Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Senator, You're No Jack Kennedy"-- And You Never Will Be

I've been in a cold rage ever since I heard Rick Santorum's disgusting, appalling, and unforgivable words about President John F. Kennedy. I frankly have been too angry to write about it until now; after all, I couldn't interrupt my narrative with a string of cursewords after every paragraph, and expect to be taken seriously. But the fury, revulsion, contempt, vituperation, and just sheer, overwhelming Old Testament-style wrath I felt made me stay away from my keyboard for awhile. You all know what the alternative is (pointing upwards to the blog's epigraph), so I took the wiser course of silence, for a time.

But I have to say something about Santorum's JFK gaffe, because his remarks were so immature, so disrespectful, and so stunningly ignorant, coming as they did from a former U.S. senator, that I couldn't remain silent.  I revered JFK: John Kennedy was a decorated war hero. He supported civil rights for African-Americans. Kennedy averted nuclear war with the Soviet Union in the Cuban Missile Crisis--what more do you need, Rick? "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." JFK was also the first Catholic candidate for the presidency, and without his trailblazing, Rick Santorum would be just another crank muttering on the internet.

Santorum says that Kennedy's speech on the separation of church and state "made (Santorum) want to throw up." Well Rick, it's time to learn the facts. What did Kennedy actually say?

American Rhetoric:
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President -- should he be Catholic -- how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.

[...]

But let me stress again that these are my views.

For contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for President.

I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic.

I do not speak for my church on public matters; and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President, if I should be elected, on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject, I will make my decision in accordance with these views -- in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

But if the time should ever come -- and I do not concede any conflict to be remotely possible -- when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do likewise.
Kennedy would have resigned as president if he faced an irreconcilable conflict between his beliefs and the good of the nation! You don't see that kind of courage in politicians anymore.

Or that kind of intelligence. Rick Santorum says that he doesn't believe in the separation of church and state, ignoring over two hundred years of settled law. And Santorum holds both an MBA and a JD. Rick Santorum thinks President Obama is a snob because he wants everyone's kids to go to college, because the first thing that snobs do is elevate others to their level. And not just birth control, but even contraception, is evil in Santorum's opinion.

But all of this pales - for me, at least - in light of Santorum's appalling statement about JFK's speech. Doesn't he realize that, purely on a political basis, that a lot of the people he's trying to sway still have a JFK plate on their walls? Doesn't he understand that reigniting the culture wars will only turn American women against him in record numbers? Is Santorum so inflexible in his beliefs that he thinks that the issues that matter to most Americans isn't the economy, isn't the rising price of gasoline, isn't the threat of a nuclear Iran, nor the still-looming debt crisis in Europe. No. All of these problems are side issues compared to denying women contraceptives and declaring that a zygote is a person. (Does that mean that pregnant women voters get two votes?) Oh, and keeping gays and lesbians from getting married.

So, in his infinite and divinely inspired wisdom, Rick Santorum thinks that insulting the memory of a beloved President is going to help his electoral chances.

All it does is show how ignorant and out of touch he really is.

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