There have been several deeply disturbing moments in recent GOP debates among the candidates for their party’s nomination. Each of these incidents happened because of audience reaction — in one, the audience cheers for the death penalty and execution of people; in another, when one candidate was asked what should happen to the uninsured, shouts of “let them die” rang out; and in the third, a gay soldier who was asking a question was booed.
The most shocking aspect of all three of these incidents is that not one candidate stepped up and spoke up to say that these reactions were wrong. There was silence from the candidates… and tacit support, it would seem.
Now despite my serious policy differences with the current GOP candidates, I don’t believe that all of them revel in state-sponsored executions, honestly believe that the answer to our health care predicament is to “let them die” or that any soldier should be booed for serving our country.
But all of them were silent. And as Martin Luther King, Jr has famously noted in his day (and I believe it still applies in our day), “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
Silence from the candidates under these circumstances is shameful and unacceptable. I believe it also disqualfies each of them for the presidency. Standing up and speaking out on principle is essential for our leaders. By not speaking out, these candidates either signal that they agree with the crowds or lack the backbone and conviction to challenge their own supporters. Either way, they should be ashamed and have no business running for president.
In case you missed the moments, here are the brief video clips, followed by, if I were one of the candidates advisors, I would have counseled them to say:
Response should have been: “Let’s all just hold on here a second. I understand the desire of the public for the death penalty. Some crimes are so heinous that the death penalty must be used. But let us never cheer or celebrate the use of the death penalty. Every time the state chooses to execute a criminal, it is a human tragedy. It is a human tragedy for the victims of their crime and their families. It is a human tragedy for the broader community. And it is a human tragedy even for the life being executed. For we believe all life has infinite potential, and it is always tragedy when a life full of potential chooses a road of death, destruction and murder. Yes, we will use the death penalty as needed — but never with joy, never with cheers and always with sense of humbleness andseriusness that befits the issue. To cheer death is to violate our basic principles as a party committed to life — and we should never do it.”
Response should have been: “These are very complicated issues, as you know. And I do not support Obamacare or individual mandates. But obviously, “let him die” is unacceptable public policy and inconsitent with our values as a party. Whatever solution we do end up with — and I believe there are are solutions that will not bankrupt America, will not federalize our entire medical system, will not socialize our medicine — but whatever solution we do end up with will need to be one that values life, sustains life and improves life for all Americans. That is what it means to be a truly pro-life party… from conception to death. So no, “let him die” is not acceptable social policy.”
Response should have been: “Hold on a second… I need to interject here. I don’t care what your politics are or where are stand on the issue of homosexuals serving openly in our military. No soldier who honorably serves our nation should ever be booed or disrespected the way I just saw happen here. That is unacceptable. As a nation, we are capable of having a civilized policy debate whithout dishonoring the men and women who serve in our military. We are a party that supports and honors our troops — and as President I will make sure that all of our troops are supported and honored.”
Now please note, these are the answers I would have suggested a GOP candidate give. These are not my own answers. For the record, I oppose the death penalty 100% of the time, I support Obamacare and individual mandates, and I support the repeal of DADT.
But even if you are a conservative on these issues, there is a way to do so that is honorable and has integrity… and then there is a way that is shameful and embarrassing. So far, we have only seen the shameful and embarrassing approach from the declared candidates… highlighted by their silence in response to these three incidents.