Friday, February 17, 2012

Santorum on Premarital Sex and Contraception

Even the most hard-headed atheist would have to admit: the Republican primary campaign has been God’s gift to Barack Obama.

The Republican Party is looking for a national leader. It needs to find a presidential candidate who can unite the party behind a conservative agenda, the better to take the fight to Barack Obama.

As of now, the presumptive nominee has run such an unrelentingly negative campaign that he has seriously damaged the Republican Party.

Mitt Romney hasn’t just violated Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment by speaking ill of other Republicans, but he has done nothing but speak ill of other Republicans.

This is causing him to lose the support of independent voters, among others. As Peggy Noonan quipped: “… nobody loves a Death Star.”

We have to assume that Romney’s approach has parallels in the world of private equity. Regardless of whether a private equity investor engages in what is called creative destruction, Mitt Romney is demonstrating a great talent at it.

Up until now, there is no evidence of a creative part.

Noonan wrote: “The Romney campaign is better at dismantling than mantling. They're better at taking opponents apart than building a compelling candidate of their own. They do not seem capable of deepening his meaning, making his stands and statements more textured and interesting.”

Many who are willing to follow Romney “unto the breach” still suspect that while his campaign resembles a Death Star, he himself is a philosophical black hole… a place that sucks conservative ideas out of the political cosmos and makes them disappear.

Today, the most plausible alternative to Mitt Romney is Rick Santorum, that is, Mrs. Grundy in a sweater vest.

Writing on the Commentary Contentions blog yesterday Alana Goodman asked the salient question: what would rather be defending for the next nine months: Mitt Romney’s record as a private equity investor or Rick Santorum’s views on contraception?

In her words: Santorum’s key weaknesses with independent voters are in the social issues arena, and that’s what Democrats will zero in on. Republicans will spend most of the election defending Santorum’s positions on gay marriage, abortion, contraception, and the role of women in the military and workplace.

This isn’t to say that Republicans should only base their nominee decision on Democratic attacks. Focusing solely on defense is a losing strategy. But they should remember that while it’s important to nominate a candidate who can effectively attack Obama on his weaknesses, it’s just as crucial to nominate a candidate whose vulnerable areas are ones they want to spend the next nine months defending.

While everyone talks about contraception no one is talking about the Obama economic record. When Rick Santorum declares himself the champion of chastity you cannot just dismiss the issue with a wave of your hand.

Republicans will frame the issue in terms of religious liberty, but once sex enters the equation it’s like a car wreck… you can’t take your eyes off of it. You might be so distracted that you drive off a cliff. Still, your attention will be riveted on the salacious side of the issues.

How much of yesterday’s media oxygen was sucked up by a single glib remark made by Santorum super-funder Foster Friess.  

Santorum denounced the joke; Friess has apologized. Yet, the image of a woman practicing birth control by holding an aspirin between her knees is more powerful than denunciation and apology.

Many voters are getting their first look at Rick Santorum. They are asking themselves whether he is the man to lead the nation out of the economic abyss toward a new era of prosperity.

So, they open the paper and read this, from Santorum:

One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. . . . It's not OK because it's a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They're supposed to be within marriage, for purposes that are, yes, conjugal . . . but also procreative.

That's the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act. And if you can take one part out that's not for purposes of procreation, that's not one of the reasons, then you diminish this very special bond between men and women, so why can't you take other parts of that out? And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it's simply pleasure. And that's certainly a part of it--and it's an important part of it, don't get me wrong--but there's a lot of things we do for pleasure, and this is special, and it needs to be seen as special. Again, I know most presidents don't talk about those things, and maybe people don't want us to talk about those things, but I think it's important that you are who you are. I'm not running for preacher.

True enough, most presidents do not talk about these matters. Preaching is not part of their job description.

But look at the phrasing… “the dangers of contraception” and “the perfect way a sexual union should happen.”

Sure, Santorum adds some qualifiers, but most people will take away the idea that he thinks that contraception is dangerous and that when people use it their sexual experiences are, ipso facto, imperfect.

Santorum denies that he is running for preacher, but still, he is preaching about personal moral issues. Most people do not want  their president to be giving them instructions on how best to conduct their sex lives. They want him to be focused on his presidential responsibilities, not on what they are doing in the privacy of their beds.

When Santorum says that readily availability contraception is contributing to pervasive libertinage, he might be right. Yet, he does not mention that many couples use contraception as an instrument of family planning. And he does not mention that some forms of contraception prevent the spread of infection.

By implication Santorum is presenting his own marriage as a moral beacon. Perhaps everyone should dispense with contraception and have seven children, but most people would prefer that their politicians do not, even by implication, criticize them for not doing so. 

After all, there is nothing irresponsible about limiting the number of children you have. There is no surpassing virtue in a large number of children if you cannot provide them with a good upbringing.

Santorum is correct to say that many advanced theorists take the more radical position, namely that sex is really just about pleasure, that it has no intrinsic meaning. And he is correct to say that meaning of sexuality should not be detached from procreation. All sex acts are not created equal.

Santorum would be more correct if he said that schoolchildren today are routinely taught that the only rule that should regulate sexual behavior is the injunction to use a condom. As a moral principle, it is degenerate and wrong.

It is wrong because it abuses the minds of children. Most adults know better and they know better without having to hear it from Rick Santorum.

Yet, Santorum took it a step further when he announced in another interview that he is also opposed to premarital sex.

He said: I think it's harmful to women, I think it's harmful to our society to have a society that says that, you know, sex outside of marriage is something that should be encouraged or tolerated, particularly among the young, and I think it has--and we've seen very, very harmful long-term consequences to a society. So birth control to me enables that, and I don't think it's a healthy thing for our country. 

Ask yourself this: how many men and women have had sex outside of marriage, whether premarital or extramarital or recreational?

How many of them want to hear themselves denounced by a presidential candidate for having committed a deed that will produce “very, very harmful long-term consequences to a society?”

If Santorum had said that it is a bad idea for teenage girls to hook up indiscriminately with anonymous men, one would say that his point is well taken.

If he had said that the harm of promiscuous sex is mostly born by young women, we would agree.

But not all premarital sex falls within this category. To say that a woman who is not yet married but who has had sex with the man she loves is doing something that is unhealthy for the country is to step into a moral void.

I will grant that Santorum declares himself to be more concerned with the young than with the not-so-young. Still, he fails to distinguish the different effects of promiscuous sexual behavior on men and women.

In failing to make this elementary distinction, Santorum is following the feminist rule that prohibits people from distinguishing the sexual experiences of men and women.

If Santorum wants to preach to men that they should stop having sex outside of marriage he will be laughed out of politics.

Better contraception offers greater sexual freedom, but, freedom can either mean freedom from responsibility or freedom for responsibility.

Do you really want to argue that women should not have the freedom to live their sexuality as they see fit? Do you really believe that they do not weigh the risks and rewards involved in  sexual behavior? Do you really believe that their own moral compass does not tell them when they have made a mistake? Do you think that they would not know these things if they had ot heard them from Rick Santorum? 

Santorum may think that he is talking about high school students. If so, he needs to make the point explicit. As they stand, his remarks are generalized to apply to all human sexual behavior. 

It makes some sense, as James Taranto asserts, that Santorum is striking out against feminism. Surely, feminism has contributed mightily to the way young women live their sexuality. It has made sexual freedom into an ideological dogma, what Taranto calls an “unadulterated good,”  and has implied that women can only be good feminists if they talk and talk and walk the walk.

Given that feminism is, as Taranto says, a totalitarian ideology it does not allow anyone to question its dogmatic truths.

Yet, if you are running for president and want to do God’s work by challenging “feminist pieties,” why not call for the repeal of the Lilly Ledbetter Act or Title IX of the Equal Opportunity in Education Act.

Some feminists have encouraged young women to behave like sluts. Some have done so in the name of freedom, but the underlying concept has been that women should be able to have sex like men, that is, without fearing the consequences or taking responsibility. 

Strangely enough, feminist dogma takes an amoral caricature of male sexual behavior and tries to make it into a norm.

For my part, I think that the greater problem is the feminist life plan that tells women to defer marriage and childbearing until after they have established their careers.

Like it or not, this is not a political issue. A presidential candidate is not a columnist or a blogger. His views have a different resonance. Santorum may believe he is appealing for greater personal responsibility or different life choices. 

Presidents make and execute policy, so when a candidate says what Santorum said people are correct to assume that he would take action in accord with his beliefs.

Taranto is correct to say that Santorum has said nothing about acting legislatively or administratively to promote these views. But, as long as he is running for president it is more correct to read it as potential policy. To interpret it otherwise would be to diminish Santorum, to transform him from presidential candidate to Fox contributor.


5 comments:

JP said...

Santorum's biggest problem is that he can be a jerk.

And so, Kirpatrick & Lockhart's political construct stands astride the world like a...a...pinata.

Seriously, the man's tone deaf with constituents. Romney will beat him in the primaries.

CatherineM said...

Whatever Romney is doing, it has nothing to do with Private Equity. It's a real shame how the media and Hollywood have duped so many people. I am sick of spelling it out for people. When a PE company buys a company it's usually because it's a good business that's not doing well for some reason (and that means sometimes you have to fire people or shut down an outdated business)or wants to expand, but they do not have the capacity. There is no way to "creatively destruct." That is a Hollywood fantasy. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. In spite of the newsmedia, PE and Bain in particular have created millions of jobs and billions of dollars for investors - not just fat cats, but pensions and foundations (it's from working at foundations I understand these investments). Mitt Romney isn't Gordon Gecko or Richard Gere in pretty woman. Anyone who thinks that's what Private Equity does is an idiot.

As far as Santorum goes, I don't like him and he's too far right in his beliefs. However, I find it strange, and I don't want to sound conspiratory, that at the ABC debates a few months ago, Sawyer and Stephanopoulus kept pressing contraception as an issue people wanted to "ban." All of the candidates were scratching their heads as to where this subject was coming from. Then suddenly Obama makes contraception coverage mandatory and the media and lib outfits frames the subject as "pro or anti-woman/contraception" to obscure the fact that it's about paying for it and coverage. And suddenly, as usual, women's "health" is on the line. And if you don't agree with them you're anti woman!

What a coincidence...

n.n said...

There are two orders in our world that are readily observable: natural and enlightened (i.e. conscious). The first we consider to be objective since we sense it. The second most of us presume to be axiomatic for obvious reasons.

Two of the most prominent social issues in recent history were ended through force: slavery and discrimination. Today, as before, consideration for social issues is selective. Also, as before, there were people who did not support it, but also did not oppose it, they were pro-choice.

Abortion is not a social issue. It is an issue, as was slavery, concerned with the assignment of dignity to human life. It is also a moral imperative. Today's standard is arbitrary and even perverse.

Homosexual behavior is not a social issue. It is an issue concerned with evolutionary fitness. It is worth separating the individuals from their behavior. For the former, their individual dignity should be preserved. For the latter, their behavior offers no discernible value to either society or humanity. Furthermore, we know male homosexual behavior increases risk of disease, especially when combined with promiscuous behavior. There may be reason to tolerate this behavior, but there is no legitimate reason to normalize it.

Contraception and the promiscuous behavior it promotes is not a social issue. It is an issue concerned with biological integrity and the general Welfare of our society. It should certainly not receive incentive through involuntary exploitation (e.g. taxation).

There are clear and objective standards by which to judge these so-called "social" issues. While their treatment may coincide with right-wing positions, they are not exclusively justified by them.

If anything, the denigration of individual dignity and devaluation of human life conducted by so-called civil and human rights businesses should be a greater concern for anyone who considers those issues to bear merit for themselves and humanity in general. Whereas there was cause for them originally, they have since proceeded to another, more progressive extreme.

Individuals who benefit from fulfillment of instant gratification, and others who are hesitant to oppose them on objective principles, will remain pro-choice until they are forced to make a choice.

That said, there are issues, whether moral or biological, which will not be, and cannot be, sustainably resolved through force, without addressing their underlying causes. A prominent example is voluntary consumption of psychotropic drugs and other means to, ostensibly, escape reality, if only for a short time.

n.n said...

As Mr. Schneiderman pointed out, we need to distinguish between behaviors society and humanity can tolerate and others which should be normalized; and how each are and should be treated for greatest effectiveness. Also, as you indicated, framing is extremely important. One of the reasons America's left has been so successful is that they have exhibited superior presentation skills. To be fair, it is much easier to present promises of instant gratification than respect for individual dignity.

We would do well to recognize that the premise for our liberty is individuals capable of self-moderating behavior. If an optimal liberty between individuals who may not, and likely do not, all share the same goal, then that is the principle behavior our society and culture should be promoting. And yet, whatever compromise we reach, it must be compatible with both the natural and enlightened orders.

The part about "advanced theorists" is interesting. Their conclusion about the nature of sex is purely subjective. An objective conclusion is that sex is principally about procreation. The only people who would accept the first position are individuals who have grown detached from an objective reality and are just killing time awaiting their mortal end. Probably the same people who, on principle, reject the fundamental concept of freewill.

Santorum needs to learn to pick and time his fights. He needs to recognize and acknowledge reality. It is far from ideal; but, rejecting it will not improve it.

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