By Joe Vena
For most rational human beings, a politician of the Republican Party acting stupidly and embarrassingly ignorant comes as no major surprise. While it would be a great exaggeration to suggest that all Republicans are ill-informed and hateful, the GOP’s presidential hopefuls and their supporters could certainly fool someone into deeming them just that, especially during the Fox/Google GOP debate on September 22nd.
The debate, which was held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida surely had its share of “face palm” moments from some of its nine participants.
Minnesota representative Michele Bachmann suggested that President Obama “has the lowest public approval ratings of any president in modern time.” In reality, according to Gallup.com, Obama’s current lowest approval rating is 38 percent, which is considerably higher than George W. Bush’s, his father, George H.W. Bush, and Richard Nixon’s all-time-lows who bottomed out with 25, 29, and 24 percent respectively.
New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson suggested that one of the key ways he would reduce spending is cutting foreign aid, which only accounts for about 1 percent of federal spending. And, of course, Mitt Romney vehemently denied ever praising Obama’s Race to the Top education program, something he went on record as praising just last Wednesday at a meeting in Miami according to the New York Times.
The debate’s most disconcerting moment, however, came from not only former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum – who, responding to a video call-in question, suggested that he would reverse the recent repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” believing it to be detrimental to those enlisted in the military – but also from the event’s audience, who booed loudly at the gay Army soldier who asked the question.
Stephen Hill, the aforementioned soldier, asked, “Do you plan to circumvent the progress that has been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?” and was immediately, and rudely, responded to with a chorus of loud boos and jeers from the audience.
Santorum, who did nothing to condemn or even slightly denounce the actions of the audience, replied that, “What we’re doing is playing social experimentation with our country right now, and that’s tragic,” and “Any type of sexual activity has no place in the military,” which received booming applause from the audience.
Had the question been referring instead to a heterosexual relationship in the military, I question whether or not his response would have been the exact opposite.
Santorum, who, as should be noted, has never served in the United States military, should quite frankly be ashamed of himself. It’s no secret that most, if not all, of the neo-conservative base in this country are anti-gay. However, all nine debate participants, none of whom batted an eyelash at this incredible display of disrespect, and the audience members who booed at Hill, need to remind themselves that despite their views on homosexuality, this man is a U.S. service member.
If Santorum and his opponents had a respectable bone in their bodies, they would have recognized that instead of catering to the ignorance and insecurities of neo-conservative voters, they should have shown Hill the respect he deserved for putting his life on the line every day in service of those who had the gall to jeer at him and condemned their reprehensible display.
Despite the audience’s response, I hope Santorum thinks deeply about his stance on reversing a massive step in the right direction for the rights of gay Americans if he does indeed become President – and the 60,000 brave gay men and women currently on active duty who he may lose from his armed services as a result of it.