Obama is a university snob, claims Santorum

Mon, Feb 27, 2012, 00:00

Conservative card is waved aloft as battle for Republican souls reaches fever pitch

THE REPUBLICAN presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has called President Barack Obama a “snob” for encouraging youths to seek higher education in what Santorum calls “indoctrination mills” intent on destroying Christian belief.

He also says that John F Kennedy’s 1960 call for absolute separation of church and state makes him “want to throw up”.

These positions, reiterated by Santorum, a devout Catholic and former senator from Pennsylvania, in the run-up to tomorrow’s Michigan and Arizona primaries are reshaping the race. His chief opponent Mitt Romney describes the presidential election as a contest “for the soul of America”. At this point, it’s a contest for the soul of the Republican party.

US universities charge tens of thousands of dollars a year in tuition, forcing students and parents to accrue huge debts, and putting a college education beyond the reach of many Americans. A college education has been part of the American dream for generations and unemployment among university graduates is 4 per cent – less than half the national average.

Obama says he wants every American to have at least one year of higher education or career training.

In an interview with the conservative radio host Glenn Beck, Santorum said: “I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because they are indoctrination mills.” Santorum elaborated on the statement at a rally in Troy, Michigan, on Saturday. “Not all folks are gifted in the same way,” he said. “Some people have incredible gifts with their hands . . . President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.”

His Tea Party audience laughed when Santorum, who has a doctorate in law from Penn State University, mocked Obama.

In appearances on the ABC and NBC Sunday morning talk shows, Santorum gave two arguments against university, stating alternately that not everyone is suited for such studies, and that US institutions are hotbeds of liberalism that persecute conservative students.

“Barack Obama is a person of the left, someone who believes in big government, in the values that unfortunately are the dominant political values that are on most colleges and university campuses,” he told NBC.

Santorum said conservative students are ill-treated in US universities. “I went through it at Penn State,” he told ABC. “You talk to kids who go to college and who are conservatives. You are singled out. You are ridiculed . . . Personally I went through a process where I was docked for my conservative views.”

He then cited an unsourced statistic that “62 per cent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it”. He didn’t know “if it still holds true, but I suspect it may even be worse”.

Fuelling fears that his policies would be dictated by religious belief, Santorum implied he would change university curricula if elected.

“We have some real problems on college campuses with political correctness, with an ideology that is forced upon people who may not agree with the political correct left doctrine,” he said. “One of the things I’ve spoken out with and will continue to speak out is to ensure that conservative and mainstream common sense conservative principles that have made this country great are reflected in our college courses and college professors.”

He has rivalled Romney for the lead in opinion polls since defeating him in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri on February 7th. The surge has prompted closer examination of Santorum’s past positions, including, in recent days, a comment last October that he “almost threw up” when he read president John F Kennedy’s “horrible” 1960 speech to Baptist ministers in Houston. Romney has adopted language similar to Kennedy’s.

Kennedy said: “I believe in a president whose views on religion are his own private affair, neither imposed upon him by the nation, nor imposed upon the nation by him . . . I do not speak for my church on public matters. And the church does not speak for me.”

When questioned yesterday, Santorum said it was president Kennedy’s belief in “an America where the separation of church and State is absolute” that made him sick. “The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country,” he told ABC.

“To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. That makes me throw up and it should make every American . . . ”

Santorum has been criticised by Dutch and US media for remarks about euthanasia in Holland, where the practice has been legal under extremely controlled conditions since 2001. Elderly Dutch people so fear being euthanised that they go to hospital elsewhere in Europe, he claimed.

Santorum told the Heartland Forum in Columbia, Missouri, that people wear bracelets saying ‘Do Not Euthanise Me’, “because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands but half of the people who are euthanised – 10 per cent of all deaths in the Netherlands – half of those people are euthanised involuntarily at hospitals because they are older and sick.”

The Washington Postinvestigated the allegations and reported yesterday that there was “not a shred of evidence to back up Santorum’s claims about euthanasia in the Netherlands”.

Shortly before his death in 1998, the Republican senator Barry Goldwater, the founder of the modern conservative movement, warned of the danger that the religious right would take control of the party.

Statements by Santorum about education, separation of church and state and his misrepresentation of events in the Netherlands feed growing unease about the direction of the party.

On Friday night, the former governor of Florida Jeb Bush, who some moderate Republicans dream of drafting into the race, said, “I used to be a conservative, and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective”.