No one doubts that Rick Santorum is a deeply religious person, well versed in the teachings of his church. If you read his book It Takes a Family, you see that he is also well educated in political philosophy.

This is why his campaign’s excuse for his statement attacking the president’s “phony theology” rings so false and suggests he’s not prepared to defend his unseemly rhetoric.

Webster’s defines “theology” as “the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially: the study of God and of God’s relation to the world.” Yet when pressed on whether Santorum was questioning the president’ faith, his aide declared: “Theology’s a worldview. And Obama sees the world differently. I mean, someone who apologizes for America’s greatness, and someone who thinks the government knows best on health care, I mean those are different theologies.”

Sorry, but that’s bunk and certainly Santorum knows what theology means.

Santorum has two choices. He can reign in his rhetoric, try to avoid assertions that are offensive to many voters that will confirm his reputations as a firebrand. Alternatively, he can defend what he says. If he thinks Protestant churches are no longer Christian or Obama doesn’t believe in “real” theology, that is real Christianity, let him say it. But the game of rock throwing to his base and then scurrying from his own words when confronted will be a losing proposition.

Likewise his book takes working women to task for being materialistic or falling under the spell of “radical feminists.” It does not attempt to affirm all women’s choices, as he now styles his writings. If he believed what he wrote, he should drop the feel-good explanation and defend his analysis.

In the 24-7 new media world (Santorum last ran in 2006), you can’t say something to one crowd or write a book for one audience and expect not to be taken to task for it before the broader electorate. The problem, I suspect, is what Santorum actually believes isn’t palatable to the general electorate or even most of GOP voters. But misrepresenting what he has said or read isn’t going to help matters.