The Pentagon announcement easing the ban on women serving in combat led Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum to express his concerns that missions could be put in jeopardy “because of other types of emotions that are involved.”
But today, Santorum attempted to clarify his seemingly sexist statement in an interview with ABC News:
RICK SANTORUM: I was talking about men’s emotional issues, not women. That’s something I’ve talked about repeatedly. [...] Men in our culture are focused on if a woman is in trouble, obviously, to react to try to help to protect and care for that person. That is something that is built in culturally. So my concern is that being in combat in that situation, instead of being focused on the mission, they might be more concerned about protecting a woman in a vulnerable position.
Having put to rest the allegation that he was suggesting women were emotionally unfit to serve in combat — and instead having argued that men are emotionally unfit to serve alongside women — Santorum went on to emphasize that he has no problem putting women’s lives in danger.
He says, “It’s not a matter of putting women in dangerous roles.” He tell[s] me, for example, that women are fully capable of “flying small planes.”
So it seems that for Santorum, it’s okay for women to fly the puddle jumpers but save the heavy bombers for the men. While Rubin goes on to commend Santorum for his fearlessness in “refusing to censor his views” and possibly “provoking the ire of women,” his views on women in the military may pose a challenge for his campaign which finds itself in the media spotlight after primary victories in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado.
In the past 24 hours, Santorum: accused Obama of helping Iran acquire nuclear weapons; suggested that male soldiers are incapable of controlling their emotions around female comrades in combat; and said women are better suited to “flying small planes.”