Elmer Smith: Got a 'Pledge'? GOPers will sign it

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (left) and ex-U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich flank U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., during a GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire last month. (AP Photo)

RICK SANTORUM didn't wait to be asked. The day the conservative Christian organization Family Leader announced its defense-of-marriage pledge, Santorum called to ask where he could sign.

Even so, he managed to be only the second signer. Michele Bachmann was first to send back her signed document.

Neither was in as big a rush to clarify their position after learning that they had signed a pledge stating that black children were more likely to be raised in a two-parent home during slavery than they are "after the election of the U.S.A's first African American president."


I read that line and wondered why black people ever allowed slavery to be taken from us.

Santorum and Bachmann, on the other hand, wondered how to explain why someone who could cosign something so patently stupid should be trusted to govern.

Bachmann was first to take a swat at it. Her spokeswoman, Alice Stewart, said Bachmann didn't see the slavery passage when she signed the 14-point vow.

That's like saying you read the U.S. Constitution but missed the Bill of Rights. It was the first bulleted item in the "Declaration of Dependence upon Family and Marriage." The first word in that short paragraph was "Slavery." The last line was the phrase "First African American President."

How do you miss that in a 50-word paragraph?

You don't.

You sign the thing hoping that black people won't read it. (They probably thought our literacy rates were better during slavery, too.)

When outraged commentators did react, Family Leader huddled with "valued colleagues" to draft a patronizing statement that took the reader to task for missing its point - whatever that was.

"After careful deliberation . . . we agree that the statement referencing children born into slavery can be misconstrued," said a spokesman for Family Leader.

"We sincerely apologize for any negative feelings this has caused and have removed the language from the vow."

Retained in the vow were a suggestion that homosexuality may be an inherent public-health hazard, a call for laws to ban pornography and a demand that signers oppose Sharia law.

Sharia is a set of Islamic laws so draconian that most Muslim-majority nations don't enforce them. The idea that the U.S. Constitution or any state constitution could be replaced by Sharia law is utterly ridiculous. But not too ridiculous for some hustlers to feed to their most gullible voters.

Newt Gingrich got a standing ovation at the Values Voters summit last September with his pledge to fight against Sharia laws in the U.S.

"We should have a federal law that says Sharia law cannot be recognized by any court in the U.S., " Gingrich said.

Oh, good. Now we don't have to worry about some poor woman in Kensington being stoned to death for exposing an ankle or driving a car.

Newt, who trades in his wives when their warranties run out, did not sign the vow, which calls on candidates to be true to their spouses.

He did author the Contract for America in 1994, which made a set of similar pledges, most notably term limits. Lawmakers stopped talking about that after winning the midterm elections a year later.

The Declaration of Dependence upon Family and Marriage is just one of the pledges social conservatives ask candidates to sign.

The Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge calls for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution; the Susan B. Anthony Pledge is to defund Planned Parenthood, and a taxpayer-protection pledge calls for hard caps on federal spending.

Santorum and Bachmann and other conservative candidates know that they will never be held to these pledges. Once the primaries end, they can revert to serving their real masters, the rich and powerful who actually control the Republican agenda.

The only thing they ask is to be left alone unless they need a bailout.

Send email to smithel@phillynews.com or call 215-854-2512. For recent columns: www.philly.com/ElmerSmith