Susan Jacoby observes that Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain "talk as if their religious beliefs and their personal hardships somehow make them presidential material." At a recent Republican forum, she writes, Santorum "made the most revealing comment of the evening, linking the candidates' brand of far-right Christianity with their the right-wing position maintaining that government has no responsibility to attempt to alleviate the misery of its citizens:"
"Suffering is a part of life," he mused, "and it's not a bad thing, it is an essential thing in life." That suffering is a part of life is indisputable but there is a difference between the suffering that comes to all in the natural course of things -- say, death and illness -- and the suffering that human beings create through inept actions and institutions. [...]
Government can do something (though certainly not everything) about the latter category of man-made suffering but in the Christian universe inhabited by the Republican candidates on the stage in Iowa, neglect of the earthly suffering of others is actually a virtue.
Jacoby uses the example of FDR to great effect:
...being in a wheelchair (metaphorically or literally) tells you nothing about whether a man is an effective leader. It reveals a good deal about the character of a candidates, however, when they think that they deserve votes because they've had cancer or a brain-damaged child. This use of personal faith and personal suffering in politics is nothing less than an obscenity.