Name-calling isn’t presidential

By Walt Braun

Rick Santorum just might win today’s Michigan primary over Mitt Romney, who spent enough time in that state as a youth to develop an appreciation for the height of its trees. A Santorum victory would be quite a feat, one credited in various quarters to his conservatism, his boldness, his candor and Mr. Romney’s relative paucity of all three traits.

Not that Mr. Santorum doesn’t have a knack for alienating voters, even those who admire many of his positions.

Take his conclusion that President Barack Obama is a “snob” because he thinks all Americans should go to college. Never mind that what the president actually said was that he thinks all Americans ought to have the opportunity to go to college. He also encourages Americans to pursue some form of higher education, including technical or career training as well as schooling more associated with ivy halls.

Mr. Santorum might have figured that calling the president a snob would help his own candidacy. He’s probably right, at least among Republican primary voters. But Mr. Santorum, whose grandfather was a coal miner, is more like the president than he cares to advertise. Mr. Santorum’s parents had some education; his father was a clinical psychologist and his mother was an administrative nurse. And his childhood included a Catholic high school. Mr. Obama went to a prestigious private school in Hawaii, but he was raised primarily by his mother and grandmother after his father deserted them.

Unlike President Obama, Mr. Santorum can’t boast Columbia and Harvard degrees, but he’s hardly an academic slouch. He earned not only a bachelor’s degree but a law degree from Penn State. And he arguably one-ups the president in the sheepskin sweepstakes with an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh.

As a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, he bought a house for $640,000 in Loudoun County, which the Census Bureau ranked as the nation’s wealthiest. And after getting hammered in a re-election bid in 2006, he bought a $2 million home in Fairfax County, the nation’s second wealthiest county. It’s odd that a man with those addresses would call someone else a snob.

There’s plenty about President Obama’s policies to take issue with. But with all of that education, surely Mr. Santorum can rise above name-calling, particularly when the word he chose makes him look both ignorant and hypocritical.

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