The Hill reports:
Former Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum on Friday delivered an emotional address at the Conservative Political Action Conference, inspired by the death of his nephew the night before....As CNN explains, Santorum used the suffering and death of his nephew as the jumping-off point for a denunciation of Democrats:
With tears in his eyes, the former presidential candidate talked emotionally about his nephew who passed away Thursday in Pittsburgh from what Santorum described as "a horribly painful disease that almost overnight began ravaging his body."Look, I don't care if he's attacking Democrats. But his nephew died the night before, from what was clearly a horrible disease, and Santorum's first impulse was to turn the ravaging of his nephew's body into material? Into a riff in a political speech?
"Medicines were effectively blocking all of his physical pain. We were the ones in pain," he said....
As the silent crowd listened, Santorum spoke with conviction from his speech, which he hand-wrote an hour beforehand, an adviser told CNN. While society has made immense progress in stopping physical pain, he said, Democrats have gone too far in trying to use government programs to address almost every other pain....
"Obama has offered a new deal. He and his friends will reduce the pain and the suffering," Santorum said....
But that's Santorum's nature, isn't it? Surely you remember the 2012 Republican primaries, when Santorum exploited the frail condition of his daughter Bella, who has a genetic disorder called Trisomy 18, by making her medical condition the subject of an online campaign spot:
Former Senator Rick Santorum released a web video today focusing on the heart and soul of the Santorum family – his 3-year-old daughter Bella, a special-needs child like so many who are targeted in abortions.During his momentary rise in the polls in early 2012, Santorum invoked Bella incessantly:
"During the last debate I mentioned how I was looking forward to taking the red-eye home to see my three year old daughter Bella, who had surgery earlier that day," the Republican presidential candidate said. "Following that debate, Karen and I got numerous emails and calls from supporters asking how she was doing. We were so touched by the tremendous outpouring of support, the thoughts and the prayers we received for our sweet Bella."
"She is doing great and back to her joyful, smiley self. But since so many people were concerned, we wanted to share a little bit more about Bella and the great blessing she is for our entire family," he said. "We hope you'll enjoy this video."
Bella has emerged as the emotional centerpiece of Mr. Santorum's campaign. His references to her are easily the most riveting moments of his speeches, usually leaving audiences silent and weepy. He has even built entire speeches around Bella's story, telling certain audiences, especially those in churches, every painful detail of her birth and how the family has embraced her as a blessing.This past December, Santorum wrote a Newsweek opinion piece explaining his opposition to a UN disabilities treaty (yes, the one that was ultimately rejected by the Senate even though Bob Dole came to the Senate floor in a wheelchair to express support for it). Did Santorum invoke Bella? Of course:
The reason I have so strongly opposed CRPD is also simple. Karen and I have experienced first-hand as we care for our little blessing, Bella, that parents and caregivers care most deeply and are best equipped to care for the disabled. Not international bureaucrats.And Bella isn't the only child Santorum has exploited for polotical gain. Back in 1996, his wife gave birth prematurely to a son, Gabriel, who died shortly afterward. Nine years later, a year and a half away from a reelection fight he knew would be tough, Santorum was interviewed for a Washington Post profile:
In his Senate office, on a shelf next to an autographed baseball, Sen. Rick Santorum keeps a framed photo of his son Gabriel Michael, the fourth of his seven children. Named for two archangels, Gabriel Michael was born prematurely, at 20 weeks, on Oct. 11, 1996, and lived two hours outside the womb.Spoon-feeding the story of a dead son to a reporter writing a soft news feature, possibly in the hope that it will open up the wallets of religious conservatives? Pure Santorum. The politics in Karen's book? Also pure Santorum. Shamelessness -- it's the Santorum way.
Upon their son's death, Rick and Karen Santorum opted not to bring his body to a funeral home. Instead, they bundled him in a blanket and drove him to Karen's parents' home in Pittsburgh. There, they spent several hours kissing and cuddling Gabriel with his three siblings, ages 6, 4 and 1 1/2. They took photos, sang lullabies in his ear and held a private Mass.
"That's my little guy," Santorum says, pointing to the photo of Gabriel, in which his tiny physique is framed by his father's hand. The senator often speaks of his late son in the present tense. It is a rare instance in which he talks softly....
Karen Santorum, a former nurse, wrote letters to her son during and after her pregnancy. She compiled them into a book, "Letters to Gabriel," a collection of prayers, Bible passages and a chronicle of the prenatal complications that led to Gabriel's premature delivery. At one point, her doctor raised the prospect of an abortion, an "option" Karen ridicules. "Letters to Gabriel" also derides "pro-abortion activists" and decries the "infanticide" of "partial-birth abortion," the legality of which Rick Santorum was then debating in the Senate. The book reads, in places, like a call to action.
"When the partial-birth abortion vote comes to the floor of the U.S. Senate for the third time," Karen writes to Gabriel, "your daddy needs to proclaim God's message for life with even more strength and devotion to the cause."