Rereading the transcript of last night’s debate, I am struck that Rick Santorum did not thank Stephen Hill, a gay soldier in the U.S. Army currently in Iraq, for his service. Nor did anyone else on that stage.
Whatever you think of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” or homosexuality, Hill is risking his life on behalf of his country. It is troubling, and revealing, that Santorum’s answer entirely defined Hill as a gay man first and as a soldier second, if at all.
Online this morning, there’s much discussion of whether the audience booed the soldier. The boos sound like several people, but nothing like the much louder, indistinct cheers or reactions to other answers. (Much of Santorum’s answer was applauded by much of the audience.)
Of the GOP field, only Ron Paul and Rick Perry have served in the military.
UPDATE: Sarah Rumpf, who was in attendance, writes:
The debate included video questions that were submitted on YouTube, and one came from a soldier serving in Iraq who is gay and asked about the candidates’ opinions on don’t ask don’t tell. There was audible booing after his question . . . however, please note that it was not the crowd booing. It was only one or two people.
I was at the debate, in the audience on the right hand side about halfway back (here’s my tweet of the video screen that was right in front of us). The person who booed was just a few rows in front of us. The booing got an immediate and angry reaction from nearly everyone sitting around him, who hissed and shushed at him. Lots of loud gasps, “Shhhh!” “No!” “Shut up, you idiot!” etc.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Appearing on Fox News today, Santorum condemned the scattered boos and said, “I condemn the people who booed that gay soldier. That soldier is serving our country and I thank him for his service to our country. I’m sure he’s doing an excellent job, I hope he’s safe and returns safely and does his mission well. I have to admit, I did not hear those boos . . . If I had, I would have said, ‘Don’t do that, that man is serving his country and we ought to thank him for his service.’”