The Spectacle Blog

Santorum This Morning, Gingrich This Afternoon

By on 3.9.12 | 11:30AM

Just as candidate Rick Santorum was obviously building up to a compelling "grand finale" today in a speech at the Pavilion of the Battleship USS Alabama in Mobile this morning, there was a commotion in front of him and to his left. A middle-aged black woman had fainted dead-out, flat onto the concrete floor (it was a bit muggy; raining outside). A lot of candidates would have looked out, stopped talking, asked people to go see if she were okay, and then perhaps continued speaking once it was clear that responsible people were seeing to her well-being.

Not Santorum. He stopped his remarks dead in his tracks, just before reaching a planned crescendo:

"Oh -- well everybody, thank you and God Bless," he quickly mumbled, already leaving the podium. And then he leapt down the stairs and rushed to the lady's aid, just about the fifth person to reach her side.

(The lady was soon back on her feet and emergency medical people were making sure she was okay. Thank goodness, it seemed as if she were indeed okay. Santorum never re-took the podium, instead just wading into the crowd to meet people and shake hands.)

It was an unexpected end to an unexpected speech. Most presidential candidates give the same stump speech over and over, with only tiny changes or additions each time to make minor news or to work in some local pitch. Not Santorum. He speaks, completely without notes, at a sometimes overly detailed level of policy minutia, about different subjects from one speech to the next. With old fighter jets in the pavilion providing a distinctly military background, Santorum began by indicating he would focus on two issues "linked together inextricably," namely national security and energy. Both, of course, are of great local concerns, with fossil fuels exploration in the Gulf and with lots of military personnel and ship construction and aeronautical engineering in the area.

Well....

He did, eventually, return to defense and energy. But the bulk of his speech segued into a discussion of Iran. It was an in-depth, detailed policy analysis, and a big critique of Obama administration policy. (Did you know Iran has built a number of its nuclear-related facilities immediately near Islamic holy sites, in order to further deter attacks on them?)

Some lines from the speech:...Obama has "swept clean all references to religion when referring to the enemy. He won't say that it is radical Islam.... Well, we may not be at war against them, but let me twll you, they are at war against us."

And: Obama "went to AIPAC and said about Israel 'we've got your back.' And then two days later he turned his back on them."

He charged Obama with "weakness in the face of hostility. Weakness over and over and over again. Ladies and gentlemen, we need a new commander in chief."

[As he did the night before at a think-tank speech, he barely mentioned his Republican opponents at all. Not a single harsh attack. I counted just two Romney references and just one to Gingrich. But I'll go out of order here and insrt one of his references, which actually came later in the speech but fits here. Speaking of the role of C-in-C, he said of Romney: "We're not electing a CEO of the country. We're electing a Commander in Chief. I've been there on these issues...." (meaning service on the Armed Services Committee, authorship of the act providing funding for Iraqi democracy activists and providing sanctions on Iran, etcetera).]

.....

Santorum finally left the topic of Iran by seguing into energy and the need for energy independence rather than Mideast oil. He accused the president of having "an ideology that puts humans not as stewards of the Earth but as servants of the Earth." With new energy development, though, there is "an opportunity to put people to work, and an opportunity to lower the cost of living for the people of America."

...

"This administration officially labeled carbon dioxide as a toxin. Tell that to a plant! Tell that to all of us who exhale CO2 with every breath. According to Obama, we're all polluters by breathing. Obama sees us all as points of pollution instead of points of potential as human beings."

"This is a president who is anti-energy."

Finally, he moved on to defense (as opposed to diplomacy). "We will nto cut the defnese budget during my administration. We will moderately grow it. We need greater investment in our technology and greater investment in our people."

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Lastly, after the speech, he met with Mobile Press-Register political editor George Talbot (a superb reporter) for five minutes, with me the only other one there. I don't want to steal too much of the material from George, so I'll link later to anything he writes from that interview (here was his report from last night's event, that appeared in this morning's paper). But just a few quick notes: 

1) Santorum ridiculed the Romney campaign's claim that it would take "an Act of God" for Santorum to overcome Romney's delegate lead now:"Three months ago, even more people would have said it would have taken an Act of God for me to be in the position I'm in as one of the two front runners. Well, here I am. [It wasn't an act of God but hard work]. ... We've been breaking all the political rules. We've stood for something much more fundamental than the Establishment is accustomed to, and it makes them nervous. We're tapping into something they don't understand."

2) Finally, finally taking a shot at Romney himself, Santorum said "Governor Romney's electionw would not be a clearcut election. Instead, it would be a muddled mess. ... Especially when it comes to health care, our big issue is freedom. It's our ace in the hole, but [because of the Romneycare "mandate"] he (Romney) turns that ace into a queen or a jack."

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Okay, that's it for now. Later today, I plan to attend a Gingrich rally also in Mobile, and report on that.

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