Life after defeat

Politics | Republicans chart their own courses following November losses

Issue: "Barrier riffs," Feb. 10, 2007

The opening session of the 110th Congress put 22 Republican representatives and six senators ousted in November midterm elections officially out of work.

So what's an unemployed former lawmaker to do?

Some defeated Republicans are headed to academia. Former Sen. Lincoln Chafee will return to Rhode Island to teach at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. The only Senate Republican to vote against the war in Iraq, Chafee will lead an undergraduate study group focused on international relations and avoiding violent international conflict.

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Former Sen. Mike DeWine announced two new teaching jobs in his home state of Ohio-one at his alma mater, Miami University, and one at Baptist-affiliated Cedarville University, located a short drive from his family farmhouse.

Other ex-congressmen are following the traditional path to post-political wealth by launching careers as lobbyists. After casting himself as a folksy Montana farm auctioneer during 18 years in the Senate, Conrad Burns accepted a job at GAGE Business Consulting and Government Affairs, a Washington lobbying group where he will serve as a "senior advisor" until the one-year lobbyist waiting period expires. The revelation that Burns accepted more money from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff than any other member of Congress sent his election season approval ratings into a fatal tailspin.

But for Rick Santorum, who served four years in the House and 12 years in the Senate, the loss of a Senate seat has inaugurated a new career in the Washington think tank world. Four days after pro-life Democrat Bob Casey Jr. replaced him as the junior senator from Pennsylvania, Santorum announced a new position at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), where he will direct a new program on "America's Enemies."

Santorum acknowledged the "stark" name of the program, but explained that he wanted to "shock the consciousness" of the American public. After the elections, Santorum said, he realized that many Americans "do not believe that we have real enemies, and that these enemies are a serious threat to the future of our nation."

While many of his colleagues are leveraging past political expertise into new vocations, Santorum's new job attempts to reinvent his political niche. While better known as a Catholic pro-life advocate and social conservative, Santorum in his think tank role will focus exclusively on his lesser-known expertise in foreign policy.

As a senior fellow at EPPC, Santorum joins Roman Catholic theologian and author George Weigel, National Review contributor Stanley Kurtz, and current president M. Edward Whelan III, a former Justice Department official and former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. At EPPC Santorum plans to raise public awareness about emerging national security threats: "Islamic fascists" in Iran, he said, communists in North Korea, socialists in Venezuela, radical leftists in Russia.

The imperative to "confront" Iran appears forcefully and frequently among Santorum's security policy objectives, a message that echoes his campaign-trail rhetoric. A series of stump speeches became the text of his Senate farewell address titled "The Gathering Storm of the 21st Century," an explicit reference to Winston Churchill's account of the path leading to World War II.

"I certainly believe that there are parallels between what is going on here and what happened in World War II," Santorum said of the threat posed by Iran. "I've talked about them. I'll continue to talk about them."

As outgoing Republicans carve out a life after Capitol Hill, few will achieve the same status and access they enjoyed during their years in Congress. But midterm results to the contrary, men like Santorum claim they have no regrets.

"I felt what I was doing was essential for the future of our country," Santorum said. "And that, to me, is a lot more important than who is the senator from Pennsylvania."


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