Presidential debate/Presidential Media

Are you smarter than a Pennsylvanian?

Former PA Senator Rick Santorum…notice I said “former”

Because he’s probably the only photographer I’ve ever worked with that is as big a wiseacre as I am, one of my former colleagues at the Bucks County Courier Times, Harry Sircely, took a picture of me interviewing former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, the dude who is currently the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

I was covering a National Day of Prayer event in Bucks County at the time. Once a year, the folks who organize the annual Day of Prayer take this time to mix politics and religion in a blatant way instead of the more stealth way that it’s usually done. So naturally, Rick Santorum, a man who believes that this blatant mixing should be done more than once a year, would be a good guest speaker at one of these.

After sitting through a breakfast that for me consisted of a danish, a couple of slices of bacon (eggs from a carton and I don’t get along), a glass of cranberry juice and lots of coffee and listening to Santorum’s speech, I went to interview him. I guess that I must have asked a question that he didn’t like because the picture that Harry shot of Santorum and I is one of him looking like he wanted to punch me…something that I was kind of proud of, by the way.

Now I bring this up for two reasons: one, because it is yet another one of those Reasons I Refuse To Ever Return To A Newsroom On Purpose. I say this because there were times at the Courier Times that I felt like I was being hazed. Why? Because I felt like folks were sending me to places like the National Day of Prayer and the Christian Coalition Rally at the 2000 Republican National Convention as a test. I felt like the editors were saying “Hey, let’s send Denise to this and watch what happens!”

And secondly, I bring this up because the GOP is coming real close to putting Rick Santorum up as its nominee for President of the United States for 2012. He’s leading former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by 10 percentage points in nationwide polls and is riding some momentum due to recent caucus wins and strong showings in GOP primaries.

As someone who is insane enough to follow politics, this says to me that any moderates remaining in the Republican Party are basically being told to “pound sand”! If you’ve noticed, all of the folks vying for the GOP nomination, even Romney who was at one time moderate enough to be elected governor of Massachusetts, is going so far to the right that they soon will be unable to make left turns. While this rightward turn may make someone like Romney a little more trustworthy to the hardcore true believers who will actually decide who gets to go against President Barack Obama in November, it may also make it harder to trend toward the center and attract independents when it’s time for voters to hit the polls.

But as a Pennsylvanian, the fact that Rick Santorum is having so strong a showing in the GOP primaries makes me say “Are y’all friggin’ nuts?!”

You see, having lived in Pennsylvania since 1996, I’ve found that the state that I call home can make my head spin so hard that I feel like Linda Blair in The Exorcist…or Nicki Minaj on Grammy night…whichever frame of reference works for you.

I truly believe that when Democratic political strategist James Carville described Pennsylvania by saying “There’s Philadelphia, there’s Pittsburgh, and the rest is Alabama”, he was being kind. I lived in the state’s Alabama section, so I’ve experienced this firsthand. Throughout that time, Santorum was our Senator, and while our other senator at the time, Arlen Spector, was known for being an effective statesman, Santorum was known for only two things: opposing abortion and pissing off gays and lesbians.

Because it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is to defeat an incumbent in Pennsylvania, Santorum kept getting elected. People complained vehemently about him, but he brought Alabama (and Dauphin County, which is where Pittsburgh is located) to the polls. He was from that area and folks tend to support their homeboys in the Keystone State.

However in 2006, the Democrats here in Pennsylvania got kinda smart. They brought Bob Casey Jr. in to run against Santorum, something that basically amounted to a name change. Casey is the son of former Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey, of “Planned Parenthood v. Casey” fame. (Google it.) A lot of pro-choice women in Pennsylvania were put between a rock and a hard place because no matter who won this election, they lost. It basically amounted to changing the seat from a hardcore, anti-choice Catholic Republican to a hardcore, anti-choice Catholic Democrat. Casey won…but women lost.

But the election did what it was supposed to, which was to get Rick Santorum out of office. Unfortunately, we’ve sicced him on the rest of you.

And here’s what that has meant so far…

He started out campaign season by telling folks in Iowa in a pretty matter-of-fact way “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them someone else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money…”

Now there’s a couple of things wrong with that statement: one, statistics show that there are more white folks on welfare than anyone else and two, the statistics I just mentioned mean that it’s not just black folks that aren’t working out there, it’s everybody.

However, Santorum didn’t stop there because that would be too much like right.

After offending African Americans, he decided to piss women off.

As part of that chunk of the GOP that refuses to recognize that the whole “keep ’em barefoot and pregnant” philosophy won’t work in the Age of Facebook, Santorum has become a general in the Fight Against Contraception. Because Health Care Reform requires religious-based employers who hire folks outside the faith to cover birth control for their female employees, Santorum joined a bunch of Catholic bishops in saying that this is a abridgment of religious freedom.

When President Obama compromised and told these institutions that the insurance companies themselves would provide the contraception and they didn’t have to, it still wasn’t enough for Santorum, who believes that contraception is a product of “radical feminism” and has “ruined the family and society.”

Heck, one of his surrogates said basically that women should go back to a more old fashioned brand of birth control…a Bayer aspirin between your knees.

(Oh, yeah! That worked…)

And don’t even get me started on his views regarding pre-natal testing (he thinks it’ll lead to more abortions…really…I’m not kiddin’…) and public schools (they shouldn’t exist…)

He’s also not really big on women in the military…or women in the workforce…or women doing anything other than bearing children and having dinner on the table when the man comes home from work…

(If he’s got a job, that is..)

But while he’s got problems with people of color and with women demanding their right to be something other than pregnant, Santorum saves his special ire for members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trangendered and Questioning community.

One of the reasons why Pennsylvanians finally showed Santorum the door is because his views regarding gay and lesbian issues were such that the entire state was being made a laughing stock because of them…that and the fact that gays and lesbians live in “Alabama” too…

In the World According to Rick Santorum, allowing gays and lesbians to marry will lead to allowing people to enter the bounds of holy matrimony with everything from their cousins to their family pet, which is why he’s since proposed abolishing the entire Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals because it struck down California’s Proposition 8 as unconstitutional.

Now when you want to get rid of an entire court of appeals over one issue, you’re kinda hardcore.

(Do I have to say the whole “How seriously should I take any ritual that can be performed legally by an Elvis Impersonator and that Michael Jackson was allowed to enter into twice” thing? No. Good.)

Now all I’ve given you is the highlights.

But I don’t think that I’ve explained to you why that picture of me and former Sen. Santorum features him looking at me like he wanted to knock me out.

One thing that I’ve always enjoyed about being a reporter is the fact that I have a constitutionally protected right to ask questions….even if those questions piss you off. If you don’t wanna answer them, fine. If you don’t like that I’ve challenged you, okay. But I have that right.

I exercised it with Santorum….and I think that I remember the question I asked. It was “If abortion is made illegal and women are made to have more kids, are you going to advocate that more money be added to the government’s allocation to public schools and for other assistance for these kids?”

Most of the time, asking conservatives a question like that, especially a conservative that counts among his legislative achievements so-called welfare reform, will make them look at you like they want to punch you in the mouth. But to me, it’s a legitimate question, especially since I know that you will greet these mothers and these children with a special brand of contempt if they’re hungry, homeless, or worse yet, ill.

To be honest, I get why Rick Santorum is doing what he’s doing and saying what he’s saying. He’s found an audience. He’s got a group of people in the hard right wing of the Republican Party that will not only listen to what he’s saying, but will slurp it up like a kitten drinks milk.

But if he’s the Republican nominee, the question is gonna be “Are you smarter than a Pennsylvanian?”

For years, Pennsylvanians allowed Santorum to represent them, but after a while, we grew tired of his schtick. It wasn’t doing anything for us. It wasn’t bringing us anything but ridicule. We decided we had enough.

While his schtick nationally might make social conservatives dance in the aisles because they might be one step closer to putting women back in their “place”, might be able to get rid of that “Black Muslim Terrorist” currently occupying the White House and will be able to put all of those gays and lesbians brave enough to serve their country back into the closet, Santorum hasn’t talked much about the one thing that everyone in America needs right now: a job.

Are you smarter than a Pennsylvanian?

We may find out come November.

Deals with the Devil…and other reasons to stop watching CNN

Remember this date: Sept. 12, 2011.

Now why am I telling you to remember this date? I’m telling you to remember this date because Sept. 12, 2011 is the date that CNN, a news network created by Ted Turner to provide international news coverage to Americans on a variety of issues, lost what little of its credibility it had left.

How? Because CNN decided to partner with the Tea Party Express to produce a Republican Presidential Debate on Monday night in Tampa, Florida.

(Wow! Florida! Quel Surprise!)

But lest you think I’m pulling you leg, I’m not. CNN partnered with the Tea Party Express, the group of gun-toting, birth certificate demanding, no understanding of the Constitution having, economy hostage holding astroturfers from the world of the Koch Brothers to produce a presidential debate. That’s like my partnering with a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan to creating a newspaper and expecting fair and balanced coverage. It certainly makes about as much sense.

Because I am somewhat of a masochist, I found myself watching this debate at 3 a.m. The whole idea was to help me fall asleep somehow.

But after sitting through it, I may never sleep again. In fact, I found myself yelling at the television. I won’t tell you what my Significant Other, who woke up and found himself watching with me, was saying. Mostly because much of it was profane.

After the first 30 minutes, I got the following out of this:

1-The EPA has run amok and regulations governing the pollution of our air, water and soil should be drastically reduced. In fact, any business wanting an incentive for creating environmentally friendly “green jobs” is asking for a handout.

2-Herman Cain moves himself further and further away from being taken seriously as a presidential candidate every time he opens his mouth. When you say the American people are too uptight and that you’ll bring a sense of humor to the White House, you kinda cry out to be laughed at.

3-Health care should be a privilege, not a right. And if any of these jokers are elected president, a whole lot of us are going to be hurting in that regard.

4-Rick Perry had two really good ideas: mandatory HPV vaccines for young girls so that they can avoid having cervical cancer through this virus. and a sort of DREAM act designed to help illegal immigrants who are in Texas get a college education. Too bad he’s running away from them as fast as he can.

5-All of these clowns are willing to make up whatever lie they can about anything that President Obama has done as a means of giving red meat to this base within a base.

and 6-Newt Gingrich is an asshole. But then again, you knew that already.

The Tea Party Express and it’s groups nationwide were the questioners for this clambake and because they were the audience, there were a couple of moments that can only be described as cringeworthy.

Like the following:

In case you didn’t catch that, the people yelling “Yeah!” in agreement with Paul’s contention that you should be allowed to die if you don’t have health insurance are the folks in the Tea Party audience.

See what I’m sayin’…

Now I understand that CNN wants to be the debate station for the GOP, especially since the Democrats haven’t found anyone willing to alienate the party’s most most consistent voting bloc by being a primary challenger to President Barack Obama, not to say that the far-left, so-called “progressive” wing of the party isn’t hoping that their White Knight in Shining Armor, otherwise known as Hillary Clinton, will come charging to the rescue…

But having produced a debate myself once, I believe that you should be careful who you sign on to do one with.

Now if CNN had partnered with the New Republic or some other right-wing publication, I’d have no problem with this. It would be a couple of news organizations trying to bring news to their viewers and readers in a way that allows them to make a choice of who the Republican nominee should be.

But when you partner with the Tea Party Express, who in addition to being a group of sources is also a group with some really serious credibility issues, you put yourself in a position to have your credibility seriously questioned. Considering the fact that you have a better chance to getting a news program with CNN if you’re a failed governor or a former Fleet Street hack, the channel’s credibility was already kinda shaky.

My guess is that CNN is going to find out what John Boehner, most mainstream Republicans, and anyone who likes a little sanity with their right-wing politics has learned when dealing with the Tea Party Express:

You can make a deal with this particular devil if you want to, but he comes to collect early….and his prices are to quote former New York Gubernatorial Candidate Jimmy McMillan, too damn high. People are going to look at them a bit askance from now on, so I hope they enjoy the ratings.

I sorta know now why Christiane Amanpour left…

I sat through as much as I could of the debate before deciding that not even my sense of humor could stomach much more of this. But because of that whole masochist thing, I’ll be sitting in front of my TV when CNN presents the next GOP debate in Las Vegas…a town in which it makes sense because it’s a town filled with really garish stuff.

Besides, the thought of having a bunch of Bible Thumpers like this in Vegas is just too heady! You’ll probably be able to see Rick Santorum’s hives in HD. With any luck, sex columnist Dan Savage will be in the audience, bringing even more delight to my sick sense of humor….