Rick Santorum Wants to Save Us From Barack Obama

Fear and loathing on the campaign trail

The road to the White House often begins in places just like this — the harshly lit back room of a barbecue joint in Columbia, South Carolina. Unfortunately for Rick Santorum, at the moment he’s having trouble convincing a particularly spirited South Carolina senior that he’s even old enough for the job.

“You look so young,” she drawls, leaning on her cane as she sidles past Santorum’s table. The former Senator (who, like all former Senators, still goes by “Senator”) looks up from his plate of fried chicken at Doc’s Barbeque & Southern Buffet and smiles politely.

“I’m not that young,” he says good-naturedly.

She sizes him up. “How old are you?”

“I’m 52,” the Senator says.

She eyes him suspiciously, then moves on and sits at a table next to his.

The woman in question — or, more accurately, doing the questioning — isn’t some random octogenarian. She’s the mother-in-law of Joe Wilson — that Joe Wilson, the South Carolina Congressman who infamously interrupted last year’s health-care address by bellowing “You lie!” at President Obama. Luckily for Santorum, if Joe’s mother-in-law is also a died-in-the-wool skeptic, she’s at least polite enough not to call him out in the middle of lunch. After all, this is the South.  

The Senator and the Mother-in-Law have come here today not in support of Joe Wilson (though he’s engaged in a tough reelection battle), but rather to help rally support for Joe’s 37-year-old stepson Alan, an Iraq war vet running for South Carolina attorney general. As relaxed and affable as a fraternity brother, Alan thanks the lunchtime crowd — about 50 fly-the-flag, backbone-of-America types, all white — for coming, gives a brief commercial for himself, then introduces today’s featured guest: the ex-Senator from Pennsylvania.

If you haven’t seen Rick Santorum in a while, let me just say this: He looks good. Really good. Lean. Tan. Hair slightly longer than he used to wear it, lessening the scrubbed-seminarian thing he always had going on. And if you’ve never seen Rick Santorum in the flesh, let me just say this: In person, he’s far softer and friendlier than he typically comes across on TV or in sound bites, much more like the next-door neighbor you enjoy chatting with about your kids or your lawn or the baseball playoffs.

At least until the subject turns to America, at which point Rick Santorum, well, goes off the reservation a bit, as they say. Standing at the front of the room, he says appropriately enthusiastic things about Alan Wilson, then smoothly segues into the apocalyptic message he has come here today to deliver, that he somehow feels he must deliver:

After nearly 235 years, the very idea of America is now, suddenly, at risk.

“I think ultimately this is the most important issue that has maybe ever faced this country,” Santorum tells the crowd when the subject of health-care reform comes up. “If Obamacare goes into effect, America as we know it — the America you grew up in, the America these young people here today aspire to live in — is going to go away. We will go from a government that is limited to a government that has the ability to do whatever it wants — make you buy anything, sell anything.

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  • James

    I didn’t subscribe to Philadelphia Magazine to get right wing propaganda. If I did, I would have subscribed to NewsMax and National Review.

  • John

    BigCheese…propaganda. This article reads like journalism – very rare these days.

  • Scott

    Philadelphia Magazine, when did you move so far right ? what a disgusting article from a disgusting individual

  • DEBORAH

    What is wrong with Phily Mag wrining a nice article about Rick Santorum!! Does the Left Wing Media have the right to bash any canadate simpley because they have a different political belief. What a re