by R. Lee Wrights
Despite all their patriotic proclamations of “support the troops,” the current crop of Republicans seeking their party’s presidential nomination really don’t support all of our troops, especially if the soldier doesn’t fit their moral configuration. During their last debate, a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq was booed, and not one of those on stage objected. Not one. They allowed the boos to go unanswered. Amazingly, not one even thanked the soldier for his service, a standard ploy for any politician at a public event.
Steven Hill is a gay soldier who until recently had to hide his sexual orientation, and even had to lie about it in order to serve his country. In a video question sent from the war zone, Hill asked if the candidates intended to circumvent the progress made by gays and lesbians serving in the military. Former Sen. Rick Santorum launched into his response over the sound of the boos without missing a beat. Santorum said he would reinstate the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and the crowd roared with approval.
The senator then established that he not only doesn’t support all of our troops but that he hasn’t the foggiest idea about military life, or life in general for that matter, when he said, “…any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military.” I wonder, has the senator forgotten that all of our troops are also human beings? Former Gov. Mitt Romney also said he would reinstate the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. All of the remaining presidential candidates didn’t bother to comment at all.
None of the Republicans who want to be commander-in-chief chastised those in the audience for the disrespect displayed toward a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. This was a disgraceful omission, as most of them praise these troops for defending our freedom and way of life at every opportunity. Their silence when a gay soldier was maligned speaks louder than any empty words they may utter in support of our troops.
What is even more disgraceful and despicable is their attempt to dismiss or make excuses for their failure to “support the troops,” or at least this particular troop. Days after the debate, Santorum claimed he didn’t hear the boos. Jon Huntsman said the incident was “unfortunate.” Herman Cain offered a convoluted explanation on ABC’s “This Week” when asked if he should have told the audience to respect the soldier. “In retrospect, because of the controversy it has created and because of the different interpretations that it could have had, yes, that probably — that would have been appropriate,” he stammered. But Cain said he thought that maybe the booing was directed at the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, not the soldier.
Not to be outdone, President Barack Obama criticized the Republicans by piously instructing them that if they want to be commander-in-chief, “…you can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.” The president’s lecture was transparently disingenuous, as it took him more than two years to stand up for gay and lesbian soldiers by repealing the policy in the first place. Apparently it was not “politically convenient” for the president to support the troops, both gay and straight, and repeal the policy from the first days of his administration, as he had promised.
Immediately after the debate, the gay conservative group GOProud (GOProud.org) called on Santorum to apologize for his remarks. In their statement, they noted pointedly that Hill was doing something Santorum has never done, “…put his life on the line to defend our freedom and our way of life.” As I have said many times, “War is too easily waged by those who do not have to fight or die.”
As president, I would always respect and honor the sacrifice made by all those who volunteer for military service. I would support all of our troops all the time; and I would support them in the best and most honorable way possible — by not sending them to war in the first place, unless it is to defend the United States from attack. America is indeed the home of the brave. My promise to all the men and women of our Armed Forces is that I will bring the brave home, and never again send them into harm’s way capriciously, unnecessarily, for political gain or to line the pockets of those who profit from their sacrifice.
As a private citizen and fellow veteran seeking the highest office in the land, allow me this opportunity to say what should have been said at the most recent Republican presidential debate: “Steven Hill, thank you for your service! My promise to you, and all your comrades-in-arms, is if I am elected president I will support all American troops, at home and abroad, regardless of their sexual orientation. I will honor those who honor us with their service by bringing all our troops home. I’d rather have a nation full of prosperous patriots, than cemeteries filled with dead heroes.”