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March 9th, 2012 12:52 am
Santorum Covers the Gamut for Alabama Policy Institute

At the public dinner in Mobile Thursday night for the Alabama Policy Institute, a terrific state think tank, Rick Santorum gave a cogent and thoughtful explanation of his “JFK/throw up” line that got him in so much trouble last week when talking about separation of church and state. A woman sitting next to me had voted for Obama in 2008, but she said she thought he handled the question very very well. He self-deprecatingly and with good comedic timing said “the language that I used was, at a minimum [HIS emphasis], inarticulate.” He said his overstatement came from “years of frustration” with the establishment’s enshrinement of “absolution separation of church and state” (in Kennedy’s formulation) as sacrosanct. That said, he said he agreed with much of what JFK said in his famous Houston speech on the subject in 190, that it “resonated very well with me.” But he said JFK’s “absolute” language amounted to “a reversal of the concept” originally planned by the founders. They meant not to protect the state from the church, but to ensure the free exercise of all religions and no religions in the public square. Madison said that giving everybody an equal chance to be heard in the public square, to freely exercise their consciences, was “the perfect remedy” for “how we shall live together. Kennedy, he said, “went too far” by saying he would not even take advice from people that was rooted in faith.

On other topics, Santorum repeatedly blasted federal interference with local education (and thus very memorably blasted the federal hijacking of the Common Core state standards initiative); he pledged to increase trade and improve relations within the Western Hemisphere, promote manufacturing,and  ”put constraints on the judiciary that thinks it is pre-eminent.” On the latter, he rejected the idea that we have a “living Constitution” :  ”Living and breathing are done by people, not by documents.”

He spoke at length about his signature achievement in the 1990s in leading the fight to reform the Aid to Families with Dependent Children welfare program. Noting that the reforms saved a on of money for the feds and significantly reduced the welfare rolls, he insitsed that those two achievements alone do not define success. “Poverty rates fell to the lowest levels in history. A drastic change occurred not just in the budget of Washington but also in the lives of millions of Americans.”

Other topics: Also on judges, he spoke of having worked really hard with Bama’s Sen. Jeff Sessions to help confirm controversial (but superb) Judge Bill Pryor to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and spoke again of passing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution that includes a spending limit.

But all of that came in Q and A with a local panel. His 15-minute speech focused very strongly on the overarching theme of liberty. All those at my table said he spoke eloqently on the subject. Alas, my notes cannot do justice to his speech, because I was not scribbling fast enough to capture the best sense of it. One of the best lines: “A limited government… means unlimited opportunity for everybody in our society.”

There: Those were the highlights.

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