The Washington Post

GOP debate: Soldier booed, unconscionable silence follows [Update 2]

You know I was a fierce proponent of ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT). You also know I have a soft spot for members of the military. So let me add my voice to the chorus of outrage over the booing of Stephen Hill at Thursday’s GOP debate.

Rick Santorum is perpetually offensive on gay and lesbian issues, so I won’t dignify his answer with a response of my own. And conservative blogger Sarah Rumpf, who was at the debate, wants everyone to know that it wasn’t the crowd that booed. Just one or two people. Fine. But booing a soldier is one thing I never thought I’d hear at a Republican event.

Now that DADT is history, Hill, an active-duty member of the Army, was able to ask his question openly and with dignity. From Iraq. The least the party that has used patriotism as a cudgel against opponents could do is show respect for a man who is putting his life on the line for this nation. The least the candidates could do is condemn what happened. And, so far, they haven’t even done that.

[Update 2:55 p.m.: On Fox News moments ago, Rick Santorum “condemned” the booing of Stephen Hill. According to Livewire at Talking Points Memo, the former Pennsylvania senator said, “That soldier is serving our country. I did not hear those boos. I certainly would have responded to them.” Great. One down, eight to go.]

[Update 11 a.m., Sept. 24: And then there were seven. Last night, on “PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton” on MSNBC, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson denounced the booing of Stephen Hill.

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The booing that occurred last night at the event is not the Republican Party that I belong to. . . . If I have one regret from last evening, it’s that I didn’t stand up and say, ‘You know, you’re booing a U.S. service member who is denied being able to express his sexual preference?’

I won’t give Johnson a hard time for his choice of words. His regret was heartfelt. If only he’d expressed it at the debate.]

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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