A semi-respectful period of time has passed since Rick Santorum cited the ongoing illness of Bella, his three-year-old daughter in bowing out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. With wishes for a long and happy life to Bella and with all due respect to the Santorum family, this is about as cowardly an end to a presidential campaign that I can recall.
Bella has been chronically ill since birth and her hospitalizations for Trisoma 18, a sometimes fatal disease with side effects like pneumonia, have been frequent. Santorum was careful to say that he “was suspending” his campaign as opposed to ending it, a nicety that masks the reality that he is toast. But why now? Because at heart he is yet another political coward who could not stand the prospect of being pummeled in the April 24 Pennsylvania primary by Mitt Romney and used little Bella as a convenient prop like Sarah Palin has with her son Trig, who is a special needs child.
Pennsylvania, of course, is Santorum’s home state, yet the last time he was on the ballot there he was defeated by a record margin for a sitting U.S. senator and he had no chance of coming close to beating Romney, who is the presumptive GOP nominee. This is because Pennsylvanian voters have done something that many right-wing Republicans and especially Santorum’s hard-core evangelical base have not: Figured out that he is a fraud with some extremely strange ideas.
Santorum’s success in the 2012 primary season, of course, had been entirely the function of his being a Republican not named Romney. He was a humorless tight ass whose ideological claptrap and gimmicky ideas were never taken seriously beyond his Bible-thumping constituency, but the news media was game as long as he kept yapping at Romney’s heels. Oh, and he stands zero chance of being Romney’s running mate because his unfavorables among voters nationally are so high.
I do not question Santorum’s repeated invocations of Bella’s serial recoveries as “miraculous turnarounds” that may indeed have been God jobs. But Bella is getting the best medical care money can buy because of Santorum’s lavish Senate retirement benefits and personal wealth, something that he would deny ordinary Americans who cannot afford decent care. In fact, doing a little extrapolating, of the 45 million Americans without health insurance, there probably are at least a million or so three-year-olds in that situation, while about 1,000 children die of pneumonia, which has plagued Bella on and off, in the U.S. each year.
By the way, Bella’s most recent hospitalization ended on Monday.