Thursday, February 09, 2006

What the blogosphere & mainstream media missed: Rick Santorum believes he has the right to punish higher education

Am I hallucinating, or did Sen. Rick Santorum let a telling comment slip yesterday in a speech to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities?

The only place I’ve seen this quote appear is in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and since you have to be a paid subscriber to see the story, I’ll reproduce a bit of it here. The Chronicle reported, in a story datelined Washington, D.C.:

Despite believing that colleges are dominated by left-wing academics who are hostile to conservatives, the Republican leaders of Congress have been "remarkably restrained" in taking higher education to task, Sen. Rick Santorum told private-college presidents and lobbyists on Tuesday.

"There's no question," said Mr. Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican, " that the majority of Republicans believe higher education is on the left. There's no question about that. We do, and it is."

"Having said that," he added, "we also understand the importance of higher education to the future of the country."

The Chronicle notes that the speech wasn’t focused on “ideological debates,” but instead that Santorum spoke about how he says he’s making it easier for colleges to solicit donations. But it was his reply to a question that caught my interest. When asked how colleges can “overcome the hostility that many Republicans feel toward higher education for its alleged liberal bias,” Santorum said:

Candidly, I think the Congress has been remarkably restrained in spite of what most of us see as a hostility toward conservatism and for Republicans. We've been remarkably restrained, given that, in doing anything to sort of punish higher education for its ideology, we don't, and we haven't.

Perhaps I’m getting a bit too sensitive. I have two degrees and work for a university, but this seems like a remarkable mindset to me.

You can’t think you’re being restrained if you don’t think you already have the right to punish someone. This entire comment is based on the idea that Santorum thinks he and his ultra-conservative colleagues have the right to punish people and institutions for no other reason than the fact that they disagree with him.


And how kind of him to be so nice.

I was going to end my post here, but another thought occurred to me. I am far from the Washington Beltway, living out here in Kansas, so perhaps I don't understand the standard operating procedure of powerful men such as Santorum. Perhaps I simply don't understand the mindset of the far, far right, but is this the way they always think?

Do they wake up in the morning and ask themselves: Who do we punish today?

Whatever happened to public "servants" who work for what they believe is right for the country?

Ah, but then, we do live in the post-Karl Rove world.

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