There comes a moment when you realize no one is listening to you, and you start to say increasingly crazy things to see how long it takes everyone to notice.
That moment could be described as "the entire Santorum campaign."
Perhaps alone in the continental United States, I have been following Rick Santorum's efforts at a run for the presidency.
Don't judge me. I lack hobbies, and August is traditionally a slow month for news.
So I was flabbergasted to notice that, all this time, Santorum has been doing everything short of jumping up and down and flapping his arms in an effort to draw people's attention. He may well try that next.
If anyone at all were paying attention, there’d be all sorts of scrutiny descending on his allegations that kindergartens are indoctrination! Pre-K's are indoctrination! In fact, all early education is an effort by the government to “indoctrinate your children.” Or his insistence that Intelligent Design be taught in schools, or his comments that "The Judiciary cannot create life, and it did not create marriage, and it has no right to redefine either one!" or remarks back in January that it’s “almost remarkable for a black man to say ‘we’re going to decide who are people and who are not people.’ ”
It is, I suppose, reassuring that you can say all the controversial things everyone insists are news-making gold and still manage not to make a sound.
But after all this time, he’s still most known as the Guy Whose Name Sex Columnist Dan Savage made a byword for something indelicate, in response to Santorum’s comments years ago that compared homosexual relations to “man on dog.”
It’s almost depressing. Surely sometimes Santorum must gaze into a mirror and wonder if anyone else is capable of seeing his reflection. “Maybe if I say one more thing about how awful homosexuality is,” he thinks. “That’ll do it.”
They say the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again hoping for a different result.
But he isn’t even doing the same thing at this point. He’s trying all kinds of things. Yesterday, he showed up at an event and handed out free jars of homemade Santorum jelly. If you’re aware of his Google problem, you will realize how horrifyingly awkward this must have been.
But what can you do? At a certain point you either surrender, call off the dogs, and go sit somewhere wracked with the vague sense that Things Might Have Gone Differently But For Google, or you double down. He ought to put on a cape and run around campaign stops screaming, “You want Santorum? I’ll show you Santorum! Grab some jelly!” But I doubt even that would work.
The options of a second- or third-tier candidate in an already-full race are somewhat limited at this point. And the shouting doesn’t seem to be getting him anywhere — except into a deeper morass.
There’s now an (NSFW) segment on FunnyOrDie where Savage threatens to do away with Santorum's first name as well, enlisting a host of famous and less-famous Ricks to beg Santorum not to spend any more time opposing gay rights. But how much is he capable of opposing anyone's cause? No one is listening to him — except possibly Savage.
The strange irony of all this is that Santorum and Savage are forever bound by this feud, coupled together in the annals of history as arch-nemeses. Batman and Joker. Superman and Lex Luthor. Santorum and Savage. It’s an unbreakable bond, although the identity of the parties (who’s Lex?) varies depending on whom you ask.
This is a bigger problem for Santorum than for Savage, who appears to have other hobbies, including an MTV show in the works.
But for Santorum, it’s been the kiss of death. Santorum hasn’t been running against Barack Obama. He’s been running against Dan Savage, a syndicated sex columnist. It’s hard to blame him. His opposition to Obama is theoretical. But thanks to Dan Savage, his name is quite literally mud.
These days, as Savage grasped instinctively, there is nothing worse than having a Google problem. It’s one thing to embarrass yourself in real life. But people have far shorter attention spans than the Internet. It’s like an elephant with a strong preference for pornography.
In fact, in a perverse twist that would have taken Iago's breath away, now the only way Santorum can get attention is by denouncing Savage, thereby drawing more attention to his Google predicament. He even puts him in his fundraising e-mails, alluding vaguely to Obscene Slurs That Shall Not Be Named — "I refuse to repeat these disgusting, sexually explicit references because these ridiculous attacks are far too inappropriate." That silence you hear is a thousand people rushing to Google to cement the problem.
This really should be an opera.
If it were, this is when he is supposed to descend on the Savage household by night and have a confrontation that destroys several buildings and does irreparable damage to the municipal sewer system. But even that might not attract much coverage.
Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy, said Fitzgerald.
But this isn't a tragedy so much as it is a farce.
If Santorum falls in a forest and dozens of people are there to listen, he still doesn’t make a sound.