Yesterday, I chronicled potential GOP candidate Donald Trump's embracing of the birther mentality. Well, he's not the only one that might be running for President that, well, seems to have a problem with the facts.
Rick Santorum, the staunch right winger that served as a Senator from Pennsylvania, is also thinking about a Presidential run. Clearly, though, he needs to start thinking about his American History.
As reported by Talking Points Memo, Santorum, speaking to the Catholic Citizenship group, said that John F. Kennedy was a radical for advocating for a complete separation between church and state in a 1960 speech. Santorum left out the important context.
Kennedy, a Catholic, was giving that speech to an assembled group of Protestants who had concerns about Kennedy’s devout Catholicism. Yeah, that radical, JFK, who said such radical things as, "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country."
His gaffe would be bad enough, but Santorum added a comment about Thomas Jefferson in order to bolster his own case. “Jefferson is spinning in his grave,” said Santorum.
I think Thomas Jefferson would have not only agreed with Kennedy, but he probably would have jumped up and applauded him had he been at that 1960 speech. Jefferson, as a friend of mine put it, “coined the phrase” separation of church and state in a letter. Unlike Santorum and Kennedy, Jefferson had no real formal religion. He was a Deist who did not attend church services regularly, but he considered religion a very personal matter. As he wrote:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
Trump's whopper and Santorum misrepresenting Jefferson are just the latest gaffes by a Republican thinking about running for President.
Michele Bachmann was quoted as saying that the Revolutionary War started in Concord, New Hampshire instead of Concord, Massachusetts last week. She's now getting mocked royally in New Hampshire. Mike Huckabee claimed that Barack Obama’s world view is different because he grew up in Kenya then tried to claim he misspoke. And, let’s not even start on Sarah Palin.
The sad thing is that there are many on the right that gobble up this rhetoric and don’t wait for the retraction or correction from the candidate. The mis and dis-information becomes a part of the political lexicon and suddenly starts being sent around on chain e-mails and other crazy forms of communication.
If you don’t believe me, go to snopes.com and type in Barack Obama. There are hundreds of threads on him there regarding everything from his citizenship to his religion to his family life. It’s entered the public domain and people believe it must be true because Uncle Cletus or Grandma Wilma sent it to you.
The right needs to do a better job vetting its candidates if it wants to be taken seriously. Is it possible that folks like Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels are staying out of the fray for fear of being tainted by those in it? How do you get into a discussion of the issues when the candidates can't even get the basic facts of American History correct?