The truth about JFK and RJS(antorum)

This morning, I had the pleasure of going on WHYY's Radio Times to talk about all things Santorum. It was an interesting show (which should be re-broadcast tonight at 10 p.m., if you're interested) which went by fairly quickly. At one point, I had a disagreement with one of the guests, Robert Costa of the conservative National Review, who's done God's work in following the ex-Pennsylvania senator on the campaign trail but who insisted I was wrong when I said Santorum had all but disavowed John F. Kennedy's famous 1960 campaign speech on separation of church and state.

This is from the Boston Globe, published just last year:

In remarks to about 50 members of the group Catholic Citizenship -- which encourages parishioners to speak out on issues of public policy --- Santorum decried what he called the growing secularization of American public life.

He traced the problem to Kennedy's 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, in which Kennedy – then a candidate for president - sought to allay concerns about his Catholicism by declaring, "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute."

Santorum, who is Catholic, said he was "frankly appalled" by Kennedy's remark.

"That was a radical statement," Santorum said, and it did "great damage."

"We're seeing how Catholic politicians, following the first Catholic president, have followed his lead, and have divorced faith not just from the public square, but from their own decision-making process," Santorum said.

"Jefferson is spinning in his grave," he added.

When I was growing up, JFK's speech -- which helped him become the first and so far only member of Santorum's Catholic faith to get elected president -- was considered a turning point in American history, hailed by liberal and conservative alike as part of what made America, to use a hot-button word these days, exceptional. The fact that Santorum wants to go back and essentially re-litigate this issue in 2012 is somewhat incredible. It's just one of many examples why Santorum -- who still has a decent chance of grabbing the Republican nomination -- may find it impossible to win a general election.