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Let’s All Do the Rick Santorum Shuffle

October 19, 2011

Rick Santorum isn’t exactly a contender for the Republican nomination in 2012. I mean, he’s pretty much dead last all of the time. But, he’s still a lot of fun from a rhetorical standpoint so consider this a fluff piece, Silver Tongue style. Here’re two things he did recently that brought out my inner rhetorician:

1. He got very nervous and began deploying a large number of hedges to talk about the difference between racial categories and homosexuality while discussing why he thinks the DADT repeal should be, er, repealed. After being tricked by Fox News’ Chris Wallace into agreeing with a 1941 argument against racial integration in the military, Santorum explains that being black and being gay are different:

WALLACE: That’s a quote from Colonel Eugene Householder who is in the Army Adjutant General’s Office in 1941, arguing against racial integration in the military.

SANTORUM: I figured. I’ve heard similar quotes. It’s very, very different. I mean, we are talking about people who are, you know, simply different because of the color of their skin, not because of activities that would cause problems for people living in those close quarters.

And later in the interview…

WALLACE: Senator, Colonel Householders and I read — Senator, I read Colonel Householders’ comments yesterday. Everything that you said, living in close proximity, sharing bunks and showers, being in close proximity, what — he used exactly the same arguments you use to argue against racial integration in the military in the 1940s.

SANTORUM: Yes, I understand that, and I know the whole gay community is trying to make this the new Civil Rights Act. It’s not. It’s not the same.

You are black by the color of your skin. You are not homosexual necessarily by — obviously by the color of your skin or anything — it’s by a variety of things.

You have to see the full video to really appreciate the delivery. Unfortunately, I could only find it as a mash-up from the Huffington Post. Many people feel nervous and hedge-y when they discuss racial identity in a public setting because they’re afraid they’re going to say something really stupid or offensive or both. On the other hand, if you’re a candidate for president of the United States, you should probably figure out how you personally want to talk about racial identity. This clip is also interesting in the number of implicit arguments that it makes about racial difference and sexual orientation. Notice that his argument relies on the idea that sexual orientation is changeable to argue that it does not warrant a “civil rights” frame.

2. He somehow conflated Saturday Night Live with “the left” and accused them of “bullying” because SNL mocked his stance on gay rights in a sketch that had him awkwardly sitting at a gay bar in San Francisco:

The joke plays on the fact that in the recent debates, candidates have been placed according to their position in the polls: the more popular you are, the more prominent a position you earn. This sketch implies that Santorum is doing so poorly that he has been placed outside of the auditorium and, hilariously, in a gay bar. This is funny given his views on same-sex marriage and LGBT civil rights.

Santorum responded to the sketch in a radio interview:

Does anyone else think it’s oddly (and probably unintentionally) provocative for an anti-gay-rights politician to refer to criticism as “bullying?” I say this because the word “bullying” immediately reminded me of the recent media attention on bullying-related suicides by LGBT youths.

If you want to know more:

  • People who know me well know that it’s not hard to bring out my inner rhetorician.
  • You may know Santorum from the Dan-Savage-founded “Spreading Santorum” website, which has some enthrallingly rhetorical, yet decidedly NSFW content.
  • The transcripts of Santorum’s comments above are taken from Lexis Nexis’ broadcast transcript feature. They are SO MUCH EASIER than tracking down videos and transcribing them yourself. I like the modern age.
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