Robert M. Gates has just been confirmed overwhelmingly, though not unanimously, by the full Senate to replace Donald H. Rumsfeld as secretary of defense. The vote was 95-2, with ‘no’ votes cast by Senators Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Rick Santorum, who lost his reelection race in Pennsylvania. In a speech following the vote, Mr. Santorum cited the threat of “Islamic fascism” and concern that Mr. Gates would not focus sufficiently on Iran.

Update: …and now he has moved on to Venezuela…and Russia. This is Mr. Santorum’s last chance to give an epic foreign policy speech. He’s calling this “the gathering storm of the 21st century,” echoing Winston Churchill. ~The Caucus

After Gates was confirmed, Santorum — who lost his seat in the November election amid a wave of unhappiness about the Iraq war — took to the Senate floor.

He delivered a nearly hourlong speech, warning of the dangers of not confronting “Islamic fascism” and its budding alliances with anti-American countries such as Venezuela, North Korea and Cuba.

“We are sleepwalking through the storm,” Santorum said. “How do those who deny this evil propose to save us from these people? By negotiating through the U.N. or directly with Iran? By firing Don Rumsfeld, (and) now getting rid of John Bolton? That’s going to solve the problem?”

He said he felt Gates is not “up to the task.” ~CNN

Via Ross Douthat

I agree with Ross that Santorum has positioned himself perfectly so that, in the unlikely and “wildly implausible” event that his crazy foreign policy ramblings ever come to pass, he will be vindicated and will be called upon by a terrified people to guide us to a safe harbour.  He will certainly have gone down to the end of his career in the Senate warning us against the dangers of Venezuela.  When the red, blue and yellow tricolour is planted on the shores of Florida and the Chavistas are marching through Houston, we will know that we should have listened to Rick when we still had a chance.  You can engrave it on the monument they erect in his honour: “He saw Venezuela as a huge threat to the United States.  He believed that Iran would conquer the world.  But at least he never played politics!” 

It is interesting how many of us assume that taking bold, probably irrational positions on grave policy questions is not playing politics with an issue, when the only words that might fairly describe a policy view that holds Venezuela to be a major security threat are frivolous, unserious and puerile.  If serious politicians work at politics, we had better be hoping that people who recklessly throw around phrases like “Islamic fascism” and consider the world to be in stark danger from the Caracas-Tehran axis are simply playing around at something else.  Anyone who honestly, truly believes this is certainly not “playing politics” in the sense that he is pandering to voters or taking the easy way out of an issue; he is simply treating international relations like a game of pretend in which he gets to be Churchill and the other kids are the mean, nasty Venezuelan imperialists come to take the Golden Child (or whatever) back to their dark master, who has his Eye focused on Iraq (where Santorum wants the Eye to stay).  There is no accountability for people like this, because when they are shown to be impressively wrong they can always claim, “I was just thinking out loud, cooking up crazy scenarios to keep people on their toes.  Nobody actually thinks Venezuela is that dangerous! Don’t be silly.  When did I ever say that?” 

Upshot: Santorum basically said, “You’ll still have me to kick around in the future outside of government, and, yes, you are very glad that you voted me out when you had the chance.”

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