Did Fred Hiatt Change the Mission and Just Not Tell Anyone?

Conservatives have come to expect liberal organizations to hire purported “conservatives” to cover the conservative movement in a way that self-affirms liberal notions of conservative neanderthal-ism. But there is a problem in Jennifer Rubin covering conservatives at the Washington Post. According to the Post’s ombudsman, Patrick Pexton, editorial page editor Fred Hiatt hired Rubin “to be an opinion blogger who would appeal to conservatives and people who want to follow conservative politics. She does.”It is the “appeal to conservatives” that is problematic when coupled with the affirmation that “she does.” For the past year, Rubin has done more to hinder the Washington Post in the eyes of conservatives as a place willing to treat conservative views honestly than even hiring Ezra Klein and Greg Sargent, both activist leftists who can, at least, put aside partisanship to occasionally engage in good reporting. We can presume that Fred Hiatt has changed the mission from “appeal to conservatives” to “appeal to liberal notions about conservatives.”Today, Jennifer Rubin discovers that Rick Santorum is a devout Catholic and, through leaps of logic that would defy Cirque Du Soleil, arrives at a laughable conclusion not in evidence that puts a big spotlight on her understanding of devout Catholics — a core constituency in the modern conservative movement, particularly inside the beltway no less.

In her latest escapade, Rubin discovers that Santorum, a pro-life Catholic, believes that doctors who commit abortion should be prosecuted for killing a child.1In discovering this and trying to overcome her shock, Rubin first ignores that Santorum and most ardent social conservatives have lllooooonnnnnnngggggggggg held this view — and then she does something that not just proves her ignorance on this issue, but also her pro-Romney agenda driven hostility to Santorum’s conservative convictions. She writes:

As for his comments on prosecuting abortion doctors, this would, I assume, concern the death penalty in states that impose capital punishment for murder. After all, it would be contrary to his views (that unborn children are people under the Constitution) to decide for criminal law purposes that an unborn child is any less a person, and deserving of less protection, than any other person.

As Jennifer Rubin is clearly not aware, devout Catholics are opposed to both abortion and the death penalty. Yes, dear reader, you may be shocked to learn, but devout Catholics are the most pro-life of all pro-lifers. Where Presbyterians like me are quite comfortable opposing abortion and supporting the death penalty based on our reading of Romans 13, devout Catholics and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church are opposed to both abortion and the death penalty.On Santorum more particularly, he has maintained support for the death penalty as it exists, but while in the Senate was opposed to its expansion for other crimes, voted to limit its use, and in 2005 told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that

“I felt very troubled about cases where someone may have been convicted wrongly. DNA evidence definitely should be used when possible. I agree with the pope that in the civilized world … the application of the death penalty should be limited. I would definitely agree with that. I would certainly suggest there probably should be some further limits on what we use it for.

In fact, of all the Republican Presidential candidates, Rick Santorum has offered only the weakest support for the death penalty and has repeatedly sought to curtail it, never to expand it.In other words, Jenn Rubin extrapolates from Rick Santorum’s devout Catholic views on abortion that he would advocate criminalizing abortion and somehow fails to both know that Rick Santorum is not a staunch death penalty advocate and further extrapolates that, despite his devout Catholicism and his record on the issue that Santorum would champion expanding the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions — something that does not stand up to either Santorum’s record as a public official or how he publicly reconciles his faith with positions.It may be hard for Jenn Rubin to comprehend, but devout Catholics are so intense on the right to life issue, they really aren’t willing to hold on to the life issue at birth and give up on it at the end. What’s good for the child in utero is good for everyone else. It is, in fact, the most consistent pro-life approach, even though I disagree with it. Had she studied Santorum’s record on the issue, she’d see that those times the death penalty has come up in his career he has not exactly championed it, but has instead accepted it as (1) constitutional, (2) let it remain as part of the law, and (3) tried to curtail its use and application.At this point, I don’t think even my friend Quin Hillyer can maintain that Jenn Rubin might support Rick Santorum.More troubling, the Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt believes Rubin is supposed to not just cover conservatives for the typical left-wing reader of the Post, but also expand the pool of the Post’s readership to conservatives.When a majority of conservatives have rejected Mitt Romney and the Post’s in-house conservative blogger not only routinely assails all the Republican candidates but Romney (with the caveat that she will praise non-Romney candidates whose actions benefit Romney) and does so while showing no understanding, no matter how nuanced, of basic conservative positions like abortion and life issues, the Washington Post needs to rethink its strategy.

  1. I should also point out that in Jennifer Rubin’s apparent shock today that Rick Santorum believes abortion should be made illegal and doctors punished for aborting children, Rubin seems completely aghast at what has been a very long held position among pro-lifers and, in general, the greater social conservative section of the conservative movement. This goes back to, at least, Ronald Reagan’s campaign putting a pro-life plank in the GOP Platform in 1980. Surely someone chosen to cover the conservative movement should have a sense of history about that movement.

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