Rick Santorum was briefly reduced to tears on the campaign stump yesterday when the subject of abortion turned to memories of the premature birth and death of his son, a 20-week-old fetus, in 1996.
The incident may revive, in the final hours before the Iowa caucuses close, a peculiar story that Santorum told years ago about the family’s reaction to the fetus’ death, two hours after leaving the womb.
The Washington Post reported in 2005 that, rather than bringing the tiny body to a funeral home, Gabriel Michael (as he was named) was taken to Santorum’s in-laws' home, where he was shared with the young Santorum children.
The fetus, about the size of the palm of Santorum’s hand, was wrapped in a blanket.
“There, they spent several hours kissing and cuddling Gabriel with his three siblings, ages 6, 4 and 1 1/2. They took photos, sang lullabies in his ear and held a private Mass,” according to the Post story, which relied in large part on the senator as its main source.
I don’t know how most voters would react to that story.
Creepy? Repulsive? Sad? Bizarre?
The Accidental Senator
By the way, that same 2005 story, written by the Post as Santorum was rising to become the second most visible senator on Capitol Hill, provides some long forgotten information in a different category.
Santorum was not a popular guy when he served in the Senate. In fact, he was openly disrespected by some colleagues.
Sure, most of the sharp criticism of him came from Democrats. But the Pennsylvania Republican has claimed repeatedly during the 2012 campaign that he is a conservative who won in a Blue State, showing his ability to gain Democratic support.
The only reason he lost in 2006, he says, is because “everybody” in the GOP lost that year. But if you flash back to April 2005, it appears that nearly the opposite was true.
The Post profile notes that Santorum was berated by colleagues when, during a debate on banning late-term abortions, he tried to have a 5-year-old girl (whose mother had contemplated an abortion) enter the Senate gallery and view pictures of a fetus being removed from a womb.
That incident caused liberal Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to complain that Santorum had a knack for "becoming remarkably harsh and personal during debates."
His frequent lack of decorum caused even moderate Democrats to lash out at Santorum, making comments that are normally reserved for off-the-record conversations.
Here’s a slice of the Post article: “Sen. Mary Landrieu, the Louisiana Democrat, grimaces. ‘You couldn't quote what I'd have to say about him,’ she says.
“Former Democratic senator Bob Kerrey once wondered whether Santorum is ‘Latin for a--.’ Teresa Heinz Kerry called him ‘Forrest Gump with an attitude.’ Howard Dean called him a liar.”
Plus, long before it was commonplace, crude websites popped up that were dedicated to portraying Santorum as a right-wing crank.
Santorum told the Post that he was merely a thorn in the sides of Democrats. But then he admitted that it was not difficult to portray him as a “fluke” that got lucky in politics.
He said: "If you have someone who's really effective on the other side, it's nice to get rid of them if you have the chance," he says. "Particularly if you see them, as a lot of them see me, as a fluke. They say, 'How's a guy like this get elected in Pennsylvania? He's just so lucky.'… "They say, 'He's always had a bad opponent or ran in a good year.' They see me as an accidental senator."
Eighteen months later, he faced a strong candidate, Bob Casey, in a tough year. He lost by a wide margin.
You can read the entire post story here.