American culture and politics going forward

The president made that word his campaign slogan followed by a period. Now it should be followed by a question mark.

So in line with the last post, the ruminations continue. Some are worth lining up and considering, especially for the people behind the candidates and especially the causes that did not prevail. There’s great benefit in studying what works and what doesn’t in reaching people and influencing their decisions. Which doesn’t mean relativizing the message. It means getting better at persuading people of it.

Top pro-life advocates are calling on the Republican Party to maintain its pro-life stance despite calls from some to back off from the position in the wake of the presidential election.

“A real soldier doesn’t stay on the defensive,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which works to promote pro-life candidates and policies. “You go out and state your best case.”

“The folks that have taken the stand on this issue have taken it because we’re talking about defending vulnerable human life,” she told CNA on Nov. 30. “If it’s not about that, it’s not about anything.”

Dannenfelser was one of several pro-life leaders who responded to suggestions by some Republicans, including Arizona senator John McCain, that the GOP should drop or mitigate its pro-life stance in order to broaden its appeal after losing the presidential election.

Back up a bit. On election day, Archbishop Charles Chaput’s essay on relativism was published in Public Discourse. It’s a good one.

The day may come when Catholics can support neither of the main American political parties or their candidates. Some think it’s already arrived. Alasdair MacIntyre, the Notre Dame philosopher, argued along those lines a few years ago, explaining why he couldn’t vote for either a Democrat or a Republican…

If we believe in the encyclical tradition—from Rerum Novarum to Evangelium Vitae; from Humanae Vitae to Caritas In Veritate—then we can’t settle comfortably in either political party. Catholics give priority to the right to life and the integrity of the family as foundation stones of society. But we also have much to say about the economy and immigration, runaway debt, unemployment, war and peace. It’s why the US bishops recently observed that “in today’s environment, Catholics may feel politically disenfranchised, sensing that no party and few candidates fully share our comprehensive commitment to human life and dignity.”

Chaput is commenting on religion, society and political realities here while reviewing Notre Dame historian Brad Gregory’s book The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society. It’s a provocative title, backed up well in its content, says Chaput.

Modern Western political theory tries (or pretends) to steer clear of prescribing morality. Because our society divides so bitterly over matters of truth and ethics, modern lawmakers tend to enshrine individual privacy and autonomy. But in doing so, they diminish the life-giving social importance of religious faith. This legal “neutrality” isn’t so neutral. In feeding the sovereignty of the individual, our public leaders fuel consumer self-absorption, moral confusion, and—ultimately, as mediating institutions like the family and churches wither—the power of the state…

It’s a world of hyperpluralism, where meaning is self-invented by millions, and therefore society as a whole starves for meaning.

No wonder Catholics find elections these days so grim. To be a Catholic in 2012, in the modern West at least, is to live at the end of a long history. Brad Gregory eloquently shows us some of what that means. Our moral failures and our intellectual choices have had consequences over the centuries. And now our culture is fractured.

But it didn’t—and it doesn’t—need to be that way.

Never does, when one has resolve. But it helps to know what went wrong and what to change, to make it go another way next time around. Or at some other future point.

So here are a couple of columns on that note.

Bill McGurn’s WSJ commentary on why something that should never have worked, did.

During the 2012 campaign, we conservatives had great sport at the expense of the Obama administration’s “Life of Julia”—a cartoon explaining the cradle-to-grave government programs that provided for Julia’s happy and successful life.

The president, alas, had the last laugh. For the voting blocs that went so disproportionately for the president’s re-election—notably, Latinos and single women—the Julia view of government clearly resonates. To put it another way, maybe Americans who have reason to feel insecure about their futures don’t find a government that promises to be there for them when they need it all that menacing.

The dominant media conclusion from this is that the Republican Party is cooked unless it surrenders its principles. I’m not so sure. To the contrary, it strikes me that now is a pretty good time to get back to principles—and to do more to show people who gave President Obama his victory why their dreams and families would be better served by a philosophy of free markets and limited government.

Let’s concede that those who are pushing to expand government have one huge advantage. Their advantage is that their solutions are immediate, direct and easy to explain.

See, that’s one of my key points of interst, easy to explain. People react to emotion more than to reason.

The conservative is rightly concerned with incentives and the long-term effects of any government program for relief, which are vital concerns for workable policy. The liberal is far less abstract: Here are some food stamps so your children don’t go hungry tonight.

Striking point. But…

Never mind the long-term costs and consequences of these solutions. Yes, the education loans that supposedly make college “affordable” actually drive its costs up faster than normal inflation. Yes, housing subsidies have saddled people with homes they cannot afford. And, yes, minimum-wage laws price the people who can least afford it out of the job market. The dilemma for those of us who oppose big-government solutions is that the true costs of these “solutions” are seldom clear until it’s too late.

And as Yuval Levin puts it:

“The left’s approach to social policy is to shield people from the American economy, while conservatives’ approach must be to enable them to enjoy its benefits—to enable people to move up rather than to make them more secure in poverty. Conservatives know that this is where our principles point, but we need to make sure that the striving immigrant worker or the struggling single mom knows that too.”

That’s the toughest part, when you’re not as good at the art of storytelling, conveying the narrative, as those who weave tales artfully.

Our pundits covered every scenario. We were too conservative. We weren’t conservative enough. The social issues killed us. We didn’t hit the social issues hard enough. We had a candidate problem. A woman problem. A Hispanic problem. It will continue for months, this self-abuse masquerading as self-examination. And liberals will eat it up, watching us wallow in self-doubt.

But if there is one thing conservatives can agree on post-election, it’s this: The dominance of the Left in the storytelling arena is making a difference at the polls. It’s impossible to measure, but anyone who doesn’t think it skews outcomes is living in an alternative universe.

The fact is, it’s easier to sell a political narrative to America when it comports with the cultural narrative we see and hear every day.

“The universe is made up of stories, not atoms,” the poet Muriel Rukeyser once said. Stories, not facts, are the way people process information. Screenplays, plays, scripts, and stories are packed not with hard data but with something more powerful and human: emotional data. That’s why we remember stories long after we’ve forgotten facts. Stories stir our souls.

And we’re not talking about the anecdotal stories politicians deploy to inject humanity into their stump speeches. We’re talking about the narrative of our nation. The story of America. The story of who we are, how we got here, and what we’re to become.

It is extremely serious business, that kind of storytelling.

Plato understood the power of storytellers. It’s why he wanted to ban them in his dream society. Wisely, the Left understands the importance of storytelling and dominates almost every aspect of it in the culture, from content creation to distribution. Regrettably, too few conservatives think storytelling matters.

We’ve invested billions in our great think tanks but little in the task of translating that work into stories the average American will care about. Yes, we have Fox News and political talk radio — important outlets, but outlets that narrowcast to the conservative base and are driven by politics and opinion, not storytelling.

What we don’t have is an alternative to NPR. Or The Daily Show. Or 60 Minutes. Or The Charlie Rose Show. Or Frontline. Or Ken Burns. Content that doesn’t scream its politics at the audience but that lures America in with great storylines, not lectures.

Conservatives have a profound storytelling deficit, yet all we do is whine and complain about it. It’s part of our DNA, our whining about the culture, as if we’re incapable of reverse-engineering the Left’s success.

In 1980, Ted Turner launched CNN. It struggled for years to find an audience and became a player thanks to the first Gulf War — and to the spread of cable TV. In 1996, Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes launched a news network that leaned right, offering the public a counterpoint to the left-leaning CNN. It didn’t take Fox News long to beat CNN.

So much for that 16-year head start!

You’d think our wealthiest conservatives would want to mimic that accomplishment in other areas of our culture. Why not create an alternative to NPR? It reaches 33 million people with its feigned neutrality. Or The Daily Show? Ridicule is a powerful weapon, and the Left offers Americans much to laugh about.

In the past two presidential cycles, we spent billions of dollars on political TV ads that many Americans skipped or ignored. And those billions ended up filling the coffers of entertainment conglomerates whose news and programming relentlessly attack and caricature our side all year round.

We aren’t just throwing money down the drain on commercials. We’re funding the Left’s storytelling and programming machine. And we’re the smart guys?

Why do we keep ignoring the importance of story? And why are we surprised when, even when we win elections, our national debt piles up, and the administrative state expands?

Why haven’t we developed studios or messaging tanks that support our worldview?

It’s simple. Too many of our smart guys think the storytelling stuff is silly. They’re like businesspeople who think success is predicated on spreadsheets, data, and process but ignore the importance of human relationships.

We don’t respect storytelling. We believe deep down in our hearts that if we just keep pounding away at America with our superior policy positions and our superior arguments, we’ll win — that if we just educate the masses, they’ll vote with us.

We forget that most Americans get their education through stories. And most Americans don’t connect with the smartest person in the room, even if that person believes in the American experiment and the innate genius of the American people.

We have short attention spans, and if the media (though we don’t trust them, Americans are still swayed by them) doesn’t much cover important events or story lines, or cover them at all, we will forget about them.

That’s the ephemeral nature of news and politics in the age of instant communication: It gets old faster and faster.

60 Minutes is just as crafty. Don Hewitt, the man who created the hit show, was asked why it was so successful. “Tell me a story,” he said — preferably, one with a beginning, middle, and end. That show has been top-ranked on Sundays since the beginning of time. At least it feels that way.

Hewitt knew well what we don’t. Storytelling matters. Stories have characters, conflict, and resolution. In the liberal universe, the bad guys are greedy corporate types, Christian extremists, Israel, the U.S. military, millionaires, and billionaires.

The good guys are journalists, trial lawyers, union leaders, Palestinians, and government agencies, all there to protect the little guy from the big guys, the bad guys: us.

We need not be depressed by this state of affairs. The gatekeepers don’t have a grip on cultural platforms the way they used to, and we are highly capable of competing on mass-media platforms, including radio and TV.

That’s truer now than ever. 

There is a reason why people of every ethnic background in the world risk everything to come to America. It isn’t bigger government. It’s opportunity and freedom…

So as we study the gender gap, the marriage gap, and the other various gaps in the electorate over the coming months, we need to tackle the most important gap of them all: the storytelling gap. We are on America’s side. We’re on the side of the little guy. We’re on the side of men and women of every age, ethnicity, and class, and of the principles that have drawn people here for centuries.

Too many Americans just don’t know it yet.

Post-election ruminations

And they are revealing. Not only about what went wrong for champions of one candidate, much of one party and many advocates of important causes, but how to learn from that. High level disagreement there…

Take this Public Discourse piece.

A common trope in social policy debates is to claim that the public’s changing opinion on the policy at stake, rather than the policy’s moral or substantive justifications, merits changing the platform of one’s preferred political party. This notion seems recently to have taken root on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, and several commentators have reacted.

Consider its November 8 editorial extolling referendums on marriage. The editors argue that views on “gay marriage” are changing so that “after 32 defeats at the ballot box, a gay marriage initiative was adopted by voters,” which shows that Americans are “capable of changing their views and the laws on gay marriage.” They praise the referendum process over judicial fiat, but their implicit premise seems to be that the policy change is a good one. Any substantive arguments to support this view are missing; what remains is only the claim of an inexorable shift in public opinion.

Now there’s a good point. I keep saying that we need a robust and honest public airing of different views on a number of social issues and public policies, with opposite arguments made and defended, so people can engage the fullness of the issues and the ramifications of their outcomes. You know, follow an idea through to its logical conclusion. Engage critical thinking. We’re not getting much of that in any widely accessed public forum, with few exceptions.

Ross Douthat comments on all this, and does some dot-connecting in this op-ed piece.

Liberals look at the Obama majority and see a coalition bound together by enlightened values — reason rather than superstition, tolerance rather than bigotry, equality rather than hierarchy. But it’s just as easy to see a coalition created by social disintegration and unified by economic fear.

Consider the Hispanic vote. Are Democrats winning Hispanics because they put forward a more welcoming face than Republicans do — one more in keeping with America’s tradition of assimilating migrants yearning to breathe free? Yes, up to a point. But they’re also winning recent immigrants because those immigrants often aren’t assimilating successfully — or worse, are assimilating downward, thanks to rising out-of-wedlock birthrates and high dropout rates. The Democratic edge among Hispanics depends heavily on these darker trends: the weaker that families and communities are, the more necessary government support inevitably seems.

Likewise with the growing number of unmarried Americans, especially unmarried women. Yes, social issues like abortion help explain why these voters lean Democratic. But the more important explanation is that single life is generally more insecure and chaotic than married life, and single life with children — which is now commonplace for women under 30 — is almost impossible to navigate without the support the welfare state provides.

Or consider the secular vote, which has been growing swiftly and tilts heavily toward Democrats. The liberal image of a non-churchgoing American is probably the “spiritual but not religious” seeker, or the bright young atheist reading Richard Dawkins. But the typical unchurched American is just as often an underemployed working-class man, whose secularism is less an intellectual choice than a symptom of his disconnection from community in general.

What unites all of these stories is the growing failure of America’s local associations — civic, familial, religious — to foster stability, encourage solidarity and make mobility possible…

This is a great flaw in the liberal vision, because whatever role government plays in prosperity, transfer payments are not a sufficient foundation for middle-class success. It’s not a coincidence that the economic era that many liberals pine for — the great, egalitarian post-World War II boom — was an era that social conservatives remember fondly as well: a time of leaping church attendance, rising marriage rates and birthrates, and widespread civic renewal and engagement.

No such renewal seems to be on the horizon. That isn’t a judgment on the Obama White House, necessarily. But it is a judgment on a certain kind of blithe liberal optimism, and the confidence with which many Democrats assume their newly emerged majority is a sign of progress rather than decline.

As for conservatives, they’re having a necessary and not necessarily bad wrestling match within their ranks over big ideas and changing realities and criticism both constructive and very unhelpful.

Back to that Public Discourse piece:

To the extent then that the Republican Party appears to abandon its rightward stance on social issues; to the extent that Republicans are afraid to defend their views on the value of life, on religious freedom, and on marriage, they cede back the Reagan Democrats and their children to the Democrats, and they doom themselves to minority status.

These practical realities have not been lost on conservatives, and several important commentators have sounded the alarm. At First Things Matthew Franck cogently compares the Wall Street Journal’s urgings that we abandon our social principles to the cynical political maneuvering of Stephen Douglas on the slavery issue a century and a half ago. Franck notes that had Abraham Lincoln succumbed to the apparent expediency of falling into line with Douglas’s arguments, slavery likely would have persisted…

Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, policy has worked, does work, and will work best when it is founded on moral and practical arguments. The Republican Party’s defense of freedom and dignity is based on both.

And more, because as Eric Metaxas puts it so well in so few words, logic is not enough.

Post-election reckoning

Now that there’s been another week for the election results to sink in, more writers are taking stock of what happened, and there’s an interesting juxtaposition of views on social issues going on. Just as there was during the heat of the campaigns. Was it, is it, better to emphasize them, or de-emphasize them?

Austin Ruse vents in this opinion piece.

I wonder if these folks experienced the same campaign as the rest of us? Exactly when did Mitt Romney campaign, I mean really campaign on the life issues? What ads did he run? Perhaps they were thinking of the Romney ad meant to quell pro-choice concerns, the one telling folks they shouldn’t worry because he still favored abortion for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother? And perhaps these conservatives could show us the ads Romney ran supporting historical marriage, because I missed those and I live in what was one of the hottest of swing states, Virginia.

I might be able to understand these comments if Romney had actually run as a social conservative, but his race was first, last and always about the economy, smaller government, lower taxes, things to warm the cockles of almost any fiscal conservative. But where and when did he actually campaign as a social conservative?…

Romney did say he would defund Planned Parenthood but he never said why. He could have pointed out that there are several thousand Title X clinics not connected to Planned Parenthood that do everything Planned Parenthood does except abortions. He could have pointed out that Planned Parenthood raises a billion dollars a year and in time of fiscal crisis perhaps our money is spent better elsewhere. He could have said Planned Parenthood does not do mammograms no matter what they say. He could have said losing federal funding would hardly close Planned Parenthood down. But he didn’t say any of these things.

The decision not to run a campaign on social issues was made at the top and was ruthlessly imposed all the way to the smallest of campaign events…

Whether Team Romney knew it or not, there were three straight up pro-life votes in the states this time around. Two of them passed including one in liberal Massachusetts. And while it’s true historical marriage lost for the very first time in at least three states, in each of these very liberal states, pro-marriage forces ran ahead of Romney at the polls.

Here’s the thing. Most young people are pro-life. Most young women are pro-life. Most African-Americans are both pro-life and pro-family. These are three of the demographic groups Obama went after and won. Talk to African American pro-lifers. They were aching to help Romney but Romney was not interested in them. And they are livid. Team Romney left lots of voters behind who were eager to help and now the pundits blame them for Romney’s loss.

All along there was a war over women and it was fought exclusively by Barack Obama. There was a campaign run on the social issues but it was run exclusively by Barack Obama. Mitt Romney ceded the entire ground of the moral issues to Barack Obama and he ran right over Mitt Romney and his timid advisers.

Time to toughen up. Because some groups that seized the opportunity to advance their version of social issues are waging a scorched earth campaign to take new territory.

For the first time in its history, a United Nations agency, UNFPA, has declared access to contraception “a human right.”

“Family planning is a human right. It must therefore be available to all who want it,” declares the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) annual report. “But clearly this right has not yet been extended to all.”

The report calls on nations of the world to fight “cultural barriers,” as well as legal constraints, that cause women to forgo the use of birth control.

“What is to stop the UNFPA from declaring that abortion is a basic ‘human right,’ as they have already attempted to do several times, especially in light of the relentless UN drive to legalize abortion all over the world?” ask Brian Clowes, director of research for Human Life International, in an e-mail to

The report does not explicitly call for abortion legalization. However, it considers “emergency contraception” a human right, stating it “is not effective once implantation has begun and does not cause abortion.” However, the report adds, “A single emergency contraceptive pill, when taken within up to five days after unprotected intercourse, prevents a fertilized egg from implanting.”

Therefore, it is an abortifacent. A fertilized egg is terminated, which means newly conceived human life is ended, aborted.

That’s what the battle over the HHS mandate is all about. And there’s a new setback in that, too.

The owners of Hobby Lobby asked to be exempted from providing the “morning after” and “week after” pills on religious grounds, arguing this would violate their Christian belief that abortion is wrong.

Judge Joe Heaton of the U.S. District for the Western District of Oklahoma denied the request for a preliminary injunction…

The Food and Drug Administration lists the “morning after” and “week after” pills as emergency contraceptives. But abortion opponents like the Green family consider them abortion-inducing drugs because they are often taken after conception.

Early in his administration, President Obama gave a talk to a group of men at a church over Father’s Day weekend, exhorting them to be responsible to their families, reminding them that ‘fatherhood doesn’t end at conception.’ He had it right then. Conception means a man and woman have conceived a child. If only he would remember that basic truth now, and make that a social issue worth talking about again.

The Dems agenda

Throughout the Republicans’ primary debates and into the GOP convention, that party was accused of being too focused on social issues and not the fiscal ones that matter to the country. Now, the Democrats opened their convention with a heavy emphasis on…social issues.

Which the New York Times pointed out.

On Monday night, Michelle Obama told the nation that her husband wants everyone to succeed no matter “who we love.”

If that was not clear enough, she returned to the point later in her address. “If proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love,” she said, “then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American dream.”

She was not the only one. At times it seemed as if almost every speaker on the first night of the Democratic National Convention was touting same-sex marriage.

“When it comes to letting people marry whomever they love, Mitt Romney says no,” Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio said of the Republican nominee.

“Today in Massachusetts, you can also marry whomever you love,” said that state’s governor, Deval Patrick.

Kal Penn, the actor and former White House aide, praised Mr. Obama for being “cool with all of us getting gay-married.”

And then there was ‘abortion-palooza’.

Until the Democratic convention got into prime time, speaker after speaker went to the podium to hail the Democratic Party sacrament, to the point that one would have thought that the source of most woes in America was an epidemic of conception, rather than say, oh, jobs.  The focus shifted a little when primetime coverage began…

New York Times columnist David Brooks told PBS that his one “cavil” was that voters want to hear about jobs and the economy, not taxpayer-subsidized abortion on demand:

“You know, you’re electing someone — we’re going to spend four more years with these people — and after this speech, I think a lot of people will say, ‘Yeah, I think I kind of do,’” Brooks said.

“The one cavil I will have … is this speech has — [it] reinforces something we’ve heard all night, which was how much the crowd goes crazy and how passionate they are about abortion and gay marriage and the social issues. And tonight has been about that.

“And to me it should have been a lot more about economics, growth, and debt. And that better be the job of day two and day three because they did not do it here.”

That’s not a “cavil,” it’s a legitimate — and inescapable — observation. Brooks seemed mighty pleased to have stumped the PBS panel with that word, but he chose it poorly. The point of an incumbent’s convention is to demonstrate the progress made on issues that matter to voters and assume the high ground over one’s opponent. It’s difficult to see how Democrats could have made Barack Obama more irrelevant and small last night.

Until they made him and his administration very large.

As the convention opened, this video was played in which the narrator stated: “Government is the only thing we all belong to.”

WHAT?! Seriously? Did they really say that?

On it’s face the statement “government is the only thing we all belong to” reeks with collectivism. I halfway expected the delegates to bow down and praise Obama on the spot, the current incarnation of the all-powerful progressive conception of big-government. Instead of wasting my time watching the big government love-fest play out on screen, I took a second to look at the platform for the DNC in 2012. Then everything made sense. In this years’ version of the Democratic platform, Democrats left out two important words. Those two words make all the difference. In more ways than one.
“God Given.” Those are the two words expunged from the 2012 DNC Platform.

But wait…that changed…the next day. After a lot of pressure, never mind the outside criticism but also inside the Democratic party. They brought back God, and Israel.

Democrats voted to update their party’s platform Wednesday evening at their convention to include a reference to Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, as well as the insertion of the word “God,” neither of which was included in their platform this year but was in previous platforms.

But of all the things they played up in the party convention, they’ve certainly played down the big feature that hung over the Republican convention…the debt. Which just broke over the $16 trillion mark.

Though that didn’t get a mention in the DNC.

It was classic major-party Manicheasm: Eastasians do bad things for the simple reason that their hearts are bad; Eurasians’ hearts are good, so they don’t do bad things.

In this idyllic landscape of Democratic magical thinking, there is no state and local budget crises, no unaffordable and underfunded defined-benefit public pension obligations, nothing at all standing in the way of “investing” in our public safety, except (in ex-Republican Stern’s words) “right-wing extremists.”

The thinking behind the presentation was certainly creative.

Last night’s speeches were notable less for what they contained and more for what they did not: any engagement with the issue of having a debt load (of $16 trillion) that is now larger than GDP, of having a long-forecasted entitlement time bomb marching northward toward 100 percent of federal spending, of having underfunded obligations in the trillions of dollars promised by politicians addicted to handing out “free” benefits.

The bottom line of the first day:

One of the great ironies of this convention already is that speaker after speaker denounces Republicans for being unable to tell the truth or get their facts straight. Meanwhile, one of the most important truths of modern governance—we are well and truly out of money—sits neglected in the corner.

Ahead of Wednesday’s speech by former president Bill Clinton, predictions were easy to make about his role as reshaper of the brand and image. The Wall Street Journal’s was as accurate as anyone’s.

Clinton’s speech was certainly rousing, he was in his element and enjoying every moment, and he delivered exactly what was expected on every count. Except for time. He went way over, clocking in at just about an hour.

Here’s the key to reading the transcript or listening to the streaming audio or video. This was anticipated:

Arguably the most memorable phrase (not related to a scandal) that Bill Clinton uttered during his Presidency came in his 1996 State of the Union address: “The era of big government is over.” And for a few years, it was over. By contrast, Mr. Obama’s four years have been spent expanding the government willy-nilly—with more spending, the promise of higher taxes, and intervention across the economy. His only economic plan now is still-more spending.

So as Mr. Clinton tries to lay hands on Mr. Obama and rewrite the history of the 1990s, the real story isn’t how much policy the two Democrats have in common. What matters is what they did differently. Bill Clinton learned from the mistakes of his first two years. Mr. Obama has doubled down on his—and, on all available evidence, he will double down again if he’s re-elected.

Santorum on O’Reilly

Actually it was the reverse. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly really got on Republican candidate Rick Santorum about his campaign and views and likelihood of success going forward. The day after he was victorious in Iowa.

It’s one thing to ask the tough questions, Santorum and the rest of the field should be used to that or get used to it fast from now on. It’s another to step outside the ‘No Spin Zone’ and pitch the zingers O’Reilly snapped off at Santorum to elicit the responses he was looking for, sometimes without letting the candidate finish his answer. It was O’Reilly-like, and I listened to it again before saying anything.

Here’s what I saw and heard…

O’Reilly was testy from the start. Fair enough to say that’s an impression rather than a fact, but that’s my impression, and I’m neutral on the candidates at this point. It was just a surprisingly terse host in this interview.

O’Reilly starts by asking Santorum: ‘Who are you going to take from in New Hampshire? You’ve got 10 percent now, who are you going to take from?’ in order to rise in the polls. Santorum did his best responding about raising support and resources.

O’Reilly: ‘Are you ready to be demonized? Now it’s a national race, and you’re going to be portrayed as an extremist. And some of your positions are out of the mainstream. You know, 98 percent of Americans think contraception is fine, that states have the right to legislate that.’

Santorum: ‘As you know as a Catholic…’ and he starts to refer to that shared understanding of birth control. 

O’Reilly interrupts: ‘But the majority of Catholics don’t follow that, it’s like the meat on Fridays thing, it’s not that Jesus said it, it’s not a dogma, it’s a doctrine made by man. I’m not justifying it or and I’m not giving my opinion about it one way or the other. I’m just pointing out they’re going to come after you on that, and they’re going to come after you on gays in the military. And they’re going to come after you on gay marriage, on a marriage license that’s already given. You would have them rescind it. All I’m saying is I’m not debating the issue with you. I’m not debating the issue with you, I’m not saying you’re right or wrong. I’m just saying this is going to be put to you, that you’re an extremist, out of the mainstream. How are you going to reply to that? You want to rescind a license that’s already given? That’s a big deal.’

Santorum says defining marriage as between a man and a woman is not extreme.

O’Reilly asks if passing a constitutional amendment defining marraige would be in the forefront of a Santorum administration.

Santorum: ‘As you know Bill, if you’ve been following me out on the trail, I haven’t been talking a lot about this although I strongly believe in it. What I’ve been talking about as I did last night in my acceptance speech, where I didn’t talk about this issue, I talked about getting this economy going. I talked about my grandfather, and coming here for freedom. This is the fundamental issue in this campaign, whether government is going to be big and obtrusive and telling people how to manage their lives, or they’re going to support the values of faith and family that allow government to be limited, that allow our economy to be strong. Those are things I talked about. I did across Iowa and I will here in New Hampshire and…’

O’Reilly interrupts: ‘Alright you’re going to de-emphasize the controversial social stuff, and then get into the smaller government stuff, more self-reliance and the economy stuff. Okay.’ Santorum shakes his head.

After some questions about judges and the Ninth Circuit, O’Reilly wraps up saying: ‘We hope you’ll come on again, and congratulations on the Iowa deal…’

Wherever this goes from here, it may have been a high point last night in Santorum’s candidacy. But it was one of the less than high points in O’Reilly’s professional reign.

That interview was poorly handled. ‘Word of the Day’? Don’t be tendentious, Mr. O’Reilly.