Rick Santorum vows to end 'pandemic of pornography.' Could he prevail?
GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum says he would order his attorney general to begin a war on pornography. There are plenty of obscenity battles Santorum could win, but the mission could ultimately be quixotic.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
If elected, the GOP presidential candidate writes in a position paper widely circulated this week, he would order his attorney general to “vigorously enforce” existing laws that “prohibit distribution of hardcore (obscene) pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV, in retail shops and through the mail or by common carrier.”
"The Obama administration has turned a blind eye to those who wish to preserve our culture from the scourge of pornography and has refused to enforce obscenity laws," he writes. "While the Obama Department of Justice seems to favor pornographers over children and families, that will change under a Santorum administration.”
Former candidate Michele Bachmann signed a pledge from a Christian group last year that called for banning all pornography. Front runner Mitt Romney declined to sign that pledge, which also criticized homosexuality. Santorum is the only one of the four remaining GOP candidates to address pornography in his campaign literature.
To be sure, plenty of Americans agree with Santorum that pornography erodes the country's moral character, and his contention that “pornography is toxic to marriages and relationships” is shared by many.
Moreover, despite pornography's ubiquity, there's no reason US attorneys can't step up prosecutions of people who flout anti-obscenity laws, especially against domestic purveyors. As recently as 2006 a federal jury found an Arizona company guilty of breaking obscenity laws for distributing hardcore pornography across state lines. The FBI announced 38 child pornography-related guilty verdicts or pleas this month alone.
“In most parts of the country, a lot of pornography on the Internet would plausibly be seen as obscene,” UCLA constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh told the Daily Caller, which publicized the overlooked Santorum position paper this week. “You can’t prosecute them all … but you can find certain types of pornography that are sufficiently unpopular” for easy convictions, he told the conservative news site.