Chris and David: Do Your Homework

david corn

David Corn

I’m a big fan of Hardball host Chris Matthews and his frequent guest, David Corn of Mother Jones magazine.

But these guys need to do their homework on Rick Santorum. On a recent show, they talked like Romney’s anti-union and Santorum’s not.

“I don’t think he’s known as anti-labor, though, at all,” Matthews said of Santorum. “No, no, Rick Santorum is not,” Corn added.

Come on guys, check it out. Santorum is just as anti-labor as Romney is.

Corn insisted Santorum is not anti-labor because he’s “from Pennsylvania, a good union state” and because he’s “voted against right-to-work laws.”

Santorum did support a few pro-labor measures when he was a senator. He helped block a national right-to-work law, but now wants one.

“A national right-to-work bill is something that I would be supportive of,” Santorum, campaigning in Michigan, recently said on a Detroit radio station, according to the Grand Rapids Press.

“We’re going to have right-to-work where union members decide whether they will belong to the union,” the Detroit News quoted Romney, seeking votes in the Michigan GOP primary.

Santorum has taken some heat from the Romney side for his few pro-union votes. “I’ve been attacked as the ‘big union’ Republican in this race,” he told the Detroit Economic Club. “I went back to look at my AFL-CIO score card, and I had a 13 percent rating. If that’s ‘big union’ in the Republican party, I guess we’ve narrowed the field quite a bit, haven’t we?”

Meanwhile, most Quaker State labor leaders seem to agree that Santorum is anti-union. The Morning Call quoted Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania State AFL-CIO: “Calling him a labor supporter would be similar to calling Mitt Romney a conservative. They’re both ridiculous.”

Bill George, who was state AFL-CIO president before Bloomingdale, added, “No, he’s never been a friend of labor.”

The Call also talked to Greg Potter, president of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council: “Rick being a labor supporter is laughable.”

(A fourth labor leader, Frank Sirianni, president of the state Building and Construction Trades Council — which overwhelmingly endorsed Sen. Bob Casey, who unseated Santorum in 2006 — “had nothing bad to say about Santorum,” according to the Morning Call. But if Sirianni said Santorum wasn’t anti-labor, it wasn’t in the story.)

Chris Matthews

Chris Matthews

Anyway, not to be outdone in union-bashing, Romney zeroed in on the United Auto Workers. “I’ve taken on union bosses before and I’m happy to take them on again,” the Detroit Free Press quoted the candidate. “I sure won’t give in to UAW.”

Meanwhile, on an earlier show, Matthews called Santorum “a blue-collar guy,” not like Mitt Romney. Again, Matthews should know better. Any comparison between Santorum and Romney is one of style, not substance.

To be sure, Santorum’s roots are considerably humbler than those of to-the-manor-born Romney. But politicians who grew up in a blue collar family aren’t automatically pro-labor. Likewise, politicians reared rich aren’t necessarily anti-labor.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was one of the wealthiest presidents we ever had. Yet he was our first genuinely pro-union president.

Ronald Reagan was the son of a hard-luck shoe salesman. But he was the most anti-union president since Herbert Hoover.

berry craigI’m a union-card carrying community college history teacher. I don’t vote for or against politicians based on their bank accounts or the circumstances of their birth.

I vote on how politicians stand on issues that matter to me as a union member.

I’m not against Romney just because he was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. Likewise, it makes no sense for any union member to vote for Santorum just because his grandfather was a coal miner.

I wonder, though, if Santorum’s forbear would vote for him. And the late George Romney, Mitt’s daddy, was widely regarded as a moderate Republican when he was governor of Michigan and when he ran for president in 1968. (In today’s GOP, the senior Romney likely would be slammed as a “socialist” and ripped as a “RINO” – “Republican In Name Only.”)

Berry CraigNo doubt, the Santorum campaign will keep slicing the blue collar baloney with or without help — unintended or not — from Chris Matthews.

But when it comes to union issues, self-styled Salt of the Earth Santorum is no different than Richie Rich Romney. Real “blue collar guys” — and gals — get the same shaft with either one.

Berry Craig

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