Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

« Previous Post | Opinion L.A. Home | Next Post »

Santorum may have lost debate, but he won point about politics

Santorum in Mesa
The pundits have spoken: Rick Santorum lost Wednesday's debate. But the aspect of his performance cited by his detractors -- his defense of insider-ish political virtues like party loyalty and horse-trading -- made him seem more presidential to me.

The rap against Santorum has been that he's an unguided missile. (Well, that's one rap; another is that he's a Satan-obsessed culture warrior.) But successful politicians, including successful presidents, are not lone rangers. They must cooperate, and compromise, with other politicians to achieve their ends, just as they must be willing -- as President Lyndon B. Johnson was in twisting arms in Congress on civil rights -- to press other politicians to subordinate their own views as part of a larger alliance.

Consider Santorum's admission at the debate that he voted for George W. Bush's signature No Child Left Behind initiative even though he had doubts about it. "I have to admit, I voted for that," Santorum said. "It was against the principles I believed in, but, you know, when you're part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake." When the audience booed, Santorum pleaded: "You know, politics is a team sport, folks."  And he's right.

Santorum also took heat from Mitt Romney for having endorsed his fellow Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter for reelection over conservative Pat Toomey. Santorum's explanation, as Romney accurately described it, was "tortuous": The conservative Santorum endorsed the moderate Specter in exchange for assurances from Specter that, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he would support Bush's Supreme Court nominees.

Was the approval of John Roberts and Sam Alito an acceptable trade-off from a conservative perspective for Specter's support of Obama's health care legislation? Perhaps not, but the trading itself is what politicians (including presidents) do. If Romney is elected president he'll be doing some trading, too, if he hopes to be successful.

RELATED:

GOP debate: A blow to Santorum's appeal

How about Santorum vs. Obama, winner take all?

Will Arizona pit Santorum against Romney, Gingrich or Satan?

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS: Presidential Election 2012

 -- Michael McGough

Credit: Don Emmert / AFP/Getty Images

 

Comments () | Archives (0)

The comments to this entry are closed.


Connect

Advertisement

In Case You Missed It...

Video


Categories


Recent Posts
Reading Supreme Court tea leaves on 'Obamacare' |  March 27, 2012, 5:47 pm »
Candidates go PG-13 on the press |  March 27, 2012, 5:45 am »
Santorum's faulty premise on healthcare reform |  March 26, 2012, 5:20 pm »

Archives
 


About the Bloggers
The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.



In Case You Missed It...