TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM
In the twentieth GOP debate of this campaign season, Senator Rick Santorum made a profound admission that prevents anyone from counting on him to fulfill his principled commitments. When it was revealed that he had actually voted in favor of President Bush’s horrendous federal takeover of education, No Child Left Behind, Santorum said that he voted for it despite the fact that he opposed it. Indeed, he said that the bill offended his core principles. That admission combined with a series of other, similar admissions during the debate of instances in which he voted for laws he opposes makes it clear that Rick Santorum is precisely the kind of politician that Americans overwhelmingly find loathsome (and rightly so). Why in the world would we ever want in office a man who consistently votes inconsistent with his supposedly core beliefs?
Moreover, the supporter of Santorum is left with a particularly distasteful feeling, I would imagine. If he or she favors Santorum because of what he says he will do once elected, then how can that supporter trust Santorum to do what he promises once in office. If the need to “take one for the team” or to go along to get along arises, Santorum may well bolt from principle again.
Here is the interchange that burst the Santorum bubble:
SANTORUM: I have to admit, I voted for [No Child Left Behind]. It was against the principles I believed in, but, you know, when you’re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake.
You know, politics is a team sport, folks. And sometimes you’ve got to rally together and do something. And in this case, you know, I thought testing was—and finding out how bad the problem was wasn’t a bad idea.
Whenever a person is asked to take an action that offends his or her core beliefs and does so, we ordinarily consider that person to be shallow. There is never a justification for acting against one’s core beliefs. Only selfish justifications arise and none suffice. Santorum wanted to go along to get along. He wanted to be “part of the team.” What would make a person violate his core principles in this way, particularly when he is acting in the capacity of a public trust where those who voted for him expect him to fulfill his commitments. The answer is an ugly one. Santorum expected if he took one for the team, the team would respond favorably to him, advance his personal and political position. He compromised his basic principles for hedonistic reasons, because he expected to benefit personally and politically from that compromise.
During the debate, the contrast with Ron Paul could not have been greater. At the very start of the debate, when asked pointedly by CNN’s John King whether Ron Paul actually believed Rick Santorum a “fake,” as Ron Paul’s campaign ads have alleged, Ron Paul unhesitatingly said that, yes, indeed, he called Santorum a fake because in fact Santorum was a fake. And Ron Paul was right. But more importantly, Ron Paul is the perfect example of what Rick Santorum is not. Ron Paul believes to his core in the founding principles of this country. He has never sacrificed his principles for personal or political gain. That notion is appalling to him. He would never do that because he is a person of the utmost integrity. Santorum, on the other hand, exemplifies the kind of Washington politician who has succeeded in bankrupting this country while achieving great personal riches in the process. Ron Paul has pledged his life and honor for the sake of this country’s founding principles. Rick Santorum has devoted himself to, well, himself, and through his votes against principle has proven that he is willing to favor “the team” and himself more than his country.
This “take one for the team” notion is quite repulsive. It is a misplaced reference to sports, misplaced with perhaps one exception that would make it apropos. I am reminded of a “take one for the team” moment in the life of my father, Ernest A. Emord (aka “Tommy Reardon”), a former professional welterweight boxer. In the early 1940’s when my father was rising in the ranks as a welterweight, he was asked to take a fall by his manager. The bout was in Massachusetts, and his manager Larry Barry told him in the locker room immediately before the fight that the mob had bet heavily on his opponent. “You will have to take a fall tonight,” he told my father, who listened quietly as the explanation came. “The mob bets are for the other guy and there will be hell to pay if you do not take a fall.” Like Santorum, my father was asked to take a fall for the team, for a group, the mob (which, although not Congress is not that far from those who serve themselves while allegedly being public servants).
When the fight began, all eyes were on my father. Those anticipating that he would take a fall watched as round one passed with my father landing heavy combination punches on his opponent, nearly sending him to the mat. Then came round two, and the same beating occurred, with my father’s opponent floored and badly battered. The members of the mob became quite anxious. Then came round three, and in short order my father knocked his opponent out. Running to his aid, his manager Larry Barry put a bucket over his head and before the win could be announced, rushed him out of the arena to an awaiting car. He was then driven to a remote location in Maine where he was made to stay in hiding for several months as his manager and others tried to “make good” with the mob and prevent angry mobsters from killing him.
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When pressed for a reason why he did not take a fall as requested, my father told his manager that he would never take a fall for anyone, regardless of the threats made. He would never deceive others into thinking that he could be bought, regardless of the threats made on his life. That is the proof of a great man. Rick Santorum falls far short of the mark.
© 2012 Jonathan W. Emord - All Rights Reserved