Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

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

Ambassador Santorum?

December 5, 2006 |  4:32 pm

     Rick Santorum for U.S. representative to the U.N.? It isn’t just National Review Online that’s floating the possibility.

    To his fans, the soon-to-be-ex-senator from Pennsylvania is doubly qualified to succeed John Bolton, with or without confirmation by the incoming Democratic Senate. First, as he demonstrated not wisely but too well in his losing re-election campaign, Santorum is even more fervent than Bush opposing to Iran and “Islamic fascism.” Then there is the potential Third World appeal of the "compassionate conservative" who was canonized during the campaign by New York Times columnist David Brooks.


There is a precedent for a senator to be repudiated by the voters and then clasped to the bosom of the executive branch. Remember John Ashcroft, who was named attorney general by Bush after being losing his Missouri Senate seat in 2000 to the deceased Mel Carnahan? (Santorum at least was beaten by a live Democrat.)


   One nightmare scenario for liberals: Octogenarian Justice John Paul Stevens finally tires of the Supreme Court, Bush plays the Hispanic card (it worked once) and nominates Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to succeed Stevens, forcing the Democratic-controlled Senate either to confirm the first Hispanic justice or re-fight Guantanamo and the war on terror. Then Santorum is appointed to succeed Gonzales at Justice.


    But Santorum, a visitor to Terri Schiavo’s hospice and a featured attraction at “Justice Sunday,” might be too radioactive a pick for attorney general. A U.N. posting, by contrast, would allow him to rant for export, out-Boltoning Bolton on Iran, while vindicating David Brooks’ hagiography with conspicuous outreach to African victims of AIDS and genocide.


   Presumably this father of six would earn more on the faith-and-values lecture circuit than he would as an attorney general or ambassador. But preaching to the Justice Sunday choir wouldn’t do much to efface Santorum’s image as a conservative culture warrior. By contrast, lecturing tyrants about democracy and Darfur – subjects not likely to lead to a discussion of “man on dog” sex -- could help Santorum reinvent himself.

Comments ()