The Truth About the Boos

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 23 2011 8:31 AM

The Truth About the Boos

Blogger Sarah Rumpf, who was (unlike reporters) in the room where candidates debated last night, reports on the goings-on when some churls booed a gay soldier's video.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.

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.
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There was a concrete floor beneath all of our chairs. Ever been in a metal shop or warehouse with a concrete floor? Certain sounds can really resonate on that kind of surface.

Yes, let's not go through another round of this. A boo is not "a crowd booing." There were two more relevant issues with the way the question was handled.

On replay, Santorum's dismissivness is positively Dukakis-ian. A soldier in Iraq has just posed a question. Santorum's first response: "Yeah. I would say any type of sexual activity has no place." Jimmy LaSalvia of the gay Republican group GOProud (which has asked for Santorum to apologize) pointed out the political flub here.

"I don't care if you're running for dog-catcher," said LaSalvia. "If a soldier asks you a question, the first thing out of your mouth is: 'I thank you for your service.'"

The other issue: Santorum's answer was incoherent, especially after Megyn Kelly's smart follow-up. He would reinstate DADT, but "people like that" (in the video) wouldn't be thrown out. How, exactly? Would there be a special dispensation for gay men and women who came out from September 2011 to January 2013? Santorum doesn't say, which leaves us to interpret his response as: "I won't say it to your face, but I don't think people like you should serve." And sadly, no serious candidate gets the question or gets a follow-up.

There's more and more discussion on conservative blogs about why, in a lackluster Republican field, Rick Santorum doesn't get taken more seriously. Here's one reason: The other candidates don't go through so many contortions when contemplating the privacy and humanity of their fellow Americans.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.