Rick Santorum Has a Baby, And He's Not Afraid to Use Her

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 2 2011 1:59 PM

Rick Santorum Has a Baby, And He's Not Afraid to Use Her

Back in the spring, I saw Rick Santorum work on a group of South Carolina voters and field a pretty open question: If he had a reality show, what would it be? (That fluff question had been given to Gary Johnson at the debate.) To my surprise, and to the surprise of the person who asked, Santorum suggested that he'd let cameras into the flock to show what life was like for his youngest daughter, Bella. She was born with a life-threatening disability, Trisomy-18. Since then, Santorum has brought up his daughter and her condition at debates, mentioned this in a web ad, and talked about how successful and compelling the ad is. Melinda Henneberger has an affecting story up today that asks the uncomfortable question: If she's so ill, why run?

Even in his own mind, Bella’s condition argued both for and against a run.
“Life expectancy wasn’t particularly long, and just the idea of going off and doing something like this was something I really struggled with,” he said.

The deciding factor, he said, was that “we see with every socialized-medicine country, which is absolutely where we’re headed, those on the margins of life are treated differently. . . . They’re not given the care, the resources aren’t allocated because it is very costly, and my little girl would probably be seen as — I hear, not only from anecdotal but actual evidence from other countries — that children like this simply do not get care.”
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Andrew Kaczynski keeps digging through the C-Span landfill, and resurrects this Rick Santorum ad from his 1994 Senate race.

To make a pretty ordinary point of government waste, Santorum literally cradles his child as if he was about to be sacrified to Baal and the candidate rescued him from the pyre. This either sits easy with a voter, or it comes off as exploitative. It's a personal choice. Santorum has chosen, throughout his career, to tie the personal and the political. Government policies affect his kids. He's campaigning, and spending a bit less time with them, because he is worried about how things will affect his kids.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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