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Books by and about 2020 presidential candidates
Crippled America,
by Donald J. Trump (2015)
by Cory Booker (2016)
The Truths We Hold,
by Kamala Harris (2019)
Smart on Crime,
by Kamala Harris (2010)
Guide to Political Revolution,
by Bernie Sanders (2017)
Where We Go From Here,
by Bernie Sanders (2018)
Promise Me, Dad ,
by Joe Biden (2017)
Conscience of a Conservative,
by Jeff Flake (2017)
Two Paths,
by Gov. John Kasich (2017)
Every Other Monday,
by Rep. John Kasich (2010)
Courage is Contagious,
by John Kasich (1998)
Shortest Way Home,
by Pete Buttigieg (2019)
The Book of Joe ,
by Jeff Wilser (2019; biography of Joe Biden)
by Michelle Obama (2018)
Our Revolution,
by Bernie Sanders (2016)
This Fight Is Our Fight,
by Elizabeth Warren (2017)
Higher Loyalty,
by James Comey (2018)
The Making of Donald Trump,
by David Cay Johnston (2017)
Books by and about the 2016 presidential election
What Happened ,
by Hillary Clinton (2017)
Higher Loyalty ,
by James Comey (2018)
Trump vs. Hillary On The Issues ,
by Jesse Gordon (2016)
Hard Choices,
by Hillary Clinton (2014)
Becoming ,
by Michelle Obama (2018)
Outsider in the White House,
by Bernie Sanders (2015)

Book Reviews

(from Amazon.com)

(click a book cover for a review or other books by or about the presidency from Amazon.com)

Bella's Gift
How One Little Girl Transformed Our Family and Inspired a Nation

by Sen. Rick Santorum

(Click for Amazon book review)

    Click on a participant to pop-up their full list of quotations
    from Bella's Gift, by Senator Rick Santorum (number of quotes indicated):
  • Dianne Feinstein (1)
  • Rick Santorum (1)
    OR click on an issue category below for a subset.

BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:

Rick Santorum has a 7-year-old daughter, Bella, born with Trisomy-18, known as T18, which causes permanent physical and mental disabilities. As Santorum points out several times, 90% of T18 patients die prenatally; and of those who survive birth, 90% die by their first birthday -- which means only 1% reach the age of 7. Her disabilities are severe: "she can't wash herself, dress herself, stand on her own, crawl, walk, feed herself, or tell us how she feels or where it hurts," Santorum describes (p. 229). But she can smile, as documented in dozens of color photos on the cover and throughout the book.

Trisomy-18 is more deadly than the more common Trisomy-21, which causes Down's Syndrome, and also causes more severe disabilities. Trisomy-18, known as Edward's Syndrome, is the second most common trisomy condition after Trisomy-21.

Santorum has two policy points in this book:

  1. Abortion sometimes occurs to avoid raising children with disabilities. But many birth defects and disabilities can be treated (as Bella's were, with pre-natal surgery). Furthermore, even when parents have a disabled child, God does not burden any parents with tasks they cannot handle. With T18, most doctors would recommend abortion, and most parents would choose abortion -- Santorum's point is that they should not, with his family as a model.

  2. ObamaCare will also sometimes discourage treatment for children with severe disabilities, since treating children with fatal diseases is not cost-effective. Santorum cites the Canadian system (pp. 93-4) and other "socialized" systems as evidence that ObamaCare would withhold treatment. In Bella's case, numerous doctors in several states discouraged treatment (in favor of palliative hospice-style care) -- but those instances all occurred BEFORE ObamaCare took effect.
Santorum wrote this book for political purposes, of course -- he had decided to avoid talking about Bella in the 2012 campaign. But then Bella took ill, requiring a few days' suspension of Santorum's campaign, and when he returned, he told her story during one of the primary debates. The response from the disability was overwhelming -- that community now adores Santorum -- hence Santorum wrote this book in preparation for the 2016 primaries.

Santorum avoided talking about Bella in 2012 because he did not want to commit the political sin of "trotting out the dead uncle" (i.e. the political rule is that it is considered manipulative to bring up personal family challenges). Santorum wrote this book with his wife Karen, who in fact had already written another book about another ill child: Letters to Gabriel, about their son who, several years prior to Bella's birth, died two hours after being born, of severe birth defects unrelated to T18. In other words, since that book was written in 1998, in reality Santorum had long ago made the decision to use his own kids and his own family as a model -- he had, a decade ago, already "trotted out the dead uncle."

So let's look at Santorum's two policy prescriptions above based on the two realities that we point out that Santorum does not address:

  1. While the Santorum family is a wonderful model for dealing with children with disabilities, they preach that others should do the same because it's, in effect, selfish to do otherwise. I myself come from a family with a disabled child, and my current wife has a disabled daughter (my stepdaughter) -- so I am familiar with the disability issues that Santorum describes. But I am also familiar with the reality that my parents spent hundreds of hours struggling for "rights" for my disabled brother -- and my wife spends the same effort struggling for my stepdaughter's "rights." I do consider disabled rights to be important rights -- my stepdaughter's "HP placard" makes taking her out to dinner in the city a true joy -- but it is most assuredly a struggle. The reason it's a struggle is because disabled rights DO place a burden on the rest of society -- everything from HP placards to parking spaces in which to use them to special schools to state care -- "rights" for the disabled means, in reality, an expense for society. I think those expenses are all well-justified and that there should be more "rights" -- and Santorum explicitly agrees -- but I acknowledge that it's a burden on society -- and I acknowledge that demanding rights is the same as being selfish -- yes, I selfishly believe that society should bear some of the burden for people with disabilities. Santorum, in contrast, doesn't discuss the burden on society, focusing on the burden on his family -- which he bears willingly and joyfully -- and preaching that other families should do the same.

  2. Santorum's anti-ObamaCare argument has a serious flaw that all of his complaints about Bella's care were pre-ObamaCare. Bella was born in May 2008 -- before Obama was elected president -- and their earlier son Gabriel was born in 1996 -- before Obama was even elected to the Senate. Santorum complains that ObamaCare would deny healthcare for both Gabriel and Bella -- but this book details how the pre-ObamaCare system did exactly that! Santorum does not claim that Bella's caregivers offer fewer services as ObamaCare takes effect -- once she made it past age 2, Santorum's stories turned to amazement by doctors at seeing a T18 child that survived, and those doctors more willingly offer services. Santorum offers examples from the Canadian system and how it denies services, then extrapolates that to a warning about ObamaCare -- but one could find plenty of examples of BETTER care in Canada (I myself have experienced hospital care in France, Israel, and Finland -- all countries with socialized healthcare -- and have been more than satisfied with all three!).
In summary, Santorum makes a political argument in this book against abortion and against ObamaCare, using his disabled daughter Bella as a case in point. But it's purely a political argument -- Santorum would LIKE it to be an argument based on compassion for the disabled, or an argument based on the strength of families with his as the model, or perhaps an argument for more Christian values in society. But it comes down to a political argument, with a compelling story behind it, but a purely political argument nonetheless.

-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, August 2015
 OnTheIssues.org excerpts:  (click on issues for details)
    Dianne Feinstein: Partial birth abortion needed for late severe birth defects.
    Rick Santorum: In partial birth abortion, doctor kills baby after delivery.

The above quotations are from Bella's Gift
How One Little Girl Transformed Our Family and Inspired a Nation

by Sen. Rick Santorum

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by Jesse Gordon and OnTheIssues.org
Reprinting by permission only.

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