We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social service backgrounds and with engaging personalities. The most successful approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal, and we do not want word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population. --Margaret Sanger
17. Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife. --from "Humanae Vitae"
(The following scene takes place shortly after the lengthy, brokered 2012 Republican Convention, where Senator Rick SANTORUM has emerged victorious. SANTORUM has just been ushered into a green room to prepare for what he assumed was his initial press conference. To their mutual surprise, the room is already being shared by President Barack OBAMA and two of his SECRET SERVICE MEN, who, due to the unusual length of this convention, are preparing for the first presidential debate to be held that same night.)
(with a look of surprise)
(OBAMA quickly regains his composure, and rises to shake SANTORUM'S hand)
(SANTORUM shakes, while still speaking)
I wasn't expecting to find you here!
And neither was I expecting YOU, Senator. By the way, what happened to Mitt?
(The PRESIDENT continues talking while motioning to his SECRET SERVICE MEN to put his "Romney Rants" files away and to bring out his "Holier than Santorum" briefcase.)
He was still far ahead of you on delegates, was he not?
Yeah, I mean, going into the convention, Romney was only a handful of votes away from clinching. But once Newt's delegates came over to me, and then Paul's even started to come my way, he panicked. First, he grabbed the mic and promised everyone their own planet if he were president...
(considering the idea to himself)
Promising a planet? Not bad...
Actually, Mr. President, that really weirded people out--except for a few of the Paul-ies. For at that point, even some of his own delegates, those who initially liked me but were convinced I couldn't win, came over. But just when I was about to clinch, Mitt totally lost it.
Yeah. I mean he started babbling that this wasn't fair, that he spent all this money and the media had promised him the presidency. Finally, when Mitt started playing his "Santorum attack ads" over the loudspeakers at full blast they had to restrain him.
That's too bad. I was just getting ready to make him look sill- I mean, welcome him--
(they both stop to listen to a political commercial suddenly blaring in the background)
"...while in the Senate, Rick Santorum spent more money than all the other senators combined-"
"...Senator Santorum not only voted for the 'Bridge to Nowhere,' but sponsored the 'Bridge to Nowhere--and BACK!'"
(walking toward door)
"...and if Senator Santorum were to become president, no one in this country would ever be allowed to have safe sex AGAIN!"
(taking notes, talking to himself)
That's a good one...
(SANTORUM opens the door, only to find Governor ROMNEY with his ear up against it)
(clinging to SANTORUM, then OBAMA; hysterical)
I want to be president! Please, won't you let me be president?
(peeling ROMNEY off)
Get a grip on yourself, man!
I'll give you anything! Would you like the sun?
Solar energy's not all it's cracked up to be...
It's over, Mitt. Go home. You still have Ann and your kids...and all your money...
Yes, my money.
(OBAMA motions for the SECRET SERVICE MEN to take him away)
And it's a helluva lot more money than you'll ever see...
(his voice fades as he disappears)
That was close.
Yeah. Say, Mr. President-
(with his best fake smile)
Call me Barack.
Thanks...Barack. So I can't believe they're still holding the debate tonight.
Who knew the Republican National Convention would last a week? Besides, after all the fireworks at your convention, we're gonna get great ratings!
I guess. It's just that I've had little time to prepare, and I
haven't slept...in a week...
(rubs his hands together while snickering sinisterly and speaking softly)
That's just what we were counting on-
What did you say?
I said I'm sure you'll do just fine.
You're right, Barack. It's not like I'm Governor Romney, and don't know where I stand until my people tell me. Now this debate will focus on jobs and the economy and not social issues, right?
(here OBAMA drops the position papers he's been studying, and although both he and the SECRET SERVICE MEN scramble to pick them up quickly, SANTORUM grabs them--and glances--at them first)
Here you go... What's this?
(reading the cover)
"Senator Santorum: Contraception Cop?" I should have known!
Don't look at me Rick. You brought this contraception controversy on yourself.
And I suppose the anti-Catholic mandates of Obamacare have nothing to do with it!
(The SECRET SERVICE MEN stand up and step closer, and SANTORUM, seeing this, lowers his voice.)
Fine. I'll save it for the debate. But do you even realize why I'm against artificial birth control?
Because Planned Parenthood wouldn't fund your campaign?
(Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, in 1917)
(shaking his head)
You haven't a clue.
Barack, have you ever read "Humanae Vitae"?
Hmmm...sounds Latin. Is it about the priest sex-abuse scandal?
No, Barack. It's Latin for "Of Human Life." It's the Vatican encyclical which dealt with the issues of artificial birth contr-
Oh yeah. Father Jenkins told me all about that when I was at Notre Dame...
But did you ever actually read it?
No, but 'Johnny'-
Well, judging from the blogs "Fighting Irish Thomas" sends me, I wonder if Fr. Jenkins really read it either, but "Humanae Vitae" is not just some outdated document condemning sex. It speaks about...
(here RICK reaches back, trying to quote from memory)
'Deeper principles, based on natural law...illuminated by divine revelation.' It relates how procreation...involves more than just 'biology, psychology, demography and sociology,' but 'the whole man and the whole mission,' not just its 'natural earthly aspects' but its 'supernatural earthly aspects...'
Well, that thing does have a nice rhythm to it-
no pun intended-
(ignoring that remark, on a roll)
It talks of how through the union of 'unitive and procreative' aspects of the marriage act, the 'husband and wife, through the mutual gift of themselves...develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, while cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives' and through this the 'husband and wife become...one heart and one soul...'
Very nice, Rick. In fact, that...encyclical as you Catholics call it, has such good flow I'm gonna ask Biden to call the Vatican to see if I can borrow the pope's speech writer. But seriously, couples just can't go around like you and Karen with eleven kids anymore...
It's only seven, Barack.
(SANTORUM pauses, a tear in his eye)
Eight counting Gabriel.
But why not?
I may not be as rich as Mitt, but we can afford them.
Rick, I'm not saying you can't.
(with manufactured sincerity)
Your kids are great, and Michelle and I pray for your little Bella. But think about all those who can't afford seven kids. What kind of example are you setting-
A HOLY example I hope. But I think you're missing the point, Barack. Natural Family Planning, in regards to spacing out the time when you have children, is just as reliable as artificial birth control, but philosophically they are miles apart. Whereas the first is always open to life, the second's explicit purpose is to prevent life, to separate the two aspects of the act-
That reminds me. I better call Michelle.
(here, the PRESIDENT pulls out his phone and types a quick text)
I love having the girls with me...but you know those Florida beach parties can get pretty wild, and although Malia is a sharp young lady, I'm not so sure about some of her friends. But seriously, Rick. NFP can't work as well as "the Pill" or a condom...
(looking the PRESIDENT in the eye)
I was talking about married couples.
Even so...if I understand the thing...if you don't want to have babies....then there's gotta be a lot of times you just can't...do it.
Yeah, there are some, although probably not as many days as you think. But that's where controlling your desires can actually bring you closer to your wife. "Humanae Vitae" does talk about how this control 'sometimes comes only by heroic effort.' I'm not sure I'd exactly call it 'heroic.'
Well, maybe when I was younger it was.
But the point is, even if people don't agree with me on contraception, don't you think they want--they deserve--a president who gives heroic effort?
(knowingly, as if explaining the facts of life)
You would think so. In fact, people might even say they want virtue. Hey, don't get me wrong Rick. I'm not saying what you're doing is bad. I mean, you certainly can't get away with being a skirt-chasing president like Jack Kennedy anymore-
SECRET SERVICE MAN 1
(whispering to his partner)
Not with Michelle around!
SECRET SERVICE MAN 2
That's for sure!
But in the end, voters aren't really looking for heroism.
No. They're really looking for someone who can give them stuff. You know; food stamps, bailouts, perpetual unemployment checks...
(the PRESIDENT goes into his messianic voice)
'When I was hungry, you gave me to eat. When I was thirsty you gave me to drink. When I was-
...pregnant you gave me a doctor to murder my baby--for free. "Humanae Vitae" also predicted that the widespread use of contraception would lead to wide-scale, legal abortions...and even in a way predicted "Obamacare," a government policy that would force Christians to support state-sponsored contraception and abortion against their will--and religion.
Nobody likes abortions. And nobody is forcing anyone to get one. But in these economic times a woman should have a choice.
Is that why our black citizens, a group that still almost universally supports you, now makes up only 13% of the population but has over 35% of the abortions?
Only 13%? Yeah that could be up a bit...especially when over 90% of them vote for me...when they vote. I'll really have to make a push to get them registered and out to the polls...
(making a note)
maybe I could tie some extra food stamps in with voting this year...
How well the Margaret Sanger plan worked, and how accurately she predicted you!
Sanger? She was that early to mid-twentieth century women's rights chick, right?
Hillary really dug her.
She was also the woman who through contraception and abortion tried to get rid of the 'human weeds' of society, otherwise known as the 'Negroes.' But she was smart enough to know that these 'reckless breeders' would not listen to her, so she brainwashed three or four prominent African Americans to do her work for her. All in all, her plan for keeping the black population down worked pretty well, but little did she know that someday she would have the most powerful man in the world doing her bidding, a black president who through force of personality could conceivably whittle down his own people to practically nothing. In you, Barack Obama, Margaret Sanger's plan has succeeded beyond her wildest dreams!
(thinking he has been complimented)
Thank you, Rick!
No, you don't understand, Barack! Doing the will of someone who was trying to exterminate the black population is not a good thing.
No, here's where you don't understand, Mr. Catholic man! In politics; good and bad, right and wrong are not determined by commandments or encyclicals, but by polls and votes. Granted, the people haven't voted yet, but my poll numbers are way higher than yours, so that must mean being the savior of Ms. Sanger's population-control-through-abortion-and-contraception plan is not just a good thing, but a great thing. Some of the words she used may no longer be politically correct, but if you're right, and I can be seen as the fulfillment of her vision, that not only guarantees me the black vote, but the feminist and lesbian vote as well. And that's gonna really be tough to beat...
How could anyone be so cynical! You're unbelievable...
(suddenly, an inspiration hits SANTORUM)
Hey, that's it! Maybe no one really is as cynical as you, and if I can just show the voters that they really aren't as cynical as Barack Obama, maybe they'll start to realize your vision of socialized control isn't worth believing in either. Heck, maybe contraception and abortion aren't some political liability, but just the promise of new life my campaign really needs!
(reaches and vigorously shakes OBAMA'S hand)
Thank you, Mr. President! This talk was just what I needed!
(like St. Peter on Pentecost, SANTORUM literally bounds out of the room, ready to conquer the world)
Glad I could be of some help.
(calling after SANTORUM, who is already out the door)
And call me Barackkkk...
(OBAMA, still baffled, but sensing SANTORUM'S enthusiasm, turns to his SECRET SERVICE MEN)
Should I be worried?
SECRET SERVICE MAN 1
Nah. Look, first, you hit the Conservatives with his support of Specter. Then you remind the Independents about how he lost his last senatorial race by seventeen goddamn points. And if that isn't enough to get that Italian's dander up, remind everyone else that if they even think about voting for him, he'll be going through their bedroom the first chance he gets, and Santorum will be swearin' like a truck driver in no time. Piece a cake.
I guess you're right.
(The three exit the room, but as they do SECRET SERVICE MAN 2 notices something on the floor. It is a rosary which apparently SANTORUM has lost during his hasty exit. The agent, a lapsed Catholic, picks it up--and is suddenly touched.)
SECRET SERVICE MAN 2
It looks just like the one I got for my First Communion. Now how does that first prayer go...oh yeah. I believe in one God, the Father Al-
SECRET SERVICE MAN 1
(annoyed, re-enters the room)
SECRET SERVICE MAN 2
Yeah, I'm coming.
(He puts the rosary in his pocket while continuing to pray the beads silently and as they walk out, the scene ends.)
Spero columnist Tom O'Toole is a freelance writer and essayist. See his website: FightingIrishThomas.