Gay Soldier Booed at GOP Debate

Stephen Hill, a US soldier serving in Iraq, was booed by some members of the audience at last night's Republican debate.

Stephen Hill, a US soldier serving in Iraq, was booed by some members of the audience at last night’s Republican debate.

The Hill (“Gay soldier booed at GOP debate, candidates stay mum“):

Some members of the GOP debate audience booed a gay soldier who asked via video whether the Republican candidates would reinstitute the recently repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of banning openly gay soldiers.

After Stephen Hill, who is serving in the army in Iraq, asked his question, a handful members of the audience booed loudly. None of the Republican candidates responded to the audience’s reaction.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) answered that “Any type of sexual activity has no place in the military” and that he would return to the policy of requiring gays and lesbians to stay silent on their sexuality or get thrown out of the military. His response garnered loud applause.

When pressed with what he would do with soldiers who have now come out, he said “What we’re doing is playing social experimentation with our country right now and that’s tragic” but said that he would not throw out soldiers who have recently come out because of the policy’s end.

This is not the first time the Republican audience has had a controversial reaction during a GOP debate and the candidates have avoided addressing their reactions. At the last debate, when asked if a dying man who had not bought health insurance should be allowed to die, many in the audience clapped, cheered and shouted “yes.”

Mediaite (“Republican Debate Crowd Boos Steven Hill, Gay Soldier Serving In Iraq“):

At Thursday night’s Fox News/Google Republican Presidential Debate, the crowd was once again the star of an ugly moment. Moderator Megyn Kellyintroduced a question via Youtube from Stephen Hill, a soldier who’s currently serving in Iraq. When the man asked what the candidates would do about the US policy on gays in the military, like himself, several in the crowd booed loudly. When candidateRick Santorum replied that he would reinstate DADT, a thunderous ovation followed.

“Do you plan to circumvent the progress that has been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?” Hill asked, to several loud boos, and silence from the rest of the crowd. There was no applause when his service to our nation was mentioned, and the crowd thunderously approved of Santorum’s answer, that he would reinstate “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

It’s difficult to tell from the video how isolated the booing was:

Mediatite’s Tommy Christopher passes along Sarah Rumpf‘s first-hand account that “Only a few booed. Many shushed & hissed at booing.” There was indeed some stirring after the boos, so I’ll take her report as valid.

At any rate, I’m less concerned about the horrible reaction of a few yahoos than I am about the people vying to be the next commander-in-chief. One would hope that, regardless of their policy position on gays in the military, that they would at least have some respect for a soldier in a war zone and condemn the outrage of booing him. Then again, I don’t know what the acoustics of the room are; something audible on television, which relies on microphones throughout the room and careful processing by a production team, may not be audible on the stage.

Rick Santorum once again proved what a weird human being he is. Aside from the Mike Dukakis-like tone deafness of his response to the question being humanized rather than theoretical, the notion that  ”Any type of sexual activity has no place in the military” is simply bizarre.

GOProud says Santorum owes Hill an apology:

That brave gay soldier is doing something Rick Santorum has never done – put his life on the line to defend our freedoms and our way of life.  It is telling that Rick Santorum is so blinded by his anti-gay bigotry that he couldn’t even bring himself to thank that gay soldier for his service.

Stephen Hill is serving our country in Iraq, fighting a war Senator Santorum says he supports.  How can Senator Santorum claim to support this war if he doesn’t support the brave men and women who are fighting it?

As a tweet that’s making the rounds this morning puts it, “That wasn’t a “gay soldier” you booed last night; it was an AMERICAN SOLDIER.”

UPDATE: Dave Weigel, who also was reminded of Dukakis’ painful response to the “What if your wife were raped” question, has more background on this and says “A boo is not ‘a crowd booing.'” I think that’s right.

The more I think about this, the less it’s about a couple people booing a soldier asking a respectful question from a war zone than it is about Santorum and the crowd’s reaction to him. While those in attendance mostly reacted negatively to the despicable jerk(s) who booed Hill, they enthusiastically applauded Santorum’s nonsensical answer.

I’m repeatedly asked by commenters how it is I can continue to align myself with a party where such sentiments are so prevalent. I’ll likely write a longer piece on that at some point. The short answer is that, while I’ve grown further isolated from the rural, evangelical base of the party, I’m still closer to the party elites on policy issues than I am to the Democrats. We may have reached a turning point on that with the 2010 elections. Thus far, though, Republicans have nominated much more moderate figures for the presidency. My money is still on Mitt Romney, who I would likely support over President Obama, for 2012. (My preference would be Jon Huntsman, but that ain’t gonna happen.) If it’s Rick Perry, I’ll have a decision to make. Thankfully, Bachmann and Santorum appear to still be fringe candidates.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Gender Issues, Military Affairs, US Politics, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Bigots first, patriots second.

    That’s your party, James.

  2. Pug says:

    ”Any type of sexual activity has no place in the military”

    Clearly Rick never went on shore leave with a bunch of drunken sailors.

    Anyway…that was indeed an American soldier the GOP audience booed. Pretty pathetic.

  3. mattb says:

    Having heard about the boos before I watched the clip, I had expected it to be more like the recent applause about executions/insurance. Watching the footage it does sound like it was pretty isolated (one person in particular).

    Then again, I don’t know what the acoustics of the room are; something audible on television, which relies on microphones throughout the room and careful processing by a production team, may not be audible on the stage.

    This is a fair point. What we (the audience here) is very different than what is heard at the event (see the famed “Dean Scream” as a great example of this).

    At the same time, the cheering for Santorum’s insane and contradictory answer (at least initially) was a bit more disturbing — though it seemed to die down as he crescendo’d to saying that he’d immediately reinstate DADT “because sexuality shouldn’t matter in the military.”

    TMP has some after the fact reactions from Republicans about this:
    http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/09/unfortunate-condemnation-of-gay-soldier-boos-in-post-debate-spin-room.php

    ps. any bets as to how long it’s going to take someone to seriously bring up Alinski and “Rules for Radicals” and suggest that the boo’er was a plant to make the republicans look bad?

  4. Janis Gore says:

    C’mon, Rick. What special privileges will these soldiers have under repeal? Make yourself clear.

  5. anjin-san says:

    it was an AMERICAN SOLDIER.

    Not in your party James. And yet you choose to continue this association.

  6. Franklin says:

    @michael reynolds: In fairness, I believe Dr. Joyner said a day or two ago that he would vote for Obama if the alternative was Santorum.

  7. Hey Norm says:

    That guy looked pretty ripped…I bet none of those pu**ies who booed would do it to his face. Which is exactly what I would expect from so-called republicans.

  8. Franklin says:

    BTW, did you see the guns on that guy???

  9. Nikki says:

    You know, the audience is now 3 for 3 for inappropriate responses at these Republican debates: cheering Perry’s execution score, cheering the death of the medically uninsured, and now booing gay soldiers. What ugly side do you think will be exposed at the next debate?

  10. mattb says:

    @Janis Gore:

    What special privileges will these soldiers have under repeal?

    That’s easy…

    The special privilege to serve in harms way… while…

    umm… being gay?

    But sexuality doesn’t matter in Rick Santorum’s Military….

    which is why it’s so important to put Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in place which would preclude people from military service based on… sexuality…

    umm… oh right, because otherwise we’d have to allow all soldiers the special privilege to serve in harms way while being gay… which means we’d have to make sure that they all become gay so they can take advantage of that privilege… or something like that. And then we’d have to fire all them and recruit another bunch of soldiers to turn gay.

  11. NBH says:

    @michael reynolds:

    For this type of person, bigotry IS patriotism. Gay is one of those magic labels (like atheist or liberal) which makes a person “un-American”. Us-vs-Them labels are far more important that such insignificant actions as risking one’s life in the military to these idiots.

  12. MBunge says:

    James is correct that it’s the response of the candidates that matters. Any random nutjob or flock of weirdos can show up in a debate audience. One of the key facets of leadership is being able to stand up to your friends when they get out of line.

    Mike

  13. Nikki says:

    One of the key facets of leadership is being able to stand up to your friends when they get out of line.

    So we are all in agreement that not one of those nutjobs on the stage last night is qualified for POTUS?

  14. Janis Gore says:

    Santorum made it clear, though, that he wouldn’t throw Stephen Hill out of the military. He must have had a gander at those arms, too. He ain’t throwin’ Hill anywhere.

  15. RW Rogers says:

    Shame on them all! Santorum for his response. The other candidates for their silence. And those in the crowd so full of hate that they couldn’t be bothered with maintaining personal decorum.

  16. legion says:

    @RW Rogers: Bear in mind – this is the same party that more than tolerated – exalted! – a sitting member of Congress who called the President a liar in the middle of the state of the union address. “Decorum” is not a word the Neanderthals of the GOP understand.

  17. Vast Variety says:

    I’d marry that solder in a heartbeat… oh wait I can’t unless I happen to live in 1 of only 6 states that have marriage equality thanks to the thanks to the hate spewed by people like Rick Santorum.

  18. mattb says:

    As much as it pains me to to this, James is correct in stating that there’s a real possibility that none of the candidates COULD HEAR the booing.

    It really wasn’t as pervasive as I expected.

    And its fair to note that at least Huntsman did say something about the comment immediately after ( http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/09/unfortunate-condemnation-of-gay-soldier-boos-in-post-debate-spin-room.php ) — though the weakness of the statement leaves a bit to be desired.

  19. Janis Gore says:

    @mattb: Yes, Matt. It was all so unfortunate.

  20. Rob in CT says:

    As others have been pointing out, the big issue here isn’t that a few people booed the soldier (extremists exist). It’s that it was tacitly condoned.

    IIRC, someone (Perry?) at least tut-tutted after the cheering re: uninsured should die.

  21. mattb says:

    One other ray of light within the Republican party on this issue — and (ironically) involving a Republican US Representative from Florida:

    Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) on Friday became the first Republican cosponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill which would repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
    h/t TPM:
    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/09/ros-lehtinen_first_goper_to_sponsor_bill_repealing.php?ref=fpblg

  22. Fiona says:

    Santorum’s answer was typically Santorum when it comes to anything that even hints of sexuality–pure discomfort and squeamishness. Disturbing but not surprising. There’s something terribly off about that guy that surfaces anytime he has to address the cameras.

    Sad to say that the booing is not all that surprising either given the audience.

  23. ponce says:

    Every Republican who consider them self a decent human being now has to be asking, “What am I a part of?”

  24. Dan says:

    If this had happened at a Hillary/Obama debate it would still be included in GOP attack ads three elections later.

  25. Hey Norm says:

    Santorum is a disgrace and should be drummed out of Congress…oh…wait…er…hang on…I have to Google him and check his status….

  26. ponce says:

    Haha,

    Santorum is such a weasel.

    He’s claiming he couldn’t hear the boos over the boos so he can’t comment on them.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/23/santorum-dadt-repeal-detrimental_n_977715.html?1316790050

  27. Herb says:

    You know, all the “It was just one guy booing, not the whole room” stuff is starting to bug me. For the past couple of years, no one -left, right, or center- has been able to stand before an audience that is both A) right wing and B) well-behaved. There’s always one joker who feels the need to tell us how he really feels.

    As long as the outbursts are tolerated, I expect they will continue. And for that reason, I’m finding it increasingly harder to tolerate them.

  28. john personna says:

    Responding to the paragraph which begins “I’m repeatedly asked by commenters how it is I can continue to align myself with a party where such sentiments are so prevalent.

    I’ll say “All the cool kids are independents.”

    (I do actually keep a “nominal” GOP registration, but in an open primary state that doesn’t matter too much. My identity is in no way tied to registration at this point.)

  29. Moosebreath says:

    James,

    “My money is still on Mitt Romney”

    I’d be willing to take that bet in a heartbeat. Somewhere in the late fall, the leading conservative at that time (whether Perry, Bachmann, Santorum, Cain, Palin or person to be named later) will start running ads pointing to Romney’s history of unorthodoxy and flip-flops. The coup de grace will come when they show the debate clip from his 1994 Senate campaign where he promises not to force his abortion positions on anyone.

    After that, he’ll be lucky to get 5% in Iowa, and will be out the race no later than after South Carolina.

  30. Wayne says:

    In an earlier post this year, many here claimed that being in the military or even serving overseas doesn’t make one a hero or protect them from critique. I guess that only applies when you don’t agree with them.

    I agree Rick’s response was weak. He had “the military is not the place for social experiments” right but badly fumble the rest.

    I would have like him to say something along this line. “I wouldn’t have repeal DADT. However it was. As President I along with the arm services commanders will have an honest evaluation on how the repeal has impacted our arm services. If the repeal has had an overall positive or neutral impact, the repeal will stand. If it has a negative impact the repeal will be repealed regardless of what the PC crowd says. “

  31. Wayne says:

    Voting for Mitt in as President would likely mean having between another 4 to 16 years of having a liberal or liberal- light for President. Is that worst than having 4 more years of the disastrous Obama. I am not sure at this point. Three years ago I would said no but I didn’t think Obama would be this bad. I won’t vote for Obama but I may not vote for Mitt either.

  32. Jackie says:

    I think his response was awesome. DADT!!!!! Who gives a flying F**K where you want to stick your penis??? If you like S**T sandwiches thats your business. But why do you want to impose your sexuality on the world?? Homosexuality is a disgrace to the human race. If that is what you want, so be it, but keep that nastiness to yourself!

  33. Alanmt says:

    James, I ended my Republican party membership, after decades, 14 months ago. But it is more personal for me. I have a husband, due to a Canadian marriage. It is not recognized in my state or by the federal government. We have a daughter, although our status as coparents by adoption would not be recognized in some states. My marriage and family are more likely to be universally politically recognized through Democrat political action than Republican. Until I am a fully equal citizen under the law, establishing that status is my primary political goal. Nothing else that doesn’t create an imminent danger to the Republic matters as much (the federal debt issue is coming close, but that is a matter where the Dems are more responsible at the moment ).

    That said, shame on all of these candidates, although Huntsman at least attempted to ameliorate it afterwards. They want to be President. They should have intervened on teh side of respect and civility.

  34. JKB says:

    Funny how no one seems to be trying to figure out who these people are who are booing. Are they Republicans? Are they a bunch of political science majors acting out? Are they liberal plants?

    Really, has anyone looked at who shows up for a party debate 3 1/2 months before the primaries start and 13 months before the election?

  35. john personna says:

    @JKB:

    Are they liberal plants?

    lolz

  36. michael reynolds says:

    I’m repeatedly asked by commenters how it is I can continue to align myself with a party where such sentiments are so prevalent. I’ll likely write a longer piece on that at some point. The short answer is that, while I’ve grown further isolated from the rural, evangelical base of the party, I’m still closer to the party elites on policy issues than I am to the Democrats.

    I guess in the end it will come down to which GOP wins, the Romney rationalists or the loons. My money is on the loons.

    I don’t think Romney is a bad person and if we wins I won’t feel like I have to move to another country. (I too would prefer Huntsman — less of an android.) But I believe the core of the party wants Perry or some other reasonable facsimile. And I wonder if the Tea Party types will ever manage to reconcile to Romney. They may well mount a third party chalenge.

  37. rosethornne says:

    SO inappropriate and un-patriotic in every way.

    I don’t care if a soldier wears rainbow striped underwear and little sparkly wings under the uniform, or has big muscles and wears only khaki, or has big muscles and sparkle wings, I say THANK YOU.

    I suggest that Mr Frothy needs to learn to show a little gratitude.

  38. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jackie:

    Triumph!!! You’re back!!! (we have missed you)

    any bets as to how long it’s going to take someone to seriously bring up Alinski and “Rules for Radicals” and suggest that the boo’er was a plant to make the republicans look bad?

    right on cue, mattb.

    @JKB:

  39. @OzarkHillbilly:

    Triumph!!! You’re back!!! (we have missed you)

    I certanily didn’t.

  40. michael reynolds says:

    @Wayne:

    Yeah, real genius there. Just like we could have repealed integration of the armed forces? Just suddenly disenfranchise a class of American citizens?

    American citizenship is a single-class system. There’s no first class and coach. There’s no menu of rights and some of us get more than others. We are equal before the law, equal under the constitution, and equal in our treatment by the government we all pay to support.

    So there will be no going back. Period.

  41. mattb says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Thanks for noticing… though that took longer than I had expected.

  42. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Yeah Stormy, Triumph sometimes went a little over the top, but so does Colbert.

  43. legion says:

    @JKB: Are they liberal plants?
    As others have noted, if the boo’ers were planted, then someone – Santorum, one of the other candidates, even the moderator – would have used the opportunity to say something & score some patriotism points. The fact that nobody even acknowledged it is pretty conclusive evidence that the booing wasn’t planned.

    To paraphrase the eminent Dr Zoidberg:
    “Your political party is BAD! And you should FEEL BAD!”

  44. MM says:

    @Nikki:

    You know, the audience is now 3 for 3 for inappropriate responses at these Republican debates: cheering Perry’s execution score, cheering the death of the medically uninsured, and now booing gay soldiers. What ugly side do you think will be exposed at the next debate?

    There’s still cheering the rape of a woman in a short skirt or the (typically capital L) Libertarian argument that as pets are property, it’s tyranny to punish the Michael Vicks of the world

  45. MM says:

    @Wayne:

    Voting for Mitt in as President would likely mean having between another 4 to 16 years of having a liberal or liberal- light for President.

    Neither the math nor Romney’s positions lead to this conclusion.

  46. ChristoOKC says:

    For me, it’s not so much a few yahoo’s acted up in public and disrespected a soldier who is putting his life on the line for his country. It’s the fact that not a single candidate did the honorable thing and addressed such disrespect immediately. I don’t expect much more from the non-veteran career politicians and lawyers falsely wrapping themselves in the flag and spouting off patriotic one liners for mass consumption, but I did expect more from a veteran like Rick Perry. I was sorely disappointed.

  47. Wayne says:

    @MM
    You need to check your math then.

    If Mitt wins he will most likely be President for at least 4 years. More likely 8 since he will be taking over from a Democrat. Incumbents are hard to beat unless their party has had the Presidency for 8 years or more. If a party has had the presidency for 8 years, there is a good chance that opposing party will win. If the opposing party wins the”it is hard to beat the incumbent” comes into play, meaning the Democrat would have a good chance of serving 8 years. So the 4 to 16 year number stands. 8 is a more likely minimum since Mitt would serve at minimum 4 and the Democrat replacement would serve at minimum 4. 4 plus 4 equals 8 and 8 plus 8 equal 16 in case you need more help.

    To a liberal, Mitt may not seem like a liberal or liberal-lite. To most conservatives he is.

  48. Wayne says:

    @reynolds
    There is a big difference between race and code of conduct. Being gay in itself is not grounds for discharge. However, engaging in homosexual activities is in the area of conduct. The military has and does regulated code of conduct. Even our laws regulate code of conduct. Being black is not a crime. Committing a robbery is. Trying to equate being a member of the first group with those in the second group is faulty. Being homosexual and engaging in homosexual activity are not one and the same. What activity should be lawful or unlawful is another debate.

    IMO the repeal of DADT is not what many believe it is crack up to be. I think there were better approaches on addressing this issue. IMO the way it was done will backfire in the end on the gay servicemen.

  49. ponce says:

    To a liberal, Mitt may not seem like a liberal or liberal-lite. To most conservatives he is.

    I don’t think he’s a liberal, but he does appear to be the only sane Republican candidate.

  50. Elizabeth Warren says:

    Stephen Hill didn’t go to Iraq on his own. He flew in planes made by Americans, trained in American training camps, is protect by American military police, and was lucky enough to get to go to Iraq while the bulk of his fellow countrymen sit at home wondering if they can feed their families.

  51. michael reynolds says:

    @Wayne:

    Being gay in itself is not grounds for discharge.

    That is false un der DADT. Surely you must know it is. You’re not really as dumb as Santorum, are you?

    Actually DADT has nothing whatsoever to do with conduct. Gay and straight soldiers have identical prohibitions on sex. It was solely about identity.

    It wasn’t Don’t F–k, Don’t Bl-w, it was Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Identity. Purely. Period.

  52. Terrye says:

    Why blame every Republican for the actions of a handful of people? I know I would never boo someone like this young man. Why should I be responsible for their bad behavior?

  53. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Terrye:

    Why should I be responsible for their bad behavior?

    Uhhhh, geeee…. let me see…. cause you re-enforce it by voting for a** holes who pander to this kind of sh*t? Ya think? Maybe?

  54. mattb says:

    @Wayne:

    Being gay in itself is not grounds for discharge. However, engaging in homosexual activities is in the area of conduct.

    Nice try Wayne, but no… The statute was specifically crafted to exclude people who “demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts.” (though there is a exclusion if you were raped or otherwise forced to engage in the act). source: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/10/654.html#b )

    As for what demonstrates a propensity or intent (and the second one is an incredibly open term). Simply having it discovered that one identified as gay is arguably a demonstration of intent and was used as to remove members of the military).

    So until you can present compelling evidence that in practice outed (or out) gay soldiers who were celibate were allowed to serve (something that would be allowed according to the statue) the your argument holds no water. Not to mention it fundamentally ignores the question of a separation between personal and private life that doesn’t apply to anyone else in the military.

    To put it a different way… you are right that someone couldn’t be thrown out simply because they were black. But there was a time in our history were being black was all it took to demonstrate that you had intent to commit a crime.

  55. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @mattb:

    But there was a time in our history were being black was all it took to demonstrate that you had intent to commit a crime.

    Matt, those days are not gone.

  56. mattb says:

    @michael reynolds: @michael reynolds:

    Gay and straight soldiers have identical prohibitions on sex.

    Not sure what you mean by this Michael. Unless I’m wrong, there are fundamentally different provisions. If a service member is caught engaging in cross sex sodomy (and there is no adultery or other illegal activity) the most the are court martial-ed not discharged. Further, beyond Adultery, there don’t seem to be any provision against dating or premarital sex in the US Military Code.

    Now note that simply dating (without sex during time off base) would be more than enough “intent” to discharge under DADT. Hell, reading Ginsburg on the base could arguably conceived as “intent” by the right/wrong CO.

  57. @mattb:

    If a service member is caught engaging in cross sex sodomy (and there is no adultery or other illegal activity) the most the are court martial-ed not discharged.

    Can you present a single instance of a soldier being discharged since the advent of DADT for getting a blowjob from their wife or girlfriend while not on base?

  58. Jenny says:

    Yep I heard about this quite a tragedy sounds like the cons there are sticking to their uber traditions. It’s a shame when a man in uniform has to be booed off like that for what ? Being gay can he help it wow. It’s like telling a handicap person that they are the way they are because they are the way they are lol. Anywho I know repubs with quite an opposite mindset having a Gemini c group with a bottle of champaign that would say the opposite really, wonder how the folks would feel meeting my friends.

  59. Argon says:

    @RW Rogers:

    Shame on them all! Santorum for his response. The other candidates for their silence.

    So it’s Saturday now. I see that some of the candidates in the debate, now armed with opinion data, have made clear, concise statements about what they should have said during the debate which happened when they didn’t have the polling data to let them know what their heartfelt convictions should have been.

    Are their post-debate comments true examples of l’esprit d’escalier or actually ‘esprit de opinion research‘?