The GOP’s Liberty Problem

 FRONT ROYAL, VA — Long ago, Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum won the admiration of conservatives for his unstinting support of human life. His memorable speeches in opposition to partial-birth abortion on the Senate floor flummoxed liberals while they firmly established his reputation as the go-to guy for pro-life issues.

While GOP insiders and neocons are famous for betraying pro-lifers when the elections are over, Santorum never has. And yet, rather than taking a wary approach to RoveWorld’s Hot Tub Connivers, Santorum earnestly supports the GOP Establishment’s expansive foreign policy and celebrates the mantra of the neocon calling card, “American Exceptionalism.”

“I am not a libertarian,” Santorum told a press conference in June 2011, “and I fight very strongly against libertarian influence in the Republican Party and the conservative movement.”

gop-Copy_small The GOP's Liberty Problem

“I’ve got some real concerns about this movement within the Republican Party and the Tea Party Movement to sort of refashion conservatism, and I will vocally and publicly oppose it.”

In the 2012 primary debate on foreign policy, Santorum joined virtually all the other candidates in advocating more American wars: Mitt Romney. Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman, and Newt Gingrich all had their favorite targets (usually Iran or Syria); but Santorum one-upped them all when he actually threatened to go to war with China.

Is that what makes America “exceptional”?

Ironically, that debate was held in Washington’s Constitution Hall; ­yet only one candidate mentioned the Constitution, or its requirement for a congressional Declaration of War for such actions.

Santorum directed most of his fire that night at that lone constitutionalist, Rep. Ron Paul, whose defense of the Constitution had garnered significant support. He specifically criticized George W. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, which everyone else on the stage had supported.

So it is no surprise that Santorum took the opportunity last week to attack Rep. Paul’s son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

According to the Daily Caller, Santorum ducked when CNN Crossfire host Van Jones asked him if he would support Senator Paul if he were the GOP presidential nominee in 2016.

“I don¹t think that will happen, because the Republican Party is not a libertarian party, it is a conservative party,” he said. “And it will nominate a conservative, and not a libertarian.”

Well, this nagging hostility has a long pedigree. When Santorum was still in Kindergarten, Pennsylvania Governor Bill Scranton was busy trying to derail the surging presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater, who had pledged to “enforce the Constitution and restore the Republic.”

In fact, in his Conscience of a Conservative (1960), Goldwater insisted that the “first duty [of] public officials is to divest themselves of the power they have been given.”

The foreign policy battle between “isolationists” and “warmongers” has been going on for a long time in America. It is only recently, however, that the GOP establishment has switched sides to embrace the pro-war mantle.

Santorum’s attack so early on indicates that the GOP establishment is worried indeed about its Tea Party (and yes, its libertarian) base. That Santorum should side with the party’s establishment, after its serial betrayals of conservatives, libertarians, the Tea Party, and especially the pro-life, pro-family forces, tells us more about Santorum’s problems than those of the senator from Kentucky.

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