Determined to vet up-and-coming GOP candidate Rick Santorum, CNN's Gary Tuchmann chose Wednesday to pull a number of liberal attacks on the candidate's social beliefs and call it a report. Apparently for CNN, "scrutiny" entails digging up liberal talking points instead of studying a candidate's voting record and economic and foreign policy plans.
Tuchman attested on Anderson Cooper 360 that "we can already tell you quite a bit about his vision for this country," adding that Santorum "has established a reputation as a conservative in every sense of the word." He then descended into implying that Santorum was a racist and a homophobe.
And in the light of the "papist" caricatures that candidate John F. Kennedy ran from, Tuchman claimed that Santorum, a Catholic, "is a staunch supporter of Vatican policy when it comes to contraception," instead of just saying that he obeys the Catholic Church's teaching on contraception.
One of the soundbites Tuchman used isn't even certain from an audio standpoint. He played the clip of Santorum saying "I don't want to make (unintelligible) people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money." Some cried foul that the "unintelligible" word was "black," arguing that he was hitting black citizens. Santorum denied the charges. Nonetheless, CNN chose to air the clip.
Anchor Anderson Cooper explained that for a candidate now near the top of the polls, success brings with it "closer scrutiny of course, and what those dollars are buying in terms of the candidate's viability and some of his more controversial statements." Or it could mean sudden criticism from Cooper, who virtually ignored Herman Cain until he blasted Cain with a "Keeping Them Honest" report in November, when Cain became a GOP frontrunner.
Then Tuchman cited when Santorum blasted then-candidate Barack Obama's 2008 quote that to decide when life began was "above my paygrade." Santorum later said he found it "almost remarkable for a black man to say no, we are going to decide who are people, and who are not people." Tuchman had used that as another example of Santorum saying the word "black," implying again that the candidate was a racist.
Tuchman also rehashed a stale liberal attack from 2003, one that CNN's John King had confronted the candidate with in an interview earlier that day.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on January 4 at 8:14 p.m. EST, is as follows:
ANDERSON COOPER: Santorum speaking this evening at a town hall in Brentwood, New Hampshire.
RICK SANTORUM, Republican presidential candidate: People have asked me repeatedly, you know, well, you know, Rick, you know, you've going to – you've done well in Iowa, but, you know, New Hampshire is such a different place. And it's just nothing like Iowa. I said, they're all Americans. They all have the same fundamental values that our founders put in place.
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COOPER: And the sweater vests are back. There's some late news as well, just in from the Santorum campaign on the tangible benefits of his Iowa performance. The short answer, money. About $1 million donated since last night according to the campaign. It also means closer scrutiny of course, and what those dollars are buying in terms of the candidate's viability and some of his more controversial statements. Gary Tuchman takes a look.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN national correspondent: (voice-over): Losing by just eight votes to Mitt Romney has certainly invigorated Rick Santorum.
SANTORUM: There's going to be a rematch. And we're going to – we're going to go to New Hampshire and take – and take him on. And you know we're going to – we're going to run a campaign talking about my vision for this country.
TUCHMAN: But we can already tell you quite a bit about his vision for this country. Santorum, after two terms as a congressman and two terms as a U.S. senator, has established a reputation as a conservative in every sense of the word. Just this past Sunday in Iowa, Santorum was talking about entitlement programs.
SANTORUM: I don't want to make (unintelligible) people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.
TUCHMAN: Santorum's comment came in the state where by far most of the public aid recipients are white. Although he says he was tongue-tied and didn't mean to say the word black. But he did mention the word black in another situation. It was from January of last year, regarding comments President Obama made as a candidate on abortion, saying it was above his, quote, "pay grade to say when a baby is entitled to human rights."
SANTORUM: The question is, and this is what Barack Obama didn't want to answer – is that, is that human life a person under the constitution. And Barack Obama says no. Well, if that person, human life, is not a person, then I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say no, we are going to decide who are people, and who are not people.
TUCHMAN: Santorum received significant attention when he gave a quote to the Associated Press in 2003 about the Supreme Court and homosexuality. "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery, you have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does."
And he continued, "In every society the definition of marriage had not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be." Santorum has said he wasn't equating homosexuality with all those other activities, but was trying to make a larger point about morality.
SANTORUM: I think basically Christian teaching on the subject, that one can have desires to do things which we believe are wrong, but it's when you act out those things that is a problem. And I was simply reflecting that opinion and that belief structure that I happen to hold as a Catholic.
TUCHMAN: Santorum is a staunch supporter of Vatican policy when it comes to contraception. He said this to an evangelical blog site. "One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, it's not OK. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." It's a belief that may play well with many in the far right but might be a harder sell among other conservatives.
And regarding national defense, he is certainly the antithesis of a candidate like Ron Paul. If elected as president, Santorum says he would tell the Iranians to dismantle their nuclear facilities and make them available to inspectors. And if not –
SANTORUM: We will degrade those facilities through air strikes and make it very public that we are doing that.
TUCHMAN: Many critics thought Rick Santorum's political career was over after he lost his U.S. Senate reelection in Pennsylvania by 18 percentage points. But his star is once again rising. He hopes his Iowa showing helps him broaden his reach to New Hampshire and beyond.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.
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