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Post Partisan
Posted at 02:59 PM ET, 02/10/2012

Rick Santorum is the conservative alternative to reality


Rick Santorum isn’t the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. He’s the conservative alternative to reality. He consistently mistakes belief for truth — and even fiction for fact.

On abortion, belief becomes truth: He regularly insists that the notion that life begins at conception is a “biological fact” he “knows” to be true, which is insulting to anyone who has struggled with his or her beliefs on what is fundamentally a matter of faith, not biology.

Now, on climate change, he’s substituting fiction for fact. Santorum insisted in a Thursday speech — and he reprised this theme on Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference — that conservatives aren’t anti-science, they’re “the truth party.” What’s the “truth,” then, on climate science? A bizarre, conspiratorial narrative about liberals, climate experts, environmentalists and other right-wing boogiemen, all of whom, Santorum said, are “trying to make you feel guilty so you’ll give them power so they can lord it over you.”

“This was a politicization of science....The absurdity and the politicization and the manipulation of data. Why? Because the left is always looking for a way to control you.”

Yes, Rick. That’s the only way the experts, journalists and politicians familiar with the accumulated evidence of global warming could possibly take it seriously. What about those of us who don’t identify with the hard left, who could care less about lording power over others and, yet, somehow, still favor doing something about climate change — even after looking carefully at all the “manipulated” data? To Santorum, we apparently don’t exist, or are too stupid to recognize the “truth” that thousands of people across dozens of countries, including the National Academies of Science, have coordinated an intricate plot over the course of decades that has ensnared Democrats and Republicans alike.

In his Thursday speech, Santorum went on to mock anyone concerned with the “fracking,” a process in which drillers pump a chemical stew into the ground to retrieve trapped natural gas.

“Ooh, all this bad stuff’s going to happen, we don’t know all these chemicals and all this stuff. What’s going to happen? Let me tell you what’s going to happen, nothing’s going to happen.”

Yes, Americans should want fracking to continue; the procedure is opening up vast reserves of cleaner-burning natural gas, and a lot of the environmentalist outrage is overblown. But nobody — not even Rick Santorum — knows, for sure, that it has absolutely no serious side effects that regulators should address. It’s a subject worthy of study, not glib certainty.

Wittingly or unwittingly — not sure which is worse — Santorum asserts that certain statements are actually, verifiably true, when they are merely things he wants very badly to be true. He does this to an extent that’s remarkable even among his fellow politicians. Why is a major political party seriously entertaining the candidacy of a man who so lacks a working understanding of the difference between scientific knowledge and ideological or theological conviction?

By  |  02:59 PM ET, 02/10/2012

 
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