Watching this week's GOP debate, I couldn't help but think that maybe, after all, Rick Santorum is the best of a bad lot. Yes, he believes Satan has got it in for the ol' USA. Some religious leaders, like Billy Graham's son, have defined Christianity in such a way that only political conservatives are good Christians, even if they're Catholic. And yes, Santorum seems to want to engage in theological debates about President Barack Obama's faith. He's also freely throwing around the "N" word, as in "Nazi."
But there may be method in the madness. If one is going to argue theology, it opens the opportunity for the Christian faithful to begin asking questions about Mitt Romney's theology. It continues to be the great unspoken of the campaign: If Obama, a Protestant, is not Biblically grounded, what about Mitt? What about a religion whose adherents are posthumously baptizing non-Mormons, including poor Anne Frank, who recently was baptized for the umpteenth time?
Santorum is this week's winner because he was the loser in this week's debate. He lost not because he hates contraception and wants to attack Iran. He lost because he was the only candidate on the stage at CNN's Arizona debate with a foothold in reality. He "lost" the debate because he argued that as a U.S. Senator, he had to be a team player with his president; he lost because he was honest and said that he'd occasionally had to vote for a bill when there was something in it he didn't agree with; he lost because he supported his Republican Senate seat mate Arlen Spector in exchange for a pledge that Spector would do his best to stack the Supreme Court with conservatives (which he largely did).
By being real, Santorum was dubbed a "fake," by Ron Paul of all people, a guy who presents an image of minimalist government every bit as appealing as the moral world of Lord of the Flies, a guy so far out on the fringe he cannot even imagine making a compromise to, oh say, get something done; a man who, as a serious presidential candidate, is as real as a vault full of iron pyrite.
Meanwhile at the debate, Romney continued to make himself repellent, a cameleon who will saying anything, while Newt Gingrich blithely discusses doing away with more than a century of civil service laws and opening every square inch of American soil and sea to massive oil drilling in order to generate trillions, yes trillions, of dollars polluting the planet to pay for his Moon base. He makes Dr. Evil seem like a piker.
Even George Will is giving up on the GOP field.
So Santorum is a loser who is a winner this week because he is less of a loser than his opponents.
Other winners and losers of the week:
Loser: Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, a Democrat, who is a dead man walking. The county council, with a majority of Democrats, voted unanimously to ask Reardon to step down as more and more evidence is reported of his alleged misuse of public funds and office to carry on an affair and campaign on public time with public resources. Reardon has refused to step down until the state's investigation is finished. Yes, he's entitled to defend himself, but unless some kind of complete exoneration is in the offing, he might be better off to fess up, and move on.
Loser Headline of the Week: "John Edwards' mistress wins ownership of sex tape."
Winner: The latest Republican porn: A fantasy novel that imagines the resurrection of William Howard Taft. Take that, First Lady's anti-obesity campaign!
Winner: The swagger is back in Seattle and Tacoma is upset. A columnist there says Seattle has thrown morality aside in a shameless pursuit to steal an NBA franchise from some other poor town. "Congratulations Seattle, you’re now Oklahoma City," he wrote, "You now are the place so desperate to get a professional sports franchise that you will screw over any other burg that has one." It's good for the old civic ego to be a plundering 900-pound gorilla once again causing the City of Destiny and others to quiver in their tracks. (Forget the Kings, remember when Seattle seized Tacoma's largest downtown employer, Russell Investments? That's plunder.)
Loser: The person or persons in Portland, OR who sent threats to members of Congress this week. Good news for the postal service: at least someone is still using the mail! Sen. Patty Murray's office in Seattle also received a letter with a "suspicious substance" in it that was something other than PAC money.
Winners: The Girl Scouts, suddenly cool again as the shock troops of feminism.
Loser: Mayor Mike McGinn who announced a murder "emergency" in Seattle, a tad more important than the political emergency revealed by a new KING 5 poll indicating that the mayor is less unpopular in terms of approval percentage than the school board, and that the only guy less popular is the man in charge of fixing the murder "emergency," police chief John Diaz. The good news: McGinn's overall approval rating (33%) would have been envied by Paul Schell.
Potential Winner: Former Mayor Greg Nickels who announced he is running for Secretary of State, but he carries a big burden: can he break the curse and be the first Seattle mayor since Art Langlie in the 1940s to win higher statewide office? (That's assuming that Secretary of State actually qualifies as a "higher office.")
Winning Defense of a French Politician: Former IMF head and onetime potential candidate for the presidency of France, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is under investigation for his relationship with a prostitution ring that was allegedly involved in setting up orgies Strauss-Kahn attended. His lawyer, Henri Leclerc, came to his defense: "He could easily not have known, because as you can imagine, at these kinds of parties you're not always dressed, and I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other naked woman."
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