The Fix Live: Did Rick Santorum gaffe by saying women shouldn't serve in combat?

Feb 10, 2012

Rick Santorum says women in military combat roles is a bad idea because of "other types of emotions," and talks about the "radical feminism" of women working outside the home. Did he just lose the votes of women? Chat live with The Fix's Aaron Blake about this and more, including CPAC, Obama's contraception decision and more.

Hey everyone -- Welcome to the next episode of the Fix live chat.

What's on your mind? Rick Santorum? Gisele Bunchen's Super Bowl comments? The halftime show? CPAC? Valentine's gift ideas?

I'm all yours for the next hour...

Rick Santorum's latest statement is, in many ways, symptomatic of a larger problem. Is Santorum trying to live in an America that has passed him by (or perhaps never existed in the first place)?

This is certainly what Santorum's opponents have been saying for a long time, and if he ever became the GOP nominee, it would be a focus of President Obama's campaign and his supporters.

Santorum, more than basically any big-name Republican in recent years, has been completely unapologetic about his social issue positions. It has earned him lots of enemies in the gay rights, pro-abortion rights and liberal communities, and I think what you just said is the argument they would all make against him.

Hi Fix Aaron: Are people (including, it seems, the Post's Jennifer Rubin) interpreting Santorum's comment about "other types of emotions" to mean emotions that are uniquely felt by women? If so, then the comment appears pretty sexist. Or is he saying that allowing women to serve in combat roles will lead to emotional bonds between men and women that might impair a soldier's (male or female) judgment on the battlefield? (The reference to "camaraderie of men" seems to support this view.) If so, the comment is not sexist, and is likely in line with the DoD's position on the matter. I'm no supporter of Santorum, but it seems like we might be mistaken in calling him out on this one. Thoughts? Go Gophers.

The comment was pretty vague. Santorum clarified this morning on the Today Show that he meant that, with men fighting alongside women, the men would be more concerned with saving a woman fighting alongside them than saving a man, and therefore less focused on the mission at hand.

So it's closer to the second option. It's the better explanation in the long term, but it may not be the last we hear of it.

It is not a gaffe at all. He says what he belivies, and anyone who has the guts to say the truth will agree that he has a point regarding women reacting emoitionally different than men. Mature women who are objective enough to see the upside and downsides of both genders will agree too. This "storm" is produced by pundits and journalist who live in a bubble or are just looking for news.

This is the conservative defense of Santorum, and it makes sense. But also keep in mind that even most of the conservative base believes women should fight in combat (we wrote on this this morning:

So whether it was a gaffe or not, he's at odds with his party.

Fill in the blank: Bob Kerrey not jumping into a the Nebraska Senate race is as unsurprising as ________________.

Roy Cooper not running for govenor of North Carolina?

Sarah Palin not running for president?

David Lee Roth re-joining Van Halen? (Oh, wait...)

Is Gisele going to give Wes Welker a case of "Butterfingers" candy bars?

I'm tired of America siding with the more handsome half of the vaunted Brady/Welker combo. That ball was clearly thrown to the wrong shoulder.

Anybody running against her yet? Doesn't MN have the best senators?

Amy Klobuchar is very popular and very safe. Plus, anybody who wants to run for Senate is just going to wait two years for when Al Franken is up. He will not have an easy time.

Don't forget to vote in our poll:  How will Rick Santorum’s comments about women affect his campaign?

Let us know what you think in the comments section.



He had the poll numbers to win the Catholic Contraception Coverage Culture War. Why is he backing down? Speaking of which, he's not thinking of backing down on the Keystone Pipeline too, is he?

Great point. Polling was on Obama's side on this one, with a majority of Americans in favor of forcing Catholic hospitals to dispense emergency contraception, including Catholics. But the Catholic church wasn't on board, and this is the kind of thing that really gets the conservative base riled up. So it's not quite so simple as the top-line poll numbers.

Where's Chris? The Republican Nomination's been thrown in a tizzy and he's gone to ground to "Write a Book". If he had said "to walk the Appalacian Trail", I could understand it. But to "Write a Book"?

Last I heard, Cillizza is off in Orlando partying with Mickey and Donald Duck. Apparently this is his inspiration for his "book"!?

I think we need a full-scale investigation.

Santorum seems like a throwback (not in a good way) to a fictitious 1950's. While his three wins this past week give him new life- although two of them don't really count because they are non-binding- he keeps seemingly alienating large chunks of voters. Does he honestly think that if by some miracle he gets the nomination he's going to win any support in the general? Or is he just trying to be Mitt's #2 at this point?

Santorum's argument on this is that he won a very Democratic House district twice and won in a nominally blue state -- Pennsylvania -- twice.

Whatever his reputation now, he has won a few high-profile tough races, and we can't take that away from him. But he's also much more defined now that he was in his campaigns in the 1990s, and Republicans are skeptical that he has that kind of broad appeal.

At the same time, he's got the blue-collar populist thing down pretty well. And there's plenty of time to redefine yourself in a presidential campaign. Who knows?

Is the break before the next primaries and caucuses Mitt Romney's best friend?

It was supposed to be. I don't think it is anymore. In fact, if the Romney campaign had its druthers, I think it would rather there was a primary on Tuesday in which his campaign could squelch this right now. As it stands, Santorum has three weeks to build on this momentum and raise money. Romney is a weakened frontrunner for that whole three weeks.

Is Chris Cillizza book cover story just an elaborate cover up for him to spend more time in a warm climate and on a beach?

No comment.

Does anything constructive come out of the CPAC conference, besides some good laughs?

It's certainly entertaining and worth covering, but more than anything, these conferences are dominated by a very select portion of the conservative base. So we all need to be careful not to draw too broad of conclusions.

If you want a good laugh, check out Alexandra Petri's recap of the CPAC conservative dating seminar. No, really, it happened:

Did Romney have a worse week than Obama, since Romney lost three states and generally looks like a very weak frontrunner?

Yes. Obama's decision on emergency contraception has been a headache, but it's nothing compared to Romney's week. This is a guy who's getting a reputation for not being able to close the deal. Obama, meanwhile, is about to announce a deal on contraception.

Don't forget that Rick Santorum lost his 2006 Senate reelection bid (despite incumbent advantage) by nearly 20 percentage points.

Yes, this is the flip side of the coin. His argument is that it was a bad year for the GOP, but in fact he was polling like a dead duck long before the Democratic wave of 2006 formed. We wrote about this a while back. It was really bad.

No, the gaffe was in the liberal media disagreeing with Santorum. A Pew poll showed most Americans do not think women should serve in combat. The out-of-touch elites are the only ones who think they should. Charles Murray devotes an entire chapter to this issue in his new book. Is it time for you reporters to admit that you don't get it, you don't get Santorum, because he offends your elite liberal sensibilities? That is a better question.

I'm not sure which Pew poll you're referring too, but almost all polls I've seen in recent years show majorities believe women should fight in combat, going back to 2005.

It's pretty obvious that Nevada GOP holds the worst-run caucuses. Who runs the best?

Iowa had a pretty bad year too. I think it takes the prize this year, given that it doesn't even know for sure who won.

Will caucuses soon go the way of the Dodo?

Is there any polling yet showing how much backlash is Pete Hoekstra might be experiencing for that arguably racist "Debbie Spend-it-now" commercial playing on anti-China fears and prejudices? Did Hoekstra approve that ad, or was it from a PAC?

The ad was his. He approved it and he owned it.

It's too early to surmise whether there was backlash. He did get a fundraising boost, but we haven't seen any polling on it. I will note that, while he is continuing with the "SpendItNow" attack, he has taken down the Chinese-themed web site and ad. So maybe that tells you what you need to know.

The previous chatter asked, "Why is he backing down?" Because that's what he does. Consistently. Just watch -- he will sell out women (again), and manage to come out of the whole thing with ALL sides bitter. Again. (This administration's political strategy skills never cease to amaze.)

This is apparently one of the 6 percent of Democrats in Missouri who cast ballots for "uncommitted" on Tuesday.

I haven't seen him in awhile. Did he run out of money?

Newt hasn't had money for a long time. The difference now is that he doesn't have debates to keep himself relevant. I think the road ahead is very tough for him. He needs his super PAC, and there's no indication Sheldon Adelson is going to plug more money into it.

What is your informed speculation on the content of Mr. Romney's for-certain attack content on Mr. Santorum now that he's the threat?

Well we've already seen Romney's team target Santorum's history on earmarking. Beyond that, I think electability is the big one. GOP voters want to beat Obama in state after state.

Link doesn't work.


Hm, it's working on our end.  Anyone else having trouble with this link?

Obama sold out. What's next? Will the Bishops make him stand in the snow for 3 days and then kiss the Pope's ring?

Speaking of which, I was watching a replay of David Blaine's "Frozen in Time" special last night. Anybody who hasn't seen the David Blaine "Street Magic" spoofs needs to spend a half-hour this afternoon checking them out. (Warning: NSFW)

I just have a hard time believing any Republican will win in Michigan this year. The feeling of abandonment with respect to the auto industry is strong. The general feeling about those Chinese ads were that Republicans were ready to cede car manufacturing to China and Mexico - he has some nerve.

The GOP's governor candidate won by a huge margin in 2010, but federal races are different. That said, Stabenow doesn't have great numbers, and if Romney is the GOP nominee, that may help someone like Hoekstra.

Have Mitt frothing at his mouth waiting for the next primary? Or is Romney internally chuckling because no delegates were awarded?

This is still a momentum race for now. Wins matter. Romney's team did yeoman's work trying to emphasize the fact that there were no delegates directly at stake, but that didn't matter the moment Santorum won all three states.

And yes, I think Romney's team can't wait for the next primary.

I was surprised that the Republican nominee is still not clear by now, so I looked up how the actual selection occurs to see when we'll know for certain. Big mistake! I've never seen anything so confusing. Is there a possibility that things could be undecided going into the Republican convention?

It's certainly a possibility (Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina said so), but still not likely. That would require the candidates splitting up the delegates for the next few months so that none of them gets a majority. The realities of running a campaign make it hard for all of them to be viable for that long. But we'll see.

If it DID happen, though, here's what it might look like:


Thanks, chatter! Hope this helps those of you who couldn't click on the previous shortened link.

Give poor Brady a break, he just lost the Super Bowl and then heard Kevin Youkilis is going to be his new brother in law (marrying his sister). Not a good week...

Will the Greek God of Walks allow Brady's sister to walk down the aisle? Or will he insist on doing it himself to improve his on-base percentage?

And since I try to end every chat with a Kevin Youkilis joke, I think that's as good a time as any.

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone, and make sure to buy that special someone something nice. Part of my Valetine's Day gift this year is saying hi to my wife in this live chat, so here goes...

Happy Valentine's Day to Mrs. Deputy Fix!

See you all next week.

In This Chat
Aaron Blake
Aaron Blake covers national politics at the Washington Post, where he writes regularly for the Fix, the Post?s top political blog. A Minnesota native and summa cum laude graduate of the University of Minnesota, Aaron has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and The Hill newspaper. Aaron and his wife, Danielle, live in Annandale, Va.
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