The Trouble With Santorum

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Former Senator (and likely presidential candidate) Rick Santorum has finally opened up and discussed the Dan Savage directed Google bombing of his name.

Santorum himself sounded slightly defeated when asked about it recently.

“It’s one guy. You know who it is. The Internet allows for this type of vulgarity to circulate. It’s unfortunate that we have someone who obviously has some issues. But he has an opportunity to speak,” Santorum told Roll Call.

Santorum’s Google problem began in 2003, when gay sex-advice columnist Dan Savage sought to mock Santorum’s comments on homosexuality. Then the third-most-powerful Republican in the Senate, Santorum told the Associated Press that April that gay sex could “undermine the fabric of our society.” The interview touched on a Supreme Court case related to sexual privacy, and Santorum compared homosexual acts to allowing for “man on child, man on dog” relationships.

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But Roll Call has learned that former staffers consulted technology experts years ago about their options. Ultimately, they found there was little they could do.

“You can bury anything on the Internet,” said David Urban, a Santorum ally and former chief of staff for former Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.). “But at what financial cost and at what political cost? You can bury a bad story. But how do you bury your own name?”

Well, anyone can buy Google ads tied to unfriendly searches, a tactic President Barack Obama’s campaign used to combat myths about his citizenship and religion. But any skilled Web user could deploy the same method Savage used — getting thousands of bloggers to link to a more complimentary site and take it viral.

Urban suggested that Santorum could use the Google problem to his advantage.

“The site’s completely gross. But I don’t think it’s a problem politically for Rick running for president. Quite the opposite,” he said. “If you’re Rick Santorum and you’re making an argument that there’s certain people that wish you ill, there’s exhibit No. 1. You say: ‘You want to see my battle scars? Google my name. You don’t think I’ve been in the trenches for years? I’ve got the scars to prove it.’”

[Roll Call]

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