Posted by Brad @ 1:26 pm on September 23rd 2011

The Only Thing Less Meaningful In Defining a Party’s Base in Light of a Primary Debate Than a Frank Luntz Focus Group…



  1. The part of this that I understand the LEAST is the complaint that Santorum didn’t “thank the soldier for his service.” Nothing could be more insincere than directing a statement of thanks to a pre-recorded message.

    That having been said, Santorum remains an obnoxious blowhard and shouldn’t be taken seriously until he gets over his obsession with sexual orientation.

    Comment by Rojas — 9/23/2011 @ 1:32 pm

  2. Indeed.

    Rick Santorum’s answer was more than offensive enough. I’m more taking issue with people that wind up defining half of the country based on a few morons. Otherwise intelligent people*, mind, who often rail against generalizations, and yet have no problem at all defining a desire towards limited government as being actually defined by Tea Party signs or two dudes in a Florida audience or some senior citizen at a health care town hall.

    *to be fair, Fallows at least has aired the contrary view.

    Comment by Brad — 9/23/2011 @ 1:35 pm

  3. Painting half the country with such a broad brush is naturally not wise, and no one had to thank a recording for his service.

    However, the fact that none of the candidates addressed the boos as inappropriate in that moment is pretty telling and didn’t make any of them look good. Who cares what a bunch of vile ignoramuses think? But how presdidential candidates deal with said ignoramuses when in a position to easily do so is a perfectly valid thing to judge them on.

    (I realize I am very late)

    Comment by Liz — 9/26/2011 @ 11:00 am

  4. It’s unclear who heard the event at the time, but it is clear that, when heard, it was recognized as just a single asshat or two. Again, is the expectation here that the 9 people in stage would all immediately launch into public recriminations because some jerk-off in the audience booed? That seems a little unreasonable to me.

    For the record, since the event, Huntsman, Johnson, and, yes, Santorum himself, have all “denounced the boos”. Romney, Perry, Bachmann, Gingrich, and Paul have not.

    Comment by Brad — 9/26/2011 @ 11:16 am

  5. Regarding the lack of a “Thank you for your service”: I find it irritating coming from politicians at all times, particualry since it is often a method of dodging the actual question. BUT, when the only time in history that I can recall a politician not doing so is from Santorum to a gay soldier (‘s video), well maybe it is worth considering in that light. Had that been a soldier asking Santorum why he had not done enough to stop the repeal, or what he would do to get it turned back on, I am betting we would have had an obsequious thank you. A tongue bathing if you will.

    Comment by Jack — 9/26/2011 @ 12:00 pm

  6. I don’t disagree.

    Incidentally, while I hate engaging in this kind of thing, I didn’t read even those few boos as “I am against this guy / gay soldiers”, in the way it’s being interpreted. They didn’t, you’ll note, boo when he said he himself was gay. They booed at the end of the question, which suggests to me that what they were booing was the end of DADT (or, if you want to be harsh, policies that advance acceptance and normalization of gays in general). In the same way a farmer, say, might ask a question about ag subsidies – if he got booed at the end of such a question, would we be quick to interpret that as a sign they were booing that farmer, or were showing disrespect to farmers in general? Or that they waited for a question they then categorized as “ag subsidies”, and booed that?

    This sort of analysis is, as I keep saying, a mug’s game anyway, but that’s how it struck me anyway.

    Comment by Brad — 9/26/2011 @ 12:17 pm

  7. Fair enough, Brad, it’s possible that they didn’t hear the booing. However, if they heard it. . . Maybe it’s because I’m a loudmouth, but yes, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for someone, especially a someone who is a candidate and knows the bad reputation the GOP has in regards to homophobia and bigotry, to say something along the lines of ‘I find it inappropriate to boo a person who serves in the military’. In light of all the slavish combat boot licking they usually engage in (which I hate), it was a stupid move politically to not at least give the bare minimum.

    It’s easy to release a statement in the press after the fact as opposed to stand up in the moment. But if they didn’t hear it, then there isn’t much more they can do. It’s all speculative.

    Also, they weren’t booing the openly gay soldier, just the ending of a policy that allows him to be openly gay and a soldier? I don’t know that the timing on that is especially relevant. But, as you say, it’s really not worth going down that path.

    Comment by Liz — 9/26/2011 @ 12:55 pm

  8. It would have been entirely appropriate, and a great moment for whatever candidate candidate it occurred to – which is one of the reasons I’m guessing they didn’t really hear it (or didn’t understand the context or process it quickly enough), because you can bet Johnson or Huntsman would have jumped at the chance, and I’m sure realize now it was a missed opportunity.

    But again, it’s a weird thing to judge either any candidate individually or or the field as a whole, because all 9 guys didn’t immediately start shouting. You also have to understand the context – this level of candidate makes many appearances a day, and generally speaking there are CONSTANTLY things going no around them that they don’t understand. It’s very easy to say “oh, of course they should have” from our YouTube lounge chairs, but these guys are constantly being spirited around, shoved in front of mics, then taken somewhere else, and in general are much less aware of the venue, crowd, and external ephemera than you might think. If you’ve ever been on the sidelines of a political event, the amount of stuff you have to compartmentalize and ignore is pretty significant. Between hecklers, general stage managing, rooms full of people (including drunks, supporters of other candidates, unpredictable grassroots kooks, etc.), politicians train themselves, wax-on-wax-off style, to tune everything out and just get up there, stay on message, and then get to the next thing. It’s only truly egregious instances of crowd disruption – Michael Moore in the audience (McCain), a student getting tazed while you’re speaking (Kerry), an old lady grabbing your mike to talk about Obama’s muslimness (McCain again), a fireman yelling that they can’t hear you (Bush), a guy pulling you aside and ranting directly at your face (Obama, and even that was a delayed reaction), that garner a response. It’s only the REALLY savvy and seasoned retail politicians who can fluently interact with their surroundings in the sort of way you’re talking about – hell, even WITH the ignoring part, most politicians have a hard enough time just answering questions and staying on message without the additional layer of being aware of their surroundings and quickly responsive to opportune moments of crowd engagement. Obama, McCain, Fred Thompson, a few others, have been good at that in recent years – most (Hillary, Romney, Edwards, etc) are not. Point being, I think politicians are much less conscious of that stuff, and the opportunities it presents, than you think.

    It would have been a nice moment and smart politics to speak up at the time, but that’s not the same thing as saying them not speaking up says this or that about them I guess my point is we do sometimes forget that they’re just human beings and not Appropriate Political Response Turing Machines up there whose every action or even inaction apparently is a conscious statement of their beliefs.

    Comment by Brad — 9/26/2011 @ 1:09 pm

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