10 things you didn't know about Rick Santorum...

...but might like to know in the wake of his Iowa surge.

Rick Santorum, Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania senator, may be relatively unknown but he almost beat GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney in yesterday's Iowa caucus, trailing Romney by a mere eight votes. Let's be clear: Santorum won't be the Republican nominee come November. But he will now be the subject of countless media profiles, debates and discussions - as well as a bunch of vicious, attack ads from the Romney machine in New Hampshire.

So, here are ten things you might not know about Richard John "Rick" Santorum but might like to know:

1) Santorum, the most belligerent of the ultra-hawkish GOP presidential candidates, has said that if he's elected president, he would order the bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities unless they were opened up to international arms inspectors and then dismantled.

2) Santorum is a friend and ally of U2 front man and anti-poverty campaigner, Bono, who told the New York Times in 2006: "I would suggest that Rick Santorum has a kind of Tourette's disease; he will always say the most unpopular thing. But on our issues, he has been a defender of the most vulnerable."

3) Santorum, an evangelical Catholic, supports a blanket ban on abortion without exceptions for rape or incest, and has compared homosexual relationships to "man on child, man on dog" relations.

4) The afore-mentioned comments by Santorum resulted in a notorious Google-bombing of the then US senator in 2003. (Caution: only click on the previous links if you have, ahem, a strong constitution...)

5) Santorum could be considered an Islamophobe: he has called for the profiling of Muslims and told Bates College students in March 2010 that Islam is stuck in the seventh century and beyond reform or modernisation.

6) As a young lawyer, prior to being elected to Congress, he represented the World Wrestling Federation, arguing that professional wrestling should be exempt from the regulations on anabolic steroids because it wasn't a real sport.

7) Santorum has advocated bigger and faster cuts to government spending than most of his right-wing rivals for the Republican nomination: $5 trillion of cuts in federal spending in the space of just five years. (Yet, curiously, he has still been labelled as a "big government conservative" by Telegraph blogger James Delingpole.)

8) When his baby Gabriel died at childbirth, Santorum and his wife spent the night in a hospital bed with the body and then took it home where, joined by their other children, they prayed over it, cuddled with it and welcomed the baby into the family.

9) Santorum believes that "there is no such thing as global warming"; it is "junk science". He supports a policy of "drill everywhere" for oil and gas.

10) Santorum wasn't always so opposed to current rival Mitt Romney; in February 2008, prior to the last presidential election, he said: "If you're a conservative, there really is only one place to go right now...I would even argue farther than that. If you're a Republican, if you're a Republican in the broadest sense, there is only one place to go right now and that's Mitt Romney."

Given the result in Iowa, we can only assume now that Republican primary voters in 2012 will heed Santorum's 2008 advice and pick Romney.

 

 

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The Brexiteers have lost battles but they are still set to win the war

The prospect of the UK avoiding Brexit, or even a “hard” version, remains doubtful. 

Before the general election, the Brexiteers would boast that everything had gone their way. Parliament had voted to trigger Article 50 by a majority of 372. The Treasury-forecast recession hadn't occurred. And polls showed the public backing Brexit by a comfortable margin

But since the Conservatives' electoral humbling, the Leavers have been forced to retreat on multiple fronts. After promising in May that the dispute over the timetable for the Brexit talks would be "the fight of the summer", David Davis capitulated on the first day.

The UK will be forced to settle matters such as EU citizens' rights, the Irish border and the divorce bill before discussions begin on a future relationship. Having previously insisted that a new trade deal could agreed by 29 March 2019 (Britain's scheduled departure date), the Brexiteers have now conceded that this is, in Liam Fox's words, "optimistic" (translation: deluded). 

That means the transitional arrangement the Leavers once resisted is now regarded as inevitable. After the eradication of the Conservatives' majority, the insistence that "no deal is better than a bad deal" is no longer credible. No deal would mean the immediate return of a hard Northern Irish border (to the consternation of the Tories' partners the DUP) and, in a hung parliament, there are no longer the votes required to pursue a radical deregulatory, free market agenda (for the purpose of undercutting the EU). As importantly for the Conservatives, an apocalyptic exit could pave the way for a Jeremy Corbyn premiership (a figure they previously regarded as irretrievably doomed). 

Philip Hammond, emboldened by the humiliation of the Prime Minister who planned to sack him, has today outlined an alternative. After formally departing the EU in 2019, Britain will continue to abide by the rules of the single market and the customs union: the acceptance of free movement, European legal supremacy, continued budget contributions and a prohibition on independent trade deals. Faced with the obstacles described above, even hard Brexiteers such as Liam Fox and Michael Gove have recognised that the game is up.

But though they have lost battles, the Leavers are still set to win the war. There is no parliamentary majority for a second referendum (with the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats still enfeebled), Hammond has conceded that any transitional arrangement would end by June 2022 (the scheduled date of the next election) and most MPs are prepared to accept single market withdrawal. The prospect of Britain avoiding Brexit, or even a "hard" version, remains doubtful. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.