So I got to the Sabbar Shrine Center on South Tucson Boulevard about 9 a.m. on Feb. 22, a full three hours before Right-Wing God's favorite candidate, Rick Santorum, was scheduled to speak at a Tea Party rally.
The doors were supposed to open at 10, and attendance would be cut off once the hall filled up. (It holds around 450 lost souls.) I figured that if I got there early, the true, capital-Z Zealots would be there, anxious to rush in and get a seat right down front, like Deadheads at a festival-seating concert hoping to get a contact high off Jerry Garcia. When I got there, the crowd size was decent, but not overwhelming. It was a Wednesday morning, after all. Plus, the fact that both the rodeo and the golf tournament were in town would probably pull away some of the natural constituency of the White Boy Party, albeit from wildly divergent economic wings.
I walked up by the door, and a heavy-set gentleman gave me a "No cuts!" glare. I assured him that I wasn't trying to cut in line, perchance to bask in Santorum's holier-than-thou-ness; I just wanted to ask some questions. The guy (who wouldn't give me his name, so in my mind, I assigned him the name Biff) looked at me, and, with a straight face, asked, "Are you with the government?"
Dressed as I was in my everyday ensemble of shorts and a T-shirt, I figured it would have to be mega-casual day at the Spying on Regular Americans Division of the federal government. I identified myself as a columnist for the Tucson Weekly, and this other guy said, "That's a communist rag."
I asked, "Are there still communists around these days?"
Biff, quite pleased with himself, replied, "There's one in the White House."
"I thought he was a socialist," I said.
"What's the difference?" Indeed.
With less than a week to go before the Arizona primary at the time, Rick Santorum was riding a wave of popularity, making him this month's Michele Bachmann/Rick Perry/Herman Cain. (Really, do you think anybody in the Republican Party ever took Bachmann or Cain seriously?)
Anyway, Santorum arrived in Phoenix on the same day that the loons in the state House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow the teaching of the Bible in public schools. What in the hell is wrong with people? If you aren't getting enough religion in church, either you suck, or your religion sucks.
The bill was sponsored by Terri Proud, the northwest-side mom who regurgitated all the right-wing phrases at all the right times, and in doing so, parlayed her one term in office into a high-paying job in Phoenix. She's leaving behind HB 2563 as a "screw you" to all of us who actually ascribe to Jesus' line about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's. I have no doubt that Santorum would find the idea of teaching the Bible in public school just peachy keen. Let me put it this way: People like Rick Santorum are the reason I don't hold hands with others while saying the "Our Father" during Mass.
Santorum was surging in the polls, not so much by attacking GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, but by attacking President Obama, in general, and Obama's faith, in particular. It's an especially smarmy tactic, but it appears to be working, at least in the short run.
By the time this column comes out, the results of the primary from a couple of days ago will already be known (except for maybe the results from Pima County). Despite the surge in the polls, Santorum may not have caught Romney, because so many people voted early, which, as we all know, is an abomination. (Note to public-school kids: "Abomination" is a word in the Bible, and it applies to homosexuality, adultery, eating shellfish and planting two different crops in the same field. No, really!)
I wish I could have asked Santorum some questions. They would have been:
1. If, as I assume, you support the teaching of the Bible in public schools, which Bible should they teach? The Catholic Bible is different than the King James Version. Heck, we Catholics even have a different Ten Commandments than the other Christians.
2. Is Mitt Romney a Christian?
3. Are black Christians the same as white Christians? I mean, except for the obvious difference of the music. Black Christian churches gave us Aretha Franklin; the people who sing at white Christian churches tend to sound like Lana Del Rey.
Throughout this primary process, I've been hoping that Republicans would be crazy enough to nominate Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann or even Newt Gingrich. Now it looks like Rick Santorum is my best hope. I really don't think any of them can beat Barack Obama in the fall, but I'd like their candidate to be somebody who will be a national drag on their party—an anchor attached to their necks, dragging them to the depths. This month, at least, that person appears to be Rick Santorum, the choice of this Catholic Democrat to be the GOP nominee.