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Santorum tones down social rhetoric at Cedar Rapids

CEDAR RAPIDS — For nearly an hour Tuesday evening, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum alternated between linebacker and cheerleader, doing his best to sack President Barack Obama while keeping the spectators fired up for the fourth quarter. While the speech was not completely free of some allusions to Christianity and morality, those hot button social issues on which Santorum has built his brand — abortion, homosexuality and same-sex marriage — were never spoken by name.

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/santorum_cr_1_350.jpgRick Santorum voiced his belief that Iowans are prepared to once again play their critical role in the nation's presidential selection process. (Photo: Lynda Waddington/The Iowa Independent)

“There are a lot of people today who pull out their Constitution and hold it high and say, ‘This is how America should function. These are our constitutional principles.’ And, they are right. That’s the how of America. It’s important. It’s the process. But it is the how, and not the why. The why is in that other document that is also usually in their Constitutional book — the Declaration of Independence,” Santorum told the roughly 80 people gathered at the Clarion hotel.

“America is a moral enterprise. People say, ‘Why do you talk about the moral issues, Senator? Why don’t you just talk about jobs and the economy?’ Because America is not just about jobs and the economy. America is a moral enterprise at its core.”

Philosophers and theologians, he said, had opined for centuries about how man was endowed by his creator with certain inalienable rights, but America was the first country to put such a statement “rooted in Judeo-Christian understanding of our relationship with god” into writing and practice. Although the founding documents don’t come right out and say so, he said, the object of America, the how in the Constitution, was to create a limited government whose sole purpose — “the one thing America is about” — is to keep citizens free.

“Our founders understood that … freedom is not to do what you want to do. Freedom is to do what you ought to do — to serve god, to be your brother’s keeper and to love and support your family,” the Pennsylvania Republican said. “That’s the ‘ought to.’ That’s freedom. That’s liberty. When you hear our founders talk about liberty, that’s what they mean.”

To define freedom as people being allowed to do whatever it is they want to do “to pursue their wants and passions,” he said, would result in anarchy. And, because America’s founders had the foresight and vision to create a nation built on such unprecedented principles, Santorum took particular exception to recent remarks made by Obama that the U.S. became a great nation when it enacted programs to provide for elderly and vulnerable citizens.

“So, it offends me. It upsets me when the President of the United States says that our country was not a great country until people like him, people who believe in government, say that they are going to do things for you,” Santorum said. “That doesn’t make us great. It makes us like every other country in the world where authoritarians believe that they can better provide for you than you can provide for yourself.”

On April 13, during an address on fiscal policy, Obama said:

… Part of this American belief that we’re all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security and dignity. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff may strike any one of us. “There but for the grace of God go I,” we say to ourselves. And so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee us health care and a measure of basic income after a lifetime of hard work; unemployment insurance, which protects us against unexpected job loss; and Medicaid, which provides care for millions of seniors in nursing homes, poor children, those with disabilities. We’re a better country because of these commitments. I’ll go further. We would not be a great country without those commitments. …

Many conservatives pointed out that all three programs highlighted by Obama were instituted in 1965, and have inferred that Obama was claiming the U.S. was not a great nation until that time.

Santorum also offered Obama some back-handed praise, saying that if it wasn’t for the President’s “radical agenda” citizens might have been content to sit like frogs in a slowly heating pot until they died. The policies being enacted by the Obama administration, he said, have drastically turned up the heat, causing many citizens to realize what was happening before it was too late.

“You know what’s at stake in America today? America is at stake in America — what we are all about, what generations of veterans have fought and died for, the ideals that made us different,” said Santorum.

Calling the upcoming 2012 election the most important since that of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, Santorum pleaded with local activists to do their due diligence in vetting presidential candidates. In addition to selecting a candidate that can win the general election, Republicans also need to be true to their conservative principles, and they need to apply their energy and focus to every federal seat on the upcoming ballot.

“You want conservatives to make big changes in Washington? Then you better get about sending us the horses that can get it done,” he said, noting that during the three times in the past 100 years when Democrats held the White House with a visionary president, controlled the U.S. House and had a super-majority in the U.S. Senate that significant change occurred (such as Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society).

“Has it ever happened that we had a conservative president, a majority of the House and a filibuster-proof U.S. Senate in Republican hands? Answer: never. … So, you want to see some big changes? [In] the U.S. Senate — I served there — if you don’t have 60 votes, you need Democrats to pass almost anything. If America wants to see a big change, it can’t just be electing a president. We have to elect United States senators across this country.”

Santorum visited Cedar Rapids as part of the Iowa GOP Chairman’s Speaker Series. On Monday, Santorum will again be in eastern Iowa when he keynotes an event at the University of Iowa for The Family Leader, a religious conservative organization led by Bob Vander Plaats.

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