It’s getting hard to keep track of all the cringe-worthy moments at the GOP debates. To that end I’ve created a kind "Low-lights" reel of such moments from the last few. (I fully expect to update this regularly.)
The latest, of course, is the booing of a gay soldier, serving Iraq.
Viewing the clip brings several things to mind.
- Only a few of the audience members booed, which was still shocking.
- The utter silence on the part of the candidates is shocking, but not surprising. Not one of the GOP presidential hopefuls addressed the disrespectful treatment of a soldier actively serving in Iraq. (John Hunstman, reports TMP’s Evan McMorris-Santoro, called the incident "unfortunate" afterwards. )
- If either — the booing of an U.S. service member or the failure to condemn the disrespectful behavior — happened at a Democratic party debate, all manner of hell would break loose, FOX News and CNN would launch 24-hour coverage (complete with theme music), and Republicans would call for the immediate resignations of every single Democratic officeholder in the country.
So much, one might say, for "Support the troops!" Or "Support only the troops Republicans approve of." But here’s the thing. The right, as a matter of policy, has never been all that supportive of the troops.
Not unless "supporting" the troops includes:
- sending them under false pretenses to invade an occupy a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, no weapons of mass destruction, and no links to Al Quaida, only to let Osama bin Laden slip away;
- sending them into combat in insufficient numbers, with inadequate ammunition, no body armor or armored vehicles;
- going to war with
- losing track of weapons being shipped to Afghanistan, and failing to keep accurate records on some 222,000 weapons entering the country (and this from the world’s biggest arms supplier) — making them vulnerable to being stolen and possibly used against American service members;;
- wasting billions on private contractors to do what what soldiers used to do — while either failing to provide oversight, or outsourcing it — for work that was never finished or so shoddily done that soldiers risked their lives just by taking a shower or drinking the water;
- engaging in a "stop-loss" policy, holding troops beyond the end of their enlistments;
- imposing a policy of repeat deployments and extended tours of duty, leading to stressed-out forces and suicidal soldiers, and a record number of suicides;
- opposing an expansion of veterans’ benefits, including extended unemployment insurance and domestic programs;
- leaving service members, some 40,000 of whom were diagnosed with PTSD by 2007, with insurance that skimped on mental health care;
- stressing our military to the breaking point through a policy of overall neglect;
- covering up and failing to honor their sacrifices;
- and then laughing about it (seriously);
This doesn’t even include taking veterans’ benefits hostage to score political points or cutting veteran’s benefits to pay off the deficit, even as thousands of veterans are homeless, struggling to find jobs, or coping with traumatic brain injury and other devastating war wounds.
Booing a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq? Talk about adding insult to injury.
Answer: Perhaps both.
Update: Ana Marie Cox (the blogger formerly known as Wonkette) answers my last question:
Probably the best thing that can be said about the audiences for the GOP presidential debates is that they are not representative of either the Republican party or the country as a whole. For one thing, debate audiences have an active interest in politics, a passion the overwhelming majority of Americans lack. But that indifference towards the political process also translates into an amiable ambivalence regarding the government’s role in our lives: "live and let live" could be our national motto, right behind "super size me", in terms of how often we apply any piece of wisdom to our daily lives.
By contrast – and it is a stark one – Republican debate audiences have thus far shown themselves to be in favor of both government cruelty and personal vengeance.
Thus bloodlust was explicit when a vocal contingent hooted its approval for Rick Perry’s bloody tenure as the killingest governor in American history, as well as when a slightly less rabid crowd indicated that sometimes sick people should just be left to die. Yet neither of these distasteful examples of a casual and deadly application of conservative political philosophy was quite as surprising – and as antithetical to a precious GOP myth – as Thursday night’s petulant dismissal of a gay soldier whose only offense was honesty.
Obviously, such behavior goes against the "support the troops" jingoism Republicans have traditionally worked in parallel to their enthusiasm for military spending. But at the moment, its hypocrisy isn’t quite as galling as the mere fact that it happened.