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February 03, 2012

Fairness, Emotion, and the Republican Brand

In light of the omnipresent criticism of the GOP field, the Blog Princess has been noodling over what message she wishes the eventual nominee (whoever he might be) should focus on to unite voters with disparate backgrounds, political leanings, and interests and win the White House.

A post over at Grim's place helped this process along considerably. In it, he quotes several passages from Aristotle on rhetoric:

Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself.

...There are, then, these three means of effecting persuasion. The man who is to be in command of them must, it is clear, be able:

(1) to reason logically,
(2) to understand human character and goodness in their various forms, and
(3) to understand the emotions-that is, to name them and describe them, to know their causes and the way in which they are excited.

Grim's post bothered me a bit. I disagree with his assessment of the candidates, and yet the way he framed the discussion helped clear up something that has puzzled me:

... in our current Presidential contest, we have one man who is apparently good by general standards, which is to say Rick Santorum, the lowest-polling figure in the race; one man who is apparently not good, but who is a highly effective speaker, which is to say Newt Gingrich; one man who may or may not be good, but is a terrible speaker, which is to say Mitt Romney; and one man who is said by some to be good and others to be wicked, and by some to be a great speaker and by others to be a terrible one, but who is currently the actual victor of the last Presidential contest.

Grim's assessment here gets to the heart of what it means to be persuasive. Throughout the primary, I've been stunned at how people with roughly the same values can look at the same candidates and perceive diametrically opposite things about them. A case in point: Grim instinctively trusts Rick Santorum. Santorum has persuaded him, and yet Santorum's inability to build broad support even during the primaries (where he doesn't have to win over independents or moderates) suggests he is not broadly persuasive. Grim deems Santorum to be "a man who is apparently good by general standards". If we're talking about his personal life, the same is true of Mitt Romney, a man Grim deems to be "a man who may or may not be good". If we're talking about political integrity, there is ample reason to question whether Santorum is, in fact, good by general standards... and yet, Grim trusts him. This is important, I think.

Newt Gingrich is widely considered to be an effective and persuasive speaker. I don't argue that he is not verbally adept, but I find Gingrich to be the least persuasive of the Romney/Santorum/Gingrich trio (yes, I'm ignoring Ron Paul), even though I agree with many of Gingrich's stated positions on the issues. I can't get past the towering ego, the bombast, the conspicuous lack of self control and advance planning. I don't trust what he says because I wouldn't trust Gingrich farther than I could throw him. Because I don't trust him on a gut level, Gingrich's undoubted verbal facility actually works against him where I'm concerned.

And then there's Romney. Grim instinctively distrusts him. I instinctively trust him, but agree that he is anything but a natural politician. In my estimation, his too visible discomfort with the transparent asshattery of campaigning redounds to his credit. I don't trust people who enjoy campaigning and the last thing I want is a President who excels at playing upon the emotions of the electorate. Campaigns force candidates to say extremely stupid things the electorate wants to hear. Having the good sense to appear slightly ashamed and/or impatient with this is, in my mind, a good thing.

What explains Grim's and my conflicting impressions of the candidates? More and more, I believe it comes down to emotion. We choose with our gut and then, hopefully, rationalize the decision after the fact. I say hopefully because this rationalization process can temper our gut reaction or solidify it depending on the degree to which we're able to avoid the tendency to pay attention to only those facts that confirm a decision already made.

I'll bet you're wondering when I'll get around to fairness. Be patient - I'll weave it in momentarily.

Update: I will not, after all, be posting the second half of this post. I apologize to you all.

Posted by Cassandra at February 3, 2012 08:26 AM

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Comments

I'm not sure how much instincts are involved here. I don't think I've said that I instinctively trust Santorum. I did say (in a post about his sick daughter) that I thought he was "a reasonably good man, as politicians go." That's a low bar, though.

I did lay out a non-instinctive sense in which we could say we 'trust' a politician. We talked about trust and politicians at some length here; scroll to "In what sense does anyone "trust" a politician?" In general we don't trust them, and ought not to trust them; but there are two senses in which we might say we 'trust' a politician without sounding foolish.

Santorum does appear to say what he thinks, which is sense 1. And he has clear principles from which he appears to reason to conclusions, which is sense 2 -- he appears to be largely informed by his Catholic faith, which offers an intellectually well-considered theology with solid apparatus for practical decision making.

Thus, I can (sense 1) 'trust' what he says to be representative of what he thinks and will probably do; and I can (sense 2) 'trust' that I understand how he will manage unexpected problems that may arise, because I know what the principles are underlying his reason.

Both of those senses are in order with Santorum, and out of order with Romney. I can't be sure he's speaking his true mind, given the ample evidence against the proposition; and since I don't know what his true principles are, I can't guess what he would do in an unexpected situation. I thus don't think it wise to pass power to him: even if we disagree with President Obama, at least we now know what to expect from him. (The 'stick with the devil you know' principle, again.)

Posted by: Grim at February 3, 2012 09:57 AM

Your definition of a reasonably good man seems to gloss over quite a few actions (as opposed to words) that indicate quite the opposite, Grim.

Your entire argument here rests on the pre-eminent emphasis you place on words over deeds.

The idea that what Santorum says on the campaign trail and whether or not he believes it is an accurate predictor of how he will act is essentially an argument that you trust him based on what he says.

I place significantly less trust in words, especially where politicians are concerned :p

Posted by: Cassandra at February 3, 2012 10:50 AM

Here's a case in point.

Candidate Bush said - repeatedly - that he opposed foreign wars, aggressive interventionism, and nation building exercises.

I have no doubt that he believed those words when he said them. So where his words an accurate guide to his decisions in office?

Posted by: Cassandra at February 3, 2012 10:52 AM

It's not 'words over deeds,' but a connection of words with deeds. The military way of saying this -- which I've always hated -- is "Walking the talk."

I agree that GWB's actions diverged from his rhetoric on the point of foreign wars, although the provocation was quite severe. Still, lest we forget, he managed to handle Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan without intervention, obtaining the surrender of the nuclear program from one, more aggressive counterterrorism and counter-funding from the other, and far more effective cooperative relationships than the current administration has managed with the third. He managed to use military (and some law enforcement) relationships across Asia to disrupt Al Qaeda's sister network, Jemaah Islamiyah, without any intervention at all. He also managed existing Iran policy, inherited from the Clinton administration, avoiding intervention so as to spur domestic unrest instead of unifying the Iranian people behind the flag. If the Obama administration had been prepared to follow up on the groundwork laid by the previous two administrations when the Green moment came... but whether or not they were, GWB was quite disciplined about adhering to his pledge in terms of Iran. The US military was barely allowed to even mention the Iranian munitions being fielded against us in Iraq.

Given the obligation put on him by the 9/11 attacks, I think it's fair to say that he wasn't nearly as 'cowboy' as he gets credit for having been.

In domestic matters, GWB took fire from the right for actually doing what he said he would do on the 'compassionate conservatism' front. He was wrong about that, but if anyone thought he was just saying stuff to get elected the fault was theirs and not his. He did just what he said he would do. There's some value to that, even if you don't agree with his policy (as I often did not, especially on Medicare expansion).

So, I'd say that absent a massive provocation, he was generally a man of his word. Even in foreign policy, he far more often than is recognized succeeded in making substantial progress without direct conflict. The twin wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a major exception to a general rule: but there was a general rule!

Posted by: Grim at February 3, 2012 11:41 AM

Throughout the primary, I've been stunned at how people with roughly the same values can look at the same candidates and perceive diametrically opposite things about them.

That's easy - all the candidates are, at best, marginal. I took one of those "which candidate is most like you" surveys you pointed to earlier, and while Romney/Gingrich/Santorum all were very close in points, all matched less than 50% of my values. I could hold my nose and vote for any of the three against Obama, but that's an exceedingly low bar. If I focus on the disagreements I have with any of their positions,I could easily vote against any of them as well. It all depends on whether you see the glass of poison as being half full or half empty.

Posted by: Pogue at February 3, 2012 11:46 AM

I *had* a long comment written up and was checking formatting when I saw that Grim had beaten me to most everything I had written. It's hell trying to put together coherent sentences when the VES is at home sick.
0>:~}

Posted by: DL Sly at February 3, 2012 12:02 PM

Grim:

How have you connected Santorum's words with his deeds? You assert you have without explaining how you've done that.

Your definition of "deeds" appears to be, in fact, "words", as in "he says what he thinks", therefore that is what he'll do once elected.

Seems a bit circular to me :p

Posted by: Cassandra at February 3, 2012 12:14 PM

On GWB, you are (with respect) missing the point.

If you take sincere profession of a belief as an accurate guide to what a candidate will do once in office, Bush-the-candidate's sincere professions of his belief that America should not have an interventionist foreign policy absolutely did NOT provide an accurate picture of the decisions he would make once in office.

That, in my view, doesn't make him a liar. It makes him a good executive. Fluffy professions of belief wrt situations you have yet to encounter (the details of which almost always matter) are all fine and well but in the real world good leaders adjust to circumstances. And that's what he did.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 3, 2012 12:35 PM

Oh, and by the way, it's not insignificant that we were committed to two wars. So it's not as though military intervention was on the table wrt any other country.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 3, 2012 12:37 PM

Cass,

There are two senses -- says what he thinks is sense one. Sense two is having an understanding of his principles, so we can have a good idea of what he will do. This is actually unrelated to what he says.

If it seems circular to you, it may be because we have one example in which they both line up one way, and a second example in which they both line up the other way. What might be helpful is an example in which they diverge. President Obama often articulates principles he doesn't actually hold, such as a desire for bipartisan solutions and compromise across the aisle (only, as it turns out, as long as 'compromise' means that the other side gives in). So, in sense one, you can't trust him: what he says isn't relevant to what he will do.

In sense two, though, we can trust him -- we can trust that he won't fulfill his duty to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, for example. It's not because he says he will or won't; allegedly, he is personally opposed to gay marriage (according to his words). But we know from observation what his real principles are, and so we know what to expect from him.

As for Santorum, the piece you linked to is straight out of someone's oppo book -- we've discussed oppo books in the past. This was fed to the press on the night of his Iowa victory, by some campaign that had plenty of money to build contingency oppo pieces on down-ticket candidates. Still, I don't mind to take it seriously, provided you're willing to take oppo research against Romney seriously as well.

The first complaint is that he accepted a favor from a donor. There is a question as to whether this violated Senate rules. It seems odd to say that you can accept free money from a donor, but not an otherwise-legal loan. The principle at stake is that donations benefit your campaign, but a generous loan benefits you; I get that. But donations also benefit you, in the sense that you can't win the office you want without them.

Now, according to the article, the issue turns on whether Santorum could have qualified for the loan given the bank's internal policies. It's not clear that Santorum knew that he didn't qualify according to the bank's usual policies: I use a much less prestigious bank, but they don't usually make clear their exact lending standards to me, though I am sure they are spelled out quite precisely in their internal literature.

However, he could have qualified if he had a mere $250,000 in liquid assets. For a corrupt Senator, increasing his net worth by that much is the work of an afternoon, because the Senate is not bound by insider trading laws. They can make investments in the morning, and then pass a law to make those investments boom in the afternoon. Santorum's continued poverty demonstrates that he has not done this.

The other complaint is that there may have been some rule-crossing in terms of how a charity he founded was routed earmark money. However, having read the article, I'm really not sure what the complaint actually is. Everyone seems clear that Santorum did not personally benefit from the project, that it brought thousands of jobs to the community, and that it produced the intended results (impressive in itself for a Congressional earmark). It sounds like a possible violation of some technical rule, but it's not clear to me just what the technical rule actually was.

If you're asking about Santorum generally rather than about the specific article you link, his votes on the issues he seems to care most about line up with his rhetoric about them. He is another 'compassionate conservative,' and has often voted in ways that benefitted blue collar workers in his state. Agree or not, he seems to do what he says. His rhetoric on pro-life and social issues is quite solid, but so are his scores from various interest groups: whereas he has quite 'moderate' scores on compassionate conservative issues, on social issues he's usually either a 0% or a 100% depending on the agenda of the lobby.

Posted by: Grim at February 3, 2012 12:43 PM

My intellect told me that Jon Huntsman was the most intriguing character in the race. Fortunately, my gut is all that's required to chose among the remaining candidates. That, and strong drink.

Posted by: spd rdr - voting intransitive at February 3, 2012 01:04 PM

Grim:

On the link you provided wrt abortion, I have read it 3 times and I'll be damned if I understand the intricacies. I am far from a stupid person.

I get that to you (and many others) issues are always black and white. They are not to me, especially when we're talking conflicts between existing and new laws and the nuances thereof.

wrt the to the link I provided, you apparently thought enough of "oppo books" that you went out of your way to link to one on Romney, describing it as "useful". The link I provided went to ABC, not an oppo book. You can't discredit an assertion by inaccurately characterizing the source, especially if you have in the past found the sources you now wish to discredit, "useful" (leaving aside the fact that my source was not as you describe it).

Nor can you accurately call being able to buy a $650000 *SECOND HOME* "continued poverty" under any definition of poverty that is reasonable. Especially when Senate rules specifically forbid you from obtaining loans on terms NOT AVAILABLE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC:

His ability to secure the five-year loan led Sloan to file a complaint under a Senate ethics rule that specifically prohibits members from accepting a loan on terms not available to members of the general public.

A five year loan for $500000? What person living in "continued poverty" would have any reasonable expectation of being able to pay off such a loan? What continually poor person would take out such a loan in the first place.... for a second home!

You can imply that Santorum had no duty to make sure he was following Senate rules. You may even believe that, though for the life of me I don't see how or why. But that don't make it so. And if you can't understand the reasoning behind such rules... well, I don't even know what to say to that.

During the same period, Santorum also misled the state of PA about his residency (he and his family were residing in VA in that new house and his PA home was rented out), but his kids were enrolled in a PA program for state residents.

Now this is something I'm intimately familiar with because every time we moved, I had to find out how my residency was determined in each state we lived in and how that affected what I could and could not do under that state's laws. And I moved a hell of a lot more often than Rick Santorum, so I'm not inclined to sympathize with the notion that he was just too busy.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 3, 2012 01:47 PM

It's clearly an oppo piece, Cass, leaked to a useful reporter. The form is common enough that it is easy to recognize, and it's hardly mischaracterizing it to say so.

Even if it were independent research, though, it's not impressive. There's an allegation that Santorum may have violated a Senate rule; but there's no demonstration that he had any capacity to know he was violating the rule (since the bank's internal loaning standards may be, indeed, internal to the bank -- as they usually are). There's also no suggestion that he did in fact know he was violating the rule.

Santorum's poverty is relative, of course; he's clearly substantially richer than me, but poorer than is usual for a Senator (let alone a corrupt one). He had to abandon Flordia in part because he was out of money there, and doesn't have a substantial personal fortune to rely upon (as did the Kerry campaign, for example). My point is, though, that if the real problem is that he wasn't rich enough to qualify for the loan, that's a problem he could have easily solved via insider trading -- and it wouldn't have been a violation of Senate rules, or even the law.

It's perfectly legal to enrich yourself this way in the Senate, and he hasn't done it. So, in evaluating the ethics case against him, it's not very likely that he was acting out of a desire to use his office to enrich himself personally. It's far more likely he was acting in ignorance of the bank's specific lending standards, which were probably not available to him.

Now, if it can be proven that he did know precisely what the standards were, and that the bank was offering him special treatment, OK: then he's guilty of being incompetent as well as corrupt, since he could have enriched himself far more in a perfectly legal fashion. That may be possible, but the article doesn't offer any suggestion of it.

As for the residency issue, this is the first I've heard of it. "Mr. Santorum has argued that he lives in Penn Hills because he owns a house, pays real estate taxes and is registered to vote there."

That's good enough for residency under Georgia law; if it's not in PA, OK, but it commonly would be. I take on board your observation that you have been especially careful to ensure compliance with different rules as you have moved from place to place, but you're very rule-oriented (and very conscientious as well). I must confess to finding it hard to get excited about ensuring that I am compliang with every rule someone has thought up for me. If he has regularly broken rules because he hasn't paid attention to the issue of whether he was really following the rules, well, that's not something I can easily criticize.

Posted by: Grim at February 3, 2012 02:13 PM

Grim:

I am in serious danger of completely losing my temper on this one so I bow out and give up.

Abandoning Fla has NOTHING to do with Santorum's personal finances and EVERYTHING to do with his ability to plan ahead, run a campaign, and raise money... skills which one might think central to being able to lead the world's largest superpower.

I get it: rules and laws don't matter. It's laughable to care about them. Even when we're talking about hiring someone to... umm... enforce federal laws.

If it were discovered that I had cost my fellow taxpayers well over 60K that I was not legally entitled to, I would feel honor bound to make restitution.

Your mileage obviously varies. When I learned that I had inadvertently underpaid California non-resident income tax, I didn't tell the state to "suck it" because after all, who has the time to figure out arcane tax laws? And really, who cares?

No, I paid up. Promptly. Because it was the right thing to do, not because I had to. I guess that makes me stupid.

I obviously need to take time off. When I lack the elementary ability to explain basic issues of right and wrong, clearly I am pushing a rock uphill.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 3, 2012 02:25 PM

A couple of small points:

I don't mind to take [Santorum oppo research] seriously, provided you're willing to take oppo research against Romney seriously as well.

Based on what logic, exactly? You seem to be assuming facts not in evidence, including that the quality of research in the two oppos was substantially the same. There's no reason to conclude this.

specifically prohibits members from accepting a loan on terms not available to members of the general public.

and

...whether Santorum could have qualified for the loan given the bank's internal policies. It's not clear that Santorum knew that he didn't qualify according to the bank's usual policies....

and

A five year loan for $500000....

Santorum knew the Senate rule cited above. Whether he knew the specifics of the bank's internal lending policies or not, his own red flags should have gone up over the loan's terms: by what stretch of his imagination did he conclude that such a loan would be available to a "general public" person? (According to my spreadsheet, and assuming a 5% rate on that loan, that's a shade over $9500/mo for the payments.) I'm not poor, but I'd have a hard time floating that kind of loan, and I couldn't pay it. I'm just a poor, dumb Texan who's earned my own way. (Of course, my own lack of poverty may be related to the fact that I never would have attempted such a loan in the first place.) If Santorum wasn't bothered about the applicability of the Senate's rule to this loan, then either his ethics aren't all they're cracked up to be, or your remark about his competence might actually be accurate.

I must confess to finding it hard to get excited about ensuring that I am compliang with every rule....

This is a non sequitor. The issue here isn't whether Santorum--or you--crossed every i and dotted every t. There are actually a lot of valid reasons for disregarding this or that rule or constellation of them. It's why the rule was disregarded that matters. You question, on the basis of there being more efficient methods for personal gain than this particular type of violation, whether he disregarded this one for personal gain. That's certainly valid, but there are lots of other reasons for his disregarding it. One is that he just screwed up, as folks do. One that's more troublesome is that he didn't trouble himself to think about what was going on. That's certainly consistent with his not questioning the general availability of this $500k, 5-year loan to him.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at February 3, 2012 03:55 PM

Cass,

I don't see it as a basic issue of right and wrong, but I figured you would. I can't think of a better way of phrasing it, though, than to say that following external rules with the kind of tremendous care and conscientiousness that you do is not a necessary condition for virtue in my account. That's not to say that I don't find it praiseworthy in you, as a part of a general character that you have which I very much admire; but there are other people I admire who don't have that quality at all.

For one thing, rules and justice often don't line up. In the case of the PA situation, the argument in the article is that Santorum should pony up $72,000 in a district to pay them back for educating his kids. Maybe that's a just result in some sense, but justice is usually thought to have to do with proportionality. If you pay taxes in a school district, you're paying your fair share of the cost of the schools in that district, and you can send your kids. The claim here is that, in order to send his kids to that school, he should have paid taxes in that district AND taxes in another district PLUS $72,000.

OK, maybe that's "fair" in the sense that the rules are written that way; but it's not obviously fair otherwise. It doesn't sound like a 'basic issue of right and wrong' to pay your freight, and then have to pay again because you were also paying your freight somewhere else.

What this does illustrate, though, is that while I don't judge a man by his compliance with other people's rules, I do judge him by his own. First, I need to know what his rules are; and second, I need to know that he lives by them. A president can't be held to account for external rules anyway; the impeachment process is politically unavailable in a country this divided, and it's the only means available.

It's far more important to determine that a prospective president has internal principles we agree with, and that he is bound by his own internal law. The external law won't be able to touch him, whoever he is, once he is elected.

Mr. Hines:

By "take it seriously" I mean answer the charges it raises as if they were serious charges. That doesn't require the quality of the research to be the same; it may simply mean that I have more or less work to do in dealing with it. However, it stands in contrast to dismissing (say) the Romney oppo book because it is an oppo book.

As for your questions about the loan, the general pattern here seems to be an inattention to details about the rules; and I don't pay very close attention myself. I think I'm still a reasonably ethical person, on my own terms; although, in another sense, I'm also a very great sinner on other terms. Those things often coincide, I think.

Posted by: Grim at February 3, 2012 05:25 PM

...the general pattern here seems to be an inattention to details about the rules; and I don't pay very close attention myself....

On the first, that's part of what bothers me about Santorum--a general pattern of not paying attention to the rules (and the only "pattern" I see is the Senate rule which surely he knew and saw no problem with his loan under that rule. Regarding the rules of residency and associated obligations, based on my inadequate data, I think it could be argued that he honored the spirit of the residency rules in the various jurisdictions and simply ran afoul--if he did at all--of subtle differences and ill-founded assumptions). Why not? Because, wrt the Senate rule, one time he screwed up? Or because--which would give a different perspective on the residency question, and add it to the pattern--he couldn't be troubled to think about implications? Your characterization is a generous one (and not invalid for that), but the question ought to be resolved better.

As to your not paying close attention, you're not running for high office. We hold--or ought to hold--those we propose to place in leadership positions to far higher standards.

On the charges contained in opposing...oppos, yes they should get equal seriousness (and so I get your point). But as with any charges, that seriousness must be driven by quality substantiation. Otherwise, it's just Axelrod garbage.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at February 3, 2012 05:44 PM

You say "he surely knew" the rule, but I think you mean "he should have known" the rule. In addition to the Senate's rule book, Senators should also read the legislation they vote on before they cast a vote; indeed, if they were going to read only one of the two, I'd rather it was the latter. Yet we know how that plays out, don't we?

Posted by: Grim at February 3, 2012 05:47 PM

Yes, "should have known" is the more correct, specific phrasing.

That Senators choose not to know their rules, and that Senators choose not to read the legislation on which they're voting, though, merely confirms their unfitness to sit in those chairs.

For all that, it's necessary to elect the most conservative candidate who's electable. Buckley had that part right.

If that one's ethics prove unsatisfactory to the point it interferes with the mission he was given with his election, we can fire him at the next round. That's better than continuing a shyster in office whom we know is failing in his mission.

As to the devil we know being better, given the alternative, I'll give Satan a serious audition before I'll vote for Obama.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at February 3, 2012 07:17 PM

Well, that's why we're talking about "trust" with regard to politicians as opposed to with real men.

Watch out for those devils in your rearview mirror. Some of them know the game better than others do. Before you go making deals with them, make sure you know what their rules are as well as they do: because even devils have internal rules, though they won't always tell them to you before it's too late.

Now that's what bothers me about this whole thing.

Posted by: Grim at February 3, 2012 11:28 PM

Yet some battles must be fought, even if on the adversary's (to be generous) terms, initially.

There is never a convenient place to fight a war when
another man starts it[.]
--Admiral Arleigh Burke.

This is one that must be fought. I stand by my earlier statements: For all that, it's necessary to elect the most conservative candidate who's electable. Buckley had that part right. If that one's ethics prove unsatisfactory to the point it interferes with the mission he was given with his election, we can fire him.

Usw

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at February 4, 2012 10:33 AM

I'm not backing down on this one. When you're talking about evaluating the fitness of the highest level person in charge of administering the laws of the United States, you don't get to be careless, or to decide that laws are silly things which don't apply to you, or choose not to know what the laws are.

As for Senator Santorum's "internal rules", we need only look to his behavior. On the tuition issue, either he thinks the laws of the state he gets paid to represent are trivial details he should not have to be bothered with or he intentionally took advantage of a taxpayer funded benefit he was not entitled to.

I owned a home in NC for 14 years and paid property taxes on it, but didn't live there b/c my husband was serving his country. My husband was a FLA resident. Neither of us would try to register our kids for public school in NC or FLA because to do so, we would have to lie about where we actually lived.

Santorum is a trained lawyer who practiced law in PA prior to running for office. The notion that he couldn't find PA residency requirements for public schools is ludicrous. The idea that a trained lawyer wouldn't know the distinction between residency and domicile is likewise laughable. This isn't Joe Sixpack - it's a guy who passed the PA bar exam and studied law for what - 3 years?

Despite having a law degree AND an MBA (and to get a law degree you have to take classes on ethics and meet a higher standard than the general public wrt your behavior), Mr. Santorum also saw nothing suspicious about being offered a 5 year mortgage for half a million dollars on a salary of about 160K... from a bank that doesn't do business with the general public and "just happened" to be a big campaign donor.

Yeah. Banks do things like that all the time and expect nothing in return.

That's about how much the spousal unit and I made back then. We had only 2 kids, both grown and on their own (as opposed to Santorum's large family), so that salary stretched a good bit farther.

Had anyone offered us a half a million dollar mortgage for a term of only 5 years for a SECOND home, I would have smelled the world's biggest rat. This isn't rocket science, especially for a lawyer with an MBA. I didn't even get my bachelors until I was nearly 40 and I would have known better at 23 (when we bought our first house and I was a lowly HS graduate).

And then there's the matter of his political support for tort reform and limiting malpractice awards... for other folks, that is.

You are entitled to set the bar as low as you wish when deciding whom you will support for President. But it's way too low for me.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 4, 2012 11:32 AM

"I'm not backing down on this one."

Why does that not surprise me? Dodging thrown shoes, etc., I will say I am not really married to the morality of a competent leader. I would not seek an amoral leader, but I am willing to forgive much for one who can deliver. There is a point where the ends justify the means.

Posted by: Mark at February 4, 2012 01:12 PM

I would be hugely disappointed if you backed down, Cass. I have a theory about human society which holds that there are certain duties that we have to fulfill; but not all of us are supposed to fill the same duties, but rather it is often important to humanity that there be a tension between advocates of different positions. We need passionate conservatives who defend the wisdom of our ancestors, and we need passionate advocates for trying out what's new. If everyone held to some middle way, we would get a disaster: it's important that new ideas be stress-tested, because that only the best of them survive.

We need passionate defenders of Following the Rules, or of The Rule of Law. You've built a character that has this aspect of human nature at its core, and I admire you for it. We need you, and people like you, to fight for that vision.

However, we also need other kinds of people. Our Special Forces do tremendous work, but their institutional and individual character is often entirely disdainful of rules and general standards. I expect that aspect of the Green Berets doesn't garner your admiration. Nevertheless, I think it's a necessary character for the kind of work they do. A studied disdain for the rules of others is coupled with a genuine internal discipline for one's own standards. It's only that kind of character that is flexible enough to carry out unconventional operations, but disciplined enough to keep himself and his unit safe at the same time.

A disdain for the rules stress tests the rules in much the same way that liberal ideas test conservative ones (and vice versa). But, too, we're talking about a position in which there really is (as Al Gore said) "no controlling legal authority." There's no enforcement capacity; removing a President by impeachment requires a supermajority vote in the Senate, and the President otherwise enjoys a broad immunity and has the power to pardon himself.

You should continue to be vigorously opposed to all this. It's important. We need passionate advocates to maintain this tension. I'm not the least bit interested in persuading you otherwise; I want you to be exactly who you are. We need you.

I just think we need people of the other kind as well. First, because there are some jobs only a person of that kind can do; and second, because we need advocates of both positions to provide the tension that is the health of society.

Posted by: Grim at February 4, 2012 01:25 PM

Somewhat OT, but it does bear on the matter at hand, as it concerns some of our sources of "information."

And then there's the matter of his political support for tort reform and limiting malpractice awards for other folks, that is.

This is a typically distorting effort by a member of the NLMSM, The WaPo.

...Santorum testified in support of his wife when she filed a medical malpractice suit in 1999 that sought $500,000, twice the cap in his 1994 legislative proposal. Interestingly, Ms Loennig chose not to provide a link to Santorum's "proposal" so that we can check the specifics of it and the accuracy of her claim. I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of Santorum's explanation, carried in the succeeding paragraph.

...the lawsuit did not seek a specific figure for pain and suffering.... The judge in the case...made clear that the majority of the $350,000 the jury awarded the family was largely for unspecific losses and pain and suffering, an amount he concluded was “excessive.” Again, Ms Loennig omits to offer a link, so we cannot know the accuracy of her summary of the judge's remarks, the reasoning he used in arriving at the alleged conclusion, the jury's breakout of the award between compensatory and punitive and, if any, within compensatory between cost reimbursement and "pain and suffering." We're just supposed to trust her. And/or to trust her accuracy this time.

The defense attorney's protestations of his client's innocence are wholly irrelevant to Ms Loennig's case, and are brought in solely to draw sympathy to her case, without benefit of fact or logic. So it is, also, with the irrelevant allegations concerning the legitimacy of the "pain and suffering" aspect in any amount.

As the case was pending, Rick Santorum told reporters that he thought the $250,000 cap on malpractice awards in his 1994 legislative proposal might be too low, given the injury his wife had suffered. We've addressed elsewhere the legitimacy of a person evolving his position, and the Left's finding anything other than immutability being fundamentally dishonest.

Finally, I find no contradiction between asking for what can be obtained under existing law, even while advocating for a lower limit in a change to that law. Just as I find no contradiction between advocating for a cessation to ear marks while advocating for an earmark that is entirely legal under existing law. If the money will do one's constituents good, and it's legally available, the politician is doing his constituents a disservice to leave that money on the table. If the money will do one's family good, and it's legally available, the person (who happens to be a politician/lawyer) is doing his family a disservice to leave that money on the table.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at February 4, 2012 03:45 PM

As the case was pending, Rick Santorum told reporters that he thought the $250,000 cap on malpractice awards in his 1994 legislative proposal might be too low, given the injury his wife had suffered.

And I might buy off on this, Eric.... if it weren't for several things:

1. She sued for $500K.

2. Her actual economic losses were under $20K. Let's do the math here:

500/20 = 25

So Mrs. Santorum sued for 25 times her actual losses. And Mr. Santorum's testimony (contra his public statements) went directly to establish pain and suffering.

And pain and suffering awards are precisely the kind of award he was trying to cap.

Now let's get to the pain and suffering part. While I have no doubt she experienced pain and suffered, the judge noted that her surgeon testified that she reported feeling immediate relief and moreover, she sought NO medical care since her surgery. Also, (again, contra Santorum's public statements) she has been with him on the campaign trail throughout, even though campaigning was one of the very things Santorum testified his wife should be compensated for no longer being able to do.

Like you, I don't think it's unforgivable to take advantage of something that is legal. But it IS hypocritical to say you think pain and suffering awards should be limited and then have your wife sue for TWICE that amount for "non-economic losses" (i.e., pain and suffering). For him to pretend that's not what this award was for is dishonest.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 5, 2012 08:56 AM

Roll Call, a newspaper that covers Capitol Hill, reported that Santorum testified Monday that his wife might not be able to actively campaign for his re-election next year because of her pain.

and

[from the cited WaPo article] she “does not have the confidence” to help him with public events on his campaigns.

I don't see how these public statements contradict anything he's said about his wife's campaign-ability. Furthermore, the probability assessment was made on the basis of the chiropractor's treatment. That the surgery seems--initially--to have corrected the problem in large part (herniated disk corrections often result in fused vertebrae, which reduces the back's mobility) isn't particularly related to the need for the surgery and so the evident malpractice. Or the pain and suffering that was associated with the malpractice's outcome.

Finally found the proposed bill, HR 3918. Section 1105 says (scroll down to the section) The total amount of noneconomic damages that may be awarded to a claimant and the members of the claimant's family for losses resulting from the injury which is the subject of a medical malpractice liability action may not exceed $250,000, regardless of the number of parties against whom the action is brought or the number of actions brought with respect to such injury. This part was accurately reported.

I did find Ms Santorum's pleading. She asked for $500k in "judgment against the defendants" for "severe and permanent neurologic injuries and other damage; incurred and will continue to incur great pain, suffering...; loss of earning capacity; and will continue to suffer great expense for medical care."

No amount for "pain and suffering" in particular. Just a total, lumped in, sum for it all. She reported immediate relief after the corrective surgery; her suit was three years later. Back injuries are permanent, though; the medical expenses, etc (excluding from "etc" the pain and suffering) can be, and can begin to accrue some time after the apparent correction. I've seen no evidence that her earning capacity has been restored to the status quo ante--or that it has not.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the Judge Vieregg's opinion overturning the award and so his rationale for assigning so much of the award to "pain and suffering" and away from the future medical expenses and earning power.

It is plain, though, on actually reading the pleading, that Ms Santorum was asking for the half-mil in toto, not for pain and suffering in particular.

And the whole discussion elides the fact that it was Mrs Santorum who brought the suit, not Senator Santorum. Given his wife's status and condition as an adult human being, the Senator was in no position to command his wife not to sue, nor was he in a position to dictate the terms of the suit she would be permitted to bring. Nor as a loving husband--never mind his own status as a public figure--was he in a position to be other than supportive of his wife in public. I have no idea what remonstrations he might or might not have engaged in behind their closed doors.

Finally, Like you, I don't think it's unforgivable....--I went further than that. I see no contradiction. You clearly do.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at February 5, 2012 12:30 PM

Is that right, Cass, or is that he is one man who had two different duties at two different times?

The duty of a lawyer is to advocate for his client's position in the strongest terms allowed by the law. The duty of a legislator is to try to craft laws so as to avoid injustice.

A lawyer who fails to advocate for his client's position on the strongest terms the law allows is failing his duty as a lawyer. A legislator who fails to work to repair an injustice in the law is failing his duty as a legislator. Presumably Santorum would be clear of the charge of hypocrisy if he had abandoned either of these duties; but the price of avoiding hypocrisy, if it is that, is failure to do his duty.

Posted by: Grim at February 5, 2012 01:08 PM

Was his wife his client? What does his duty as an atty have to do with testifying in court? He wasn't there in the capacity of a lawyer, but as a husband.

Eric, re:

She asked for $500k in "judgment against the defendants" for "severe and permanent neurologic injuries and other damage; incurred and will continue to incur great pain, suffering...; loss of earning capacity; and will continue to suffer great expense for medical care."


First of all, the bolded part above specifically mentions "pain and suffering" as one of the things she wanted to be compensated for.

You can't be compensated for a loss you haven't suffered, so the notion that she was suing for compensation for the pain and suffering she would have suffered, had she not had disk surgery doesn't make sense. You can be compensated for suffering to date and future suffering, just as you can be compensated for your out of pocket expenses to date and for future expenses.

You cannot be compensated for suffering or expenses that you never had. Furthermore, you do have some duty to try and mitigate the damage from the original incident. If you suffer and injury and fail to seek subsequent medical care and your injury gets worse, you can't then sue for the additional injury you failed to take reasonable steps to prevent.

I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this.

I think it's sleazy for a public servant to publicly advocate for limited damages because you say they are driving up the cost of medical care, then sue for those exact damages (especially when it is dubious that your actual loss comes anywhere near the amount you sued for). It ain't illegal, but then the whole reason we're talking about this was Grim's original formulation that if he knows a person's "internal rules", he knows how he'll act in a certain situation.

This goes to the issue of trust/sincerity.

FWIW, my MIL was asked to join a class action lawsuit for Agent Orange exposure shortly after her husband died (tragically young) from cancer. She could have used the money, and it's fairly likely her husband got cancer at such a young age b/c he was exposed to Agent Orange in VietNam for a prolonged period of time.

She followed her own "internal rules" (IOW, if you don't think something is right and don't think other people should do it, you don't, either, no matter how tempting the windfall).

That, I understand. Santorum saying he wants the law changed to prevent people from abusing the system and then proceeding to abuse the system in the exact way he thinks should not be allowed, not so much.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 6, 2012 10:36 AM

Boldface added:

...part above specifically mentions "pain and suffering" as one of the things she wanted to be compensated for.

Exactly so. She offered no allocation to the various causes for her requested compensation. One possibility is that she was asking for $499 thousand for her pain and suffering, and a grand for all her other losses--future earning power, future medical expenses, and so on. Or, she could have been asking for $499 thousand for all her other losses--future earning power, future medical expenses, and so on--and a grand for her pain and suffering. Given that her pleading made no allocation, both splits are equally valid to assume.

You can't be compensated for a loss you haven't suffered....

However, ...medical expenses, etc (excluding from "etc" the pain and suffering)...can begin to accrue some time after the apparent correction. And so can the pain and suffering associated with the cause(s) of those resumed expenses.

It's the whole point of being able to sue for not yet occurring (which is different from "haven't suffered" because that assumes "won't occur").

I think it's sleazy for a public servant to publicly advocate for limited damages because you say they are driving up the cost of medical care, then sue for those exact damages.....

However, he didn't sue. She did.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at February 6, 2012 11:11 AM

Sort of thinking logically, and confused at a statement I read today regarding the ruling administrations cration of an advocate for illegal alien border crashers. Thier mouthpiece said, (from the story) "The administration says that, with limited resources, it is trying to focus its deportation efforts on criminals and those with repeated immigration violations on their records, rather than rank-and-file illegal immigrants."

Excuse me. Did I miss something? If I am in the country ILLEGALLY am I not a criminal? How many repeat offenses does it take to cross the line from a repeater to a criminal?

GET.A.CLUE! ILLEGAL is ILLEGAL. If it's not, then I know many people who should have been afforded the benefits of such a benevolent "catch and release" policy.

I don't think anyone has a coherent policy in this area, but even our leagal immigrant policy is FUBAR. Illegal? What policy? We don need no steenking policy! Undale muchacos y muchachas - alli esta la tierra de leche y miel. Y oro. Mucho oro!

Yip Yip Arrrrrrrrrrriba!

Posted by: kbob in katy at February 7, 2012 02:00 PM

GET.A.CLUE! ILLEGAL is ILLEGAL. If it's not, then I know many people who should have been afforded the benefits of such a benevolent "catch and release" policy.

Yes, and they were probably here legally, too :p

Posted by: Cassandra at February 7, 2012 05:20 PM

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