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    Posted on Feb 25, 2012

    Why Rick Santorum Loves Joe Klein

    An unlikely embrace in Lincoln Park.

    LINCOLN PARK, Michigan—Rick Santorum was so moved by Joe Klein's recent column that he embraced the liberal writer on Friday after an event here.

    Klein's column dealt with the Santorum's family's care for two of their children: Gabriel who lived for just two hours after birth, and Isabella, who has the genetic defect trisomy 18:

    Rick and Karen decided to fight for Gabriel’s life, which nearly cost Karen her own, and they passionately embraced the child during his two hours on earth. They have spent the past three years caring for their daughter Isabella, whose genetic defect, trisomy 18, is an early-death sentence. “Almost 100% of trisomy 18 children are encouraged to be aborted,” Santorum told Schieffer.

    I am haunted by the smiling photos I’ve seen of Isabella with her father and mother, brothers and sisters. No doubt she struggles through many of her days — she nearly died a few weeks ago — but she has also been granted three years of unconditional love and the ability to smile and bring joy. Her tenuous survival has given her family a deeper sense of how precious even the frailest of lives are.

    All right, I can hear you saying, the Santorum family’s course may be admirable, but shouldn’t we have the right to make our own choices?

    Yes, I suppose. But I also worry that we’ve become too averse to personal inconvenience as a society—that we’re less rigorous parents than we should be, that we’ve farmed out our responsibilities, especially for the disabled, to the state—and I’m grateful to Santorum for forcing on me the discomfort of having to think about the moral implications of his daughter’s smile.

    Klein told reporters that Santorum said the column "moved him to tears."

    The mutual affection between one of his generation's leading, if sometimes unorthodox, liberal journalists and the iconic social conservative reflects two ways in which Santorum isn't a standard-issue conservative politician. First, Klein's affection reflects a certain authenticity to Santorum's appeal: He can be raw, over the top, or out there – but there's an unstudied quality to the man that could have made him the hero of Klein's polemic against the professionalization of American politics.

    Second, Santorum has always had a more typically liberal concern for the poor. His approach sometimes grates on liberals — it's focused on marriage and on traditional values — but at the core of the concern is a lack of pure faith in the free market and a belief in the role of government that offers common ground to some on the left.

    Klein first wrote about Santorum's abortion views for The New Yorker in January of 1998.

    He described Santorum, then the youngest member of the Senate with "the look of of a very mischievous altrar boy," as going through a very emotional, and personal, maelstrom over the push to ban "partial-birth" abortion.

    It was a sympathetic piece about a man rarely viewed with sympathy from the left.

    "The death of his son and his growing involvement in the abortion controversy had caused him to grow both softer and harder," Klein wrote of Santorum.

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