Cato’s Tanner pours water on Santorum’s parade

The latest National Review Online column from Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute examines former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s record. “[I]t is a record that should give supporters of limited government pause.”

There is no doubt that Santorum is deeply conservative on social issues. He is ardently anti-abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, and no one takes a stronger stand against gay rights. In fact, with his comparison of gay sex to “man on dog” relationships, Santorum seldom even makes a pretense of tolerance. While that sort of rhetoric may play well in Iowa pulpits, it will be far less well received elsewhere in the nation.

At the same time, on economic and size-of-government issues, Santorum’s record is much weaker. In fact, Eric Erickson of Red State refers to Santorum as a “pro-life statist.”

When Hillary Clinton was justly excoriated by conservatives for her book It Takes A Village, which advocated greater government involvement in our lives, Rick Santorum countered with his book, It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, which advocated greater government involvement in our lives. Among the many government programs he supported: national service, publicly financed trust funds for children, community-investment incentives, and economic-literacy programs in “every school in America” (italics in original).

Santorum’s voting record shows that he embraced George Bush–style “big-government conservatism.” For example, he supported the Medicare prescription-drug benefit and No Child Left Behind.

He never met an earmark that he didn’t like. In fact, it wasn’t just earmarks for his own state that he favored, which might be forgiven as pure electoral pragmatism, but earmarks for everyone, including the notorious “Bridge to Nowhere.” The quintessential Washington insider, he worked closely with Tom DeLay to set up the “K Street Project,” linking lobbyists with the GOP leadership.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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