Rick Santorum said he was "taken aback" by The Family Leader candidate pledge that insisted black kids had better family lives under slavery, though that's not the part that shocked him. Instead, he was surprised by the line demanding he be faithful to his wife. But he signed anyway. Why? Because Santorum is really into pledges. After rival presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty "respectfully declined" to sign the Family Leader document, Santorum took to the op-ed pages of USA Today to defend the pledge.
Santorum writes that pledges pushed by special-interest groups "offer something as serious as the vote we are asking for--a solid commitment, a solemn promise. ... Every candidate has heard the cynicism about politicians: 'Oh, they will say one thing now, but just wait until they are elected.' A lot of that is true about too many politicians and elected leaders. Pledges are our way of saying: 'Not us.'"
The pledge dispute reminds us a bit of Dazed and Confused, the 1993 movie in which football hero Randall "Pink" Floyd agonizes over whether to sign a pledge promising he won't do any drugs all summer or do anything else that might "jeopardize the goal of a championship season." Pink doesn't want to sign.
Pink eventually defies his coach, declaring, "I may play ball next fall, but I will never sign that. Now me and my loser friends are gonna head out to buy Aerosmith tickets. Top priority of the summer."
And that's the tactic that Jon Huntsman, the chillest bro of the 2012 field, is taking. He was quoted by the Associated Press's Jim Davenport as saying that he wasn't signing tea partying Sen. Jim DeMint's "Cut, Cap, and Balance" pledge because "I don't sign pledges--other than the Pledge of Allegiance and a pledge to my wife." (Who signs the Pledge of Allegiance?)
Though Michele Bachmann also signed the pledge, other Republicans seem to be taking Huntsman's position. After two decades of Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge being "an almost religious rite of passage for Washington Republicans," as The Washington Post's Jason Horowitz puts it, many in the GOP now have "pledge fatigue," Scott Wong writes. Sen. Roy Blunt explained, "I think I've kind of supported enough pledges... I've restricted myself too much this Congress." And Sen. Kelly Ayotte is also reluctant to sign any more promises, saying "I'm looking very carefully at all pledges because I want to make sure I support the underlying concepts. People who draft pledges tend to define what they mean differently."
Coincidentally, Rick Santorum did some pledging in his youth, too. In 2006, Former Rep. Phil English told the Philadelphia Inquirer he got Santorum into College Republicans because, "He was a Greek, a frat activist, very engaged on campus. He was a real ball of fire." Maybe all that time in college fraternities is why Santorum doesn't mind a little personal discomfort for the good of the group. Or maybe he just really likes signing things. Who knows.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.