Tales from the Trail

Is Rick Santorum’s favorite Marxist quote for real?

By James Ledbetter
The views expressed are his own.

Which is stranger: the idea that on the campaign trail GOP presidential longshot Rick Santorum cites favorably a quotation from a quasi-Marxist social critic? Or that the quotation itself might be spurious?

For years, Rick Santorum has said that one of his favorite sayings is: “We all get up every day and tell ourselves lies so we can live.” He attributes it to the iconoclastic historian and social critic Christopher Lasch, best known as the author of The Culture of Narcissism, a hugely popular jeremiad against modern American capitalism published in 1979.

Santorum likes the quote enough to cite it in a variety of contexts. In 2004, he used it during a Senate debate to explain his opposition to same-sex marriage. In a Washington Post article this week, he appeared to use it to explain how he carries on a demanding, uphill campaign when he has a young daughter with a life-threatening disease whom he rarely gets to see.

The Santorum-Lasch nexis is odd  for at least two reasons. One is that Santorum typically positions himself as a pro-life, family-values conservative. By contrast, while it’s hard to quickly summarize Lasch’s views, he came out of the Marxist-influenced left and retained a strong distaste for American conservatism even as his own later views on some subjects–notably family, abortion, and various aspects of the women’s movement–alienated many former allies.

But more importantly, there is no easily available proof that Lasch said what Santorum attributes to him. A Google search for the specific quote shows a handful of references, but mainly from Santorum himself, and none with a specific citation to any Lasch book, article, or interview.  Popular online quotation aggregators, such as BrainyQuote, offer dozens of better-known Lasch observations–e.g., “Conservatives unwittingly side with the social forces that contribute to the destruction of traditional values”–but not Santorum’s favorite. My colleague Paul Smalera suggests that it sounds more like the first line of Joan Didion’s book The White Album: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

Romney uses Mormon faith to deflect attention from wealth

Romney rarely has spoken about his religion during the primary campaign, conscious perhaps of polls showing that as many as half of white evangelicals believe the Mormon religion is not a Christian faith. In one of the few times he has highlighted his church, he made Rick Perry seem intolerant for refusing to disavow Pastor Robert Jeffress’s assertion that Mormonism is a “cult.”

Now Romney is talking about Mormonism in order to head off the perception that he’s an out-of-touch rich guy  — a view reinforced by his attempt to silence Perry’s attacks on his healthcare record by offering him a $10,000 bet during Saturday’s Republican presidential debate. Given his personal wealth, estimated at $250 million, Romney needs to avoid any more moments that make him look like Judge Elihu Smails, the country club president from “Caddyshack” who tried to use his money and background to purge the club of undesirables like the brash outsider Al Czervik, played by Rodney Dangerfield (and, yes, Caddyshack culminated in a bet between the two).

Today at a lumber mill in northern New Hampshire, Romney hearkened back to his ten years spent moonlighting as a Mormon pastor while living in Boston. That work included counseling those who had lost their jobs or were in dire financial circumstances. “What struck me, not having grown up in poverty, was revealing and important to me,” he said.

Gay Vietnam vet tackles Romney

Republican Mitt Romney probably didn’t know what hit him in a Manchester diner on Monday when he tucked into a booth to make small talk with an older man wearing a “Vietnam Vet” baseball cap.

Romney has been vocal in opposing cuts to U.S. military spending, and chatting up a veteran would seem like an easy warm-up to a day on the campaign trail.

But military spending wasn’t on the mind of Bob Garon, who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

Biden welcomes Navy ship home for the holidays

MAYPORT, Fla. – Vice President Joe Biden made an unscheduled stop during a visit to Florida on Thursday to greet 350 sailors from the USS Gettysburg as they came home after seven months at sea.

A brass band played and happy families waved flags and held up signs as a grinning Biden helped them welcome home loved ones just in time for the holidays. Seven of the sailors who had babies born while they were at sea were allowed to get off the ship first.


Sophia Perfida, 11 months, waits to see her father.

One sailor dressed up as Santa Claus in honor of the ship’s arrival, drawing thrilled shouts from some of the children waiting for their mothers and fathers.

Romney takes a swing at Obama golf habit

Most presidents have their hobbies. George W. Bush loved to clear brush on his Texas ranch, and to take long mountain bike rides. Bill Clinton played the saxophone. John Quincy Adams reportedly liked to skinny-dip in the Potomac River.

Barack Obama likes to play golf. And Republican challenger Mitt Romney doesn’t approve.

The Romney campaign on Wednesday launched a website, fortyfore.com, that takes a swing at Obama’s golf habit. The site says that Obama has played “1,584 holes since 2009″ — the equivalent of 88 rounds of golf as he nears the end of his third year in office. That would put Obama far short of House Speaker John Boehner, who reportedly works much harder on the links to maintain a single-digit handicap.

New Romney ad counters ‘flip-flopper’ label

In case you missed it, Mitt Romney grew a bit testy when Fox News’ Bret Baier pressed him with questions about his about-faces on issues like abortion, climate change and immigration in an interview last week.

Now a new ad out from his campaign looks to counter the ‘flip-flopper’ label Romney has grown so tired of talking about. The ad, released online today and due to air in Iowa and New Hampshire this week, features images of Romney as a young man with his family while Romney gives a voice-over:

 I think people understand that I’m a man of steadiness and constancy. I don’t think you’re going to find somebody who has more of those attributes than I do.

Press release hoaxer targets SEIU, Obama

 

Someone is unhappy with President Barack Obama, but it isn’t the Service Employees International Union.

Targeting an influential union that is an important source of support for the Democratic president as he seeks re-election, a hoaxer put out a fake press release on Tuesday night saying the labor group had voted to withdraw its Nov. 16 endorsement.

The reason? According to the fake release, the 2.1-million-member union felt it was too early to endorse anyone.

Conservatives bash Obama for gay rights stand

Conservative groups and Republican White House hopeful Rick Perry wasted no time in panning the Obama administration for its move on Tuesday to stand up for gay rights abroad – the first-ever U.S. government strategy to tackle LGBT human rights abuses worldwide.

In an seven-point executive order on Tuesday, Obama told U.S. diplomats and foreign aid workers to do more to advance rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered persons abroad – a move that promotes U.S. human rights policies and speaks to a key Democratic constituency at home.

“I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world…No country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere,” Obama said in the memo, which will be published in the Federal Register. “I am directing all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.”

Republicans, again, look to older White House candidates

If presidential candidates, like fine wine, improve with age, the 2012 Republican field is in luck.  The top three contenders — Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul — would each be one of the oldest U.S. presidents ever if he were to defeat Barack Obama and win the White House in 2012.

Gingrich, who currently leads the Republican pack, would be 69 years and 7 months old on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2013. That would make him the second-oldest first-term U.S. president, just behind Ronald Reagan, who was 69 years and 11 months old when he first took the oath of office in January 1981.

Romney is a bit younger than Gingrich, who was Speaker of the House in the 1990s. But, at 65 years and 10 months old on Jan. 20, 2013, Romney would be tied for third place in the presidential age stakes, after Reagan and William Henry Harrison. James Buchanan, the 15th U.S. president, was 65 years, 10 months and 9 days old when he was sworn in on March 4, 1857, the same age that Romney would be.

Just what is a “Lincoln-Douglas” debate?

Republican frontrunner Newt Gingrich and long-shot Jon Huntsman say they’ll hold a “Lincoln-Douglas” debate in New Hampshire on Monday. So how will it be different from the usual debates?

During the 1858 race for U.S. Senate in Illinois, incumbent Democrat Stephen Douglas and upstart Republican lawyer Abraham Lincoln held a series of seven three-hour debates in towns throughout the state on the day’s hottest topic: slavery.

The debates had no moderator, and the candidates spoke in paragraphs rather than today’s rehearsed 45-second sound bites. In each of the debates, the first candidate was given 60 minutes to make opening remarks. His opponent was given 90 minutes to respond, and the first candidate was allowed a final 30-minute rebuttal.