Pandering to the basest of the base

The recent Republican presidential debates haven’t told us much about the candidates’ positions on the issues, but unfortunately they’ve given us insight into other things.

Let’s peel off the veneer of flag pins and boardroom hair and delve a little deeper. I am disgusted with all of the current candidates, and here are a few examples to explain why. During the recent MSNBC debate, moderator Brian Williams questioned Gov. Rick Perry about the record 234 executions that have occurred during his time as governor. The crowd broke into thunderous applause. This occurrence was not lost on Williams, who followed up with a question to Perry about the crowd’s behavior. Perry babbled something about Americans understanding justice. Really, Gov. Perry? Don’t get me wrong, I am a supporter of the death penalty, but never would I cheer at the death of another human being. Death is a somber occasion, and out of respect for the victims of the original crimes, we should have a moment of silence, not dance around and high five each other. Perry had the opportunity to be presidential, and he failed.

During the CNN-Tea Party Express debate several days later, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Rep. Ron Paul about a hypothetical situation involving a sick, 30-year-old man without health insurance. Blitzer followed up: “Are you saying that society should just let him die?” and members of the crowd actually screamed “Yeah!” One would think a man who has taken the Hippocratic Oath would be horrified at this and react as such. Alas, Paul was silent.

The incident during the FOX News/Google debate was by far the worst to date. Stephen Hill, a gay U.S. soldier currently serving in Iraq, asked “[U]nder one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?” A portion of the crowd booed. An American soldier currently serving our country who at any time could be maimed or killed defending our freedom was greeted with jeers. Rick Santorum gave some gobbledygook answer about “playing social experimentation with our military” instead. The following day, Santorum doubled down on his ignorant answer, claiming he didn’t hear the boos. Fine. Santorum has hearing problems, but why didn’t he thank this soldier for his service to our country when he fielded the question?

Thankfully, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman decided to speak up the next day, telling ABC News “[T]he first response should be thanking the soldier for his or her service. We should take more time to thank them for their services as opposed to finding differences based on background or orientation.” Gary Johnson of New Mexico also strongly condemned the incident. Herman Cain “didn’t want to be taken out of context” so he didn’t comment, or thank the soldier. Bachmann, Gingrich, Romney and Perry also took the low road and declined to comment.

I am a lifelong conservative, and I will put my credentials up against almost anyone. I have voted in every election since my mom let me fill out her sample ballot for her in 1996 when I was 17. I have worked tirelessly to elect Republicans in eight different states, and I’ve got the countless hours on the campaign trail under my belt to prove it.

I listen to the candidates constantly compare themselves to Ronald Reagan, and it flabbergasts me. These people aren’t yet fit to carry Reagan’s jock strap, let alone wrap themselves in his mantle. I grew up watching President Reagan inspire this great nation, and the man who famously stated, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” would have never acted in this manner.

There are more debates coming up, and it’s time for the Republican candidates to step up and act presidential. Statesmanship matters. Class matters. If the Republicans have any hope of winning the White House in 2012, they had better start getting that through their well-coiffed heads.