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Santonarola, Satan and The Birth Control Mandate

Matt Drudge has been giving Jennifer Rubin a run for her money in the blatant Romney boosterism department today, leading his site with the rather terrifying headline “SANTORUM’S SATAN WARNING,” accompanied by a picture of Rick Santorum speaking from a church pulpit wearing not a sweater vest but the even more electrifying combo of a suit jacket and turtleneck. The headline links to the most incendiary elements of an MSNBC report that's been floating around on comments that Santorum made in 2008 in which he flew into full Savonarola mode:

“Satan has his sights on the United States of America!...Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition...This is a spiritual war. And the Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country—the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age?”

Drudge, who has been cozy with Romney all campaign, is clearly doing his best to cast Santorum as beyond the pale for any GOP primary voters who want to have a shot at beating Barack Obama in November. But what the report inadvertently does is to serve as a reminder of how much the focus of the primary has shifted onto Santorum’s turf. Consider: the other culture-war news today was that a Catholic college in Florida has filed suit against the Obama administration’s new mandate on birth control coverage, which has been scaled back to require that the insurers for Catholic universities and other Catholic institutions provide free contraception coverage to employees at the institutions. This news was met with huzzahs by the many conservatives, including many Romney supporters, who see a freedom of religion violation in the Obama policy. Well, guess who filed the suit? Ave Maria University—the very college where Santorum delivered his Satan warning. Now, it’s possible that the college is the first one to file suit because it is a notoriously conservative institution, run by Jim Towey, the former head of George W. Bush’s Faith-Based Office. But it’s also possible that Ave Maria was quicker to the draw because it saw in Obama’s policy exactly what it had been warned about in the flesh by Santorum four years ago: the hand of Satan. Like a Dan Brown novel, it’s all wound together...