From POST POLITICS at The Washington Post:
Forget the sound bites from the stage. Some of the most memorable moments from a series of Republican presidential debates have come not from the candidates competing for the nomination but from the intensely partisan audiences there to appraise them.
In four of the most recent debates, assertive audience members have managed to make their mark on the proceedings.
The audience’s outspokenness has in many ways served a positive purpose by illustrating the energy of the base, GOP strategists say. But it has also conveyed a somewhat unsavory image to less ideological people at home watching on television.
“You have very partisan people come to these events, and in some ways it is just human nature,” said Ed Rollins, former campaign manager for Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), one of the Republican hopefuls for president. But some of the more controversial moments “to the mainstream audience [are] not very appealing.”
At an NBC/Politico debate in California this month, the mere mention of Perry’s execution record by NBC moderator Brian Williams provoked a round of applause.
“Your state has executed 234 death-row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times,” Williams said before the clapping began(that number has since risen to 235). “Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?”
Perry’s answer, which began, “No, sir, I have not struggled with that,” elicited an even more boisterous response, which is perhaps not surprising considering that 64 percent of Americans and 78 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters back capital punishment, according to a 2010 Gallup poll.
Still, Rollins said he found the applause disturbing. “I’m someone who’s for capital punishment, but it needs to be about justice and not a rallying point or a cheering point,” he said.
At the following debate in Florida, which was co-sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express, moderator Wolf Blitzer posed a hypothetical to Rep. Ron Paul (Texas): An uninsured 30-year-old comes down with a grave illness and cannot afford the medical care. “Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?”
“Yeah!” shouted at least two voices from the audience.
The latest controversial outburst from audience members came during a Fox News/Google debate Thursday night, when a U.S. service member stationed in Iraq asked a question about the recent lifting of the military’s ban on gay and lesbian soldiers serving openly.
“In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was because I am a gay soldier and I didn’t want to lose my job,”said Stephen Hill, standing by a bunk in an Army T-shirt. “Do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?”
One loud boo was followed by several others. Many Republican commentators condemned the catcalls. On Friday, Rick Santorum, the candidate who ended up taking the question, condemned the negative response in a follow-up interview with Fox News.
Good thing Man-on-Dog Santorum has government health care so he can get that faulty hearing checked. From MEDIAITE:
Hours after GOP candidate Rick Santorum told Fox’s Megyn Kelly that he didn’t hear audience members loudly booing gay serviceman Stephen Hill during Thursday night’s Fox News/Google Republican Presidential Debate, fellow candidate Gary Johnson appeared on MSNBC’s Politics Nation to tell Rev. Al Sharpton that he did hear the booing, and wished he’d said something about it. Johnson, as it turns out, was Santorum’s podium next-door neighbor during the debate.
It’s possible that the acoustics in the room were just that weird, but it seems more likely that one of these guys made a calculation about the usefulness of defending a gay soldier, versus alienating the people doing the booing.
Asked an unrelated question by Sharpton, whether he was disappointed with the tone of some of his opponents, Johnson volunteered his feelings about the audience’s behavior at Thursday night’s debate.
“The booing that occurred last night at the event is not the Republican Party that I belong to,” Johnson began, and said that he “was chomping at the bit to be able to respond to that.”
Johnson said he regretted “not putting my fist down and pounding it” due to his outsider status, but wished he had stood up and said, “you know, you’re booing a US serviceman who’s denied being able to express his sexual preference? That’s not right. That’s not right and there’s something very, very wrong with that and when it came to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I think we should’ve repealed that a long time ago.”
Sharpton then followed up by asking about Republican audiences cheering for things like executions and letting uninsured people die, and Johnson, making no excuses for the debate crowds, agreed with him that “this stuff is ugly to the American public.”
“I don’t think there’s any question that we put innocent people to death,” Johnson said, “and I’m not in the camp that wants to punish or put to death one innocent person to put to death 99 that are.”
“And talking about health care and ‘let him die?’ No, that’s not this country. We’re a country of compassion.”
And the others who stood silently while a serving U.S. soldier was booed? From THE NEW CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT:
Jon Huntsman: The Former Utah Governor called it “totally unfortunate and unnecessary when someone in uniform asks a question of a panelist in this case, the first response should be thanking the soldier for his or her service.”
“We all wear the same uniform in America. We all salute the same flag I have two boys starting their journey in the U.S military. We should take more time to thank them for their services as opposed to finding differences based on background or orientation,” said Huntsman, according to ABC.
Herman Cain: “If you don’t have time to explain your whole position on that, you can very easily be taken out of context so I don’t even want to comment on that.”
Michele Bachmann: Rep. Michele Bachmann’s spokeswoman Alice Stewart said in an email to ABC News, “There was booing and cheering throughout the debate – Michele didn’t comment on any of it.”
Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Perry have all declined or have not responded to reporters questions.
The Advocate adds,
Openly gay presidential candidate Fred Karger was not allowed into the debate but did react to the incident via Twitter: “Booing a U.S. soldier is despicable, un-American and should be condemned,” he wrote.