their bizarre hatred of the president, have failed to field even one candidate that has a chance at unseating him, and the lack of enthusiasm among GOP voters stands in stark contrast to the 2010 mid-terms and the Rise of the Tea Party. It’s hard to imagine that this will change much in the general, though Romney could, theoretically, pick a Palinesque VP to help grind up some red meat and inspire the uninspired base.

Meanwhile, for pundits and bloggers and late-night talk show hosts, and all the political junkies out there, at least we should be in for an entertaining ride.


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Santorum sweeps Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado further fragmenting the not-Romney camp

Santorum's wins Tuesday may have hurt the not-Romney cause.

When you think about it, there’s really only three candidates in the race: Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and not-Romney.

Santorum pulled a string of wins in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado Tuesday evening, but it may as well have been Gingrich. The point is someone other than Romney (or Paul, for that matter) won.

Now this means two things. First – a problem for Romney. Second – a problem for not-Romney.

Here’s Romney’s problem: his favorability is capsizing and his unfavorability is shooting through the roof.

The problem for not-Romney is that not-Romney is not one, but rather two candidates neither of whom appears ready to drop out of the race. If not-Romney were just Newt Gingrich or just Rick Santorum, not-Romney could start raising serious money to push back against Romney’s very deep treasure trove.

But all that Santorum’s three wins did was make the Gingrich/Santorum division more pronounced. And that’s a win for Romney and a loss for not-Romney.

It’s also a win for Obama. For that matter, virtually every moment in the GOP primary has been a win for Obama. As the GOP fractures, the chances of Obama beating the eventual nominee grows.

It doesn’t help that the economy seems to be slowly dragging itself back to life – here and in Europe. The culture wars are great for the primary for GOP voters, but not so great for the general election.

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