Yesterday, Rick Santorum verbally lashed out at New York Times Reporter Jeff Zeleny for asking him to clarify on a remark he made about his competitor, former Governor Mitt Romney. Mr. Santorum said that Mr. Romney is the “worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.” When questioned by Zeleny, he reportedly answered back: “Quit distorting my words. If I see it, it’s bulls**t!” Regardless of whether or not you agree with Mr. Santorum, he has recently developed a habit to catechize the media when they ask him to elaborate on a previous statement he made. He claims he’s being treated unfairly and that the media is in the tank for Governor Romney and President Obama. He insists he’s only making these controversial statements with regards to Mr. Romney’s position on health care. The problem is two-fold: one is that unlike last week where he got into trouble for implying that conservative voters would be better off with the current President rather than a moderate, the evidence is strong that he wasn’t just talking about Mr. Romney’s position on health care in Racine, WI. The second problem is that he keeps complaining about the consequences he faces every time he makes a contentious statement.
It’s understandable why Republicans would sympathize with the feelings Mr. Santorum has for the New York Times and extol his figurative middle-finger towards Zeleny. Republicans know the media is overwhelmingly liberal and has a subtle affinity for President Obama. We also know that they often don’t put as much scrutiny on the President as they do for the Republican challengers. All this aside, Mr. Santorum still acted inappropriately towards Zeleny and should not have used such coarse language. Maybe it’s just me, but I believe the Presidency comes with the responsibility of conducting yourself with temperance. At some point, every President (yes, even the one we currently have) will have to answer tough questions about his record or things he has said in the past. If you have this much of a temper-tantrum as a candidate, how do you expect to manage yourself in the Oval Office? Also, Mr. Santorum said on “Fox and Friends” this morning that “If you haven’t cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you’re not really a real Republican’s the way I look at it.” This is also completely unacceptable. As President of the country, you have to be prepared to take questions from all reporters and answer them with dignity and professionalism. You can’t pick and choose what questions you want to accept based on whether you agree or disagree with the newspaper’s political slant.
When Mr. Romney was criticized for his gaffes, he (for the most part) acknowledged that he screwed up and rectified the situations as best he could. Granted, Mr. Romney still has not solved his gaffe problem and continues to make foolish remarks on an almost weekly basis. And when he’s not doing it, his staff is making the media’s job easier by making the gaffes for him (I’m looking at you, Eric Fehrnstrom). But he is not castigating the media by claiming they are out to get him. Instead, he mans up and laughs off his mistakes. He does not scream expletives and delve into paranoid theories of how the media is out to get him. He knows the media is going to be harsh on him because he’s a Republican, and he accepts that role not by lighting his hair on fire (to borrow a phrase from him), but by taking responsibility for his actions and clarifying what he meant to say. This is what we should expect from the demeanor of a man running for President.
At the same time, I also want to criticize the media for their indifference to the President’s latest attempt to raise money off the American Affordable Health-Care Act. Vice President Joe Biden acted stupidly by saying “this is a big f**king deal” when the President’s health care reform law passed. But it is even stupider to turn it into a juvenile acronym and then put it on t-shirts and raise money off it! How does the President expect people to take him seriously when he puts comments about his signatory bill on a t-shirt that is akin to the ones you could find at any Spencer’s gift shop? This is completely lacking of dignity and trivializes all the efforts he put into passing his health care law, and the media should be ashamed of themselves for not calling the President out on it.