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Santorum’s Straw Man

Both right-wing conservatives and Democrats of every stripe cheered for Rich Santorum to win the Michigan Primary.  He had been doing so well recently that he looked like the giant killer that would put Mitt Romney out of contention .  But yesterday he lost it by a nose after giving some of the worst stump speeches by a major candidate ever seen in American politics.

If you can’t beat your opponent, you can try to build a straw man effigy and beat that instead. But you have to be clever to make the straw man look convincing.  Santorum’s clumsy construction fooled no one:

“The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country…to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes me want to throw up.”

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To be fair, the nominal cause of Santorum’s nausea was an old President Kennedy speech, but make no mistake; he was talking about Obama.  “I think we need to have a free exercise of religion in this country and it’s important for those First Amendment freedoms to be alive and well in America and I think they are threatened here in America as we’ve seen by President Obama.”  One small problem:  Neither Obama, Kennedy nor any other reputable figure in America has ever suggested that people of faith have no place in the public square.  Kennedy was a Catholic.  President Obama is a non-denominational Christian.

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Education is the means by which Obama, the ghost of Kennedy and any other dark agents of secular mischief will seek to rob the nation of its pious leaders.  “As you know,” said Santorum, “sixty-two percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it.  And I’ll bet you there are people in this room who give money to colleges and universities who are undermining the very principles of our country every single day by indoctrinating kids in left-wing ideology.” And he leaves no doubt about who to blame for America’s apostacy.  “President Obama once said he wants everybody out there to go to college; what a snob! I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image.”

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Never mind that the SSRC study* Santorum spoke of reached the opposite conclusion — people who don’t go to college suffer a greater decline in church attendance than those who do.  These are mere facts, and you don’t stuff a straw man with facts. It’s just that if you want to win in the big game, you’d better make the straw look convincingly factual.

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* Mark D. Regnerus; Jeremy E. Uecker. “How Corrosive Is College to Religious Faith and Practice?”. http://religion.ssrc.org/reforum/Regnerus_Uecker.pdf

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The Republican War on Hoo-Has

If you are among the 51% of Americans who have vaginas, the GOP plan in Virginia will be of interest to you.  Here is what the law recently passed by both Republican-controlled houses will do to you if you seek and abortion. For no medically sound purpose, a ultrasound probe will be inserted into your vagina and moved about to take pictures of your insides –  notwithstanding your doctor’s opinion that there is no valid reason for the procedure.  The not-so-subtle message from the GOP to every woman seeking an abortion is clear:   “Fuck you.”

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Abortion isn’t the only battleground in the GOPs War of Hoo-Has.  They don’t like contraception, either. One would think that right-to-life Republicans would want to cut back on unwanted pregnancies.  Not so.  The “personhood amendments” moving forward in several states will outlaw IUDs and the morning after pill as methods for preventing pregnancy.  Republican heads exploded over the HHS ruling that health insurance for secular employees of religious institutions would cover birth control.  The ruling, of course, does not force birth control on anyone. If you don’t believe in birth control, nothing will force you to practice it.  Yet Republicans make the ridiculous accusation that President Obama is waging an assault on religious freedom.

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The GOP wants to make darn sure that if you have sex you’ll get pregnant. It’ll serve you right for having sex.  Sex, and the squeamishness about sex that the ultra-conservatives suffer, is what this War on Hoo-Has is about.   Most people in America have hoo-has.  And the ones that have Willies like to have sex with them.  Amazingly, it doesn’t seemed to have dawned on the GOP leadership what a losing issue this is for them in an election year.

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Mitt Logic

Mitt Romney let slip another gem today, to which a quick application of some rudimentary logic yields a whopper of a conclusion.  The simplest logical structure is your basic syllogism. Every overalls-wearing hillbilly knows what a syllogism is, but for any guests who aren’t overalls-wearing hillbillies like us, some explanation may be needed.   A syllogism gives you two statements called premises.  If the two premises are accepted as true, then the third statement, called the conclusion, must also be true.  Here is what a syllogism looks like:

………Premise:  All men are mortal.

………Premise:  Socrates is a man.

………Conclusion:  Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

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What Romney told CNN today is this:  “By the way, I’m in this race because I care about Americans.  I am not concerned about the very poor”.   Now, we have to be very careful not to misinterpret what Romney said, but everyone will agree that  care about and concerned about mean pretty much the same thing.  We can, can’t we,  interchange these two terms without doing damage to Romney’s meaning?  With the equivalence of terminology established, we find two premises of a syllogism  in what Romney said:

………Premise:  I care about Americans.

………Premise:  I do not care about the very poor.

Therefore what?  The conclusion should be obvious to all, whether they are wearing overalls or not.

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Therefore, the very poor are not Americans.

We need to say for the record that Mitt Romney is a very decent person.  He would never come right out and say, even to himself, that poor people aren’t Americans.  And yet, the fact that his brain could string two such premises together  forces one to think that he really must believe it unconsciously.  They aren’t really Americans.  Not really.  The very poor are so far removed from the kind of folks Romney knows as his fellow Americans that they are a class apart.  They are foreign to his experience.  They are truly other.  And so they simply aren’t on his radar as a group meriting  focus and concern.  It’s Americans that he cares about instead.

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This was no one-off slip of the tongue.  Romney routinely goes off script and lets these beauties fly.  He likes to fire people.  Corporations are people, too.  Tax policy should only be discussed by our betters in quiet rooms.  And poor people aren’t Americans.  Not really . . . all of which is money in the bank for Democrats this fall.

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