As of now, I am in control here, in the White House

One Politician of Principle

One of the little moments that stand out from my years of reporting at the White House and on Capitol Hill involved Rick Santorum.

I remember it to this day, because it was so genuine and, given what eventually happened, poignant. It helps explain why the people of Iowa gave Santorum his shot.

This is not an endorsement. It’s just something from my personal experience I thought might interest you about Santorum.

It was 2005, and George W. Bush had launched his controversial drive to reform Social Security, in part by allowing future retirees to place a portion of their payroll taxes in personal accounts that could include investments in stocks.

The Democrats were pounding away at Bush and anyone who suggested they might support the idea, frightening seniors with accusations that Social Security was getting “privatized” and offering grim prognoses of innocent seniors’ savings getting wiped out in the market.

Santorum was engaged in a bitter reelection fight for his Pennsylvania Senate seat, and his support for Bush’s Social Security plan was killing him.

Pennsylvania is teaming with retirees, ranking behind only Florida and West Virginia in the percentage of people over 65, and Santorum’s stand in favor of the accounts was the gift to Democrats that kept on giving.

As the point man for my publication on Bush’s Social Security drive, I was on Capitol Hill one day to cover a press conference by a group of Republican senators touting some aspect of the plan.

Not only was Santorum supporting Bush, but he was actually trying to promote the plan by putting himself before the cameras. Normally in Washington, even when someone takes a politically difficult position, they kind of sneak on to the floor to cast their vote – preferably wearing a full body burqa – and then scurry back to their office and hide under the desk.

Santorum was duly asked by one reporter why he was committing political suicide. Actually, it was more polite, like, “Isn’t this going to hurt your reelection prospects?”

I expected some kind of nonsense claiming that everything was perfectly normal aboard the Titanic and that iceberg ahead was a welcome diversion to be marveled at and embraced.

Instead, he was kind of sheepish, looking down, smiling a bit. He said something like “I really can’t worry about the politics of this. It’s the right thing to do.”

He really did. And it was clear to everyone that he was serious, since the politics of it were so bad.

And then he went on the be defeated for reelection.

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32 Responses to One Politician of Principle

  1. He has backbone and dogged determination – no one can take that away from the man. Personally, I don’t care that he voted for pork in the past. He explained recently, it’s not pork that’s the problem, it’s all that fat that can come with it..In other words, trying to bring dollars to your state is necessary, the excess and bloat needs to be controlled.

  2. Keith, are you aware of the Santorum’s residency scam in PA?

    Are you aware that he illegally billed the state of PA for his children’s education?

    These are two reasons he should not become the GOP nominee.

  3. Thank you for telling us your personal experience Keith. That just solidifies my choice to support Santorum. He is a man of principle and determination who says what he means and means what he says. Just the kind of person we need to help us make the tough choices necessary to get this country back on track.

  4. Nice story, Keith. He does appear to be more principled than most….but he scares. Needless to say, I would vote for him over the current occupant – that’s a given! We have a national emergency on our hands – Barack Hussein Obama!!!

  5. Rick Santorum has his doubters, yet he shines under most lights. His near victory in Iowa displays the tremedous efforts he imparted to his campaign. Now that his popularity has had a meteoric rise, the vengeful trash has come out of the proverbial woodwork to bring him down. Romney’s goon squads are already searching Santorum’s past for any inconsistencies that could be advantageous to their candidate. Looking into to Romney’s trash reveals this is not the man we want as president. See an article entitled Romney: wrong politician wrong time, recently published in the Baltimore Examiner. A real eye opener.MD

  6. Thank you for sharing this story, Keith. It’s good to know he put his career on the line to do something he thought was right, for the people, unlike so many politicians who are only concerned about advancing themselves.

  7. What a minute, Keith! You mean there’s still such a thing as right and wrong?

    But I thought……

    What a terrific story. Thanks for sharing it. It reminds me of a personal story I have of a breakfast with Dick Cheney years ago in Jackson Hole before a fly fishing contest. It was the same old issue of right and wrong.

  8. This just in…the private Three Buck Brunch has just concluded and the Obama Motorcade was spotted out side of Dick’s Sporting Goods for Barry’s first look at Callaway Big Berthas for 2012.