George Will feels compelled to talk to Rick Santorum:
With disarmingly cheerful ferocity, he relishes combat in what he calls “a two-front civil war” within the GOP. The party is, he says, in danger of becoming “a one-legged stool.” The “Eastern establishment types” want to saw off the cultural conservatism leg, concentrating on economic issues. The rising libertarian faction, exemplified by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, wants to saw off the strong foreign policy leg.
It’s true that social conservatives are often taken for granted in the Republican Party, but then that is because they are so reliable and unwavering in their support no matter what happens that the national party can afford to do so. There are certainly many Republican donors that would like to ignore social conservatives even more than the party already does, but that would result in cutting the party’s coalition in half, so it isn’t going to happen anytime in the near future. The “leg” isn’t going to be sawed off, but it will continue to receive less attention than Santorum thinks it should.
That brings us to Santorum and “strong foreign policy,” which means something radically different to him than it does to most of the rest of us. Will doesn’t talk about Santorum’s foreign policy in the column, because there is probably nothing complimentary Will could say about it. If Romney’s foreign policy agenda last year could be fairly described as “omni-directional belligerence,” Santorum would probably say that Romney was far too timid and cautious in what he said. Santorum would probably agree with Bolton et al. that Romney agreed with Obama too often and didn’t attack him enough on these issues.
While someone could argue that Romney was just pandering to hard-liners during the campaign, Santorum truly is one of the hard-liners on foreign policy, so much so that he turned his re-election campaign into a referendum on his alarmist views and thereby guaranteed a landslide defeat. Shortly following his defeat in 2006, he restated the hard-line views that did so much to doom his campaign in this article. As Santorum saw it, even Bush and Gates were too weak-willed and feeble:
The Iraq Study Group and Secretary Gates see clearly the problems in Iraq and the contributions Iran makes to these problems. They do not think we can win in Iraq because they do not think that we can win in Iran; or, at least, they do not think that we must win in Iran. We must confront Iran to win in Iraq, and, more than that, we must confront Iran if we are to defeat Islamic fascism all over the world [bold mine-DL]. The president’s nomination of Gates, and the Senate’s passive and overwhelming support of him, shows that our leaders have not understood the peril we are in and are not prepared to win the war that is being waged against us.
Santorum’s first job after losing his re-election bid was to serve as a professional alarmist shouting exaggerated warnings about “America’s enemies,” which included such menaces as Venezuela and Bolivia, and he continued to raise the alarm about “Islamic fascism” and the dangers of Venezuelan aggression for the next five years. In that time, he has done more than most individual hawks to discredit hard-line foreign policy views. Nothing has changed for Santorum in the years between his 2006 loss and today. If Santorum is the one defining what “strong foreign policy” means, we should very much hope that the GOP will be rid of it soon.