Last Saturday President Obama addressed gay soldier the incident from the last Republican debate. For those unfamiliar with it, at the third Republican Presidential debate, an active, gay soldier serving in Iraq asked whether the candidates would repeal the overturning of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Obama had this to say:
“We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says it’s OK for a stage full of political leaders — one of whom could end up being the President of the United States — being silent when an American soldier is booed,” Obama said. “You 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 article included a Republican response to this:
Christian Berle, deputy executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, took exception after the speech to Obama’s criticism of Republican presidential candidates.
“President Obama’s focus on the booing at the latest GOP debate underscored his focus on politics over policy in his speech,” Berle said. “Such actions were quickly rebuked by Governors Huntsman and Johnson, after the debate, which was appropriate. His speech last night, much like his tenure as President, was more cheap shots and politics than substance on policy.”
I agree that Obama’s comment carries a certain amount of political capital, particularly given that he made it at the Human Rights Campaign’s 15th annual dinner. However, Berle missed President Obama’s point. If the candidates want to be president, they should not wait until after the debate to give some mealymouthed rebuke. You confront it at the debate.
The lack of response speaks to a broader problem in American society: partisanship. No one wants to give an inch to the other side, even if it means violating the very principles people define themselves by. Worse, no one honestly wants to find common ground. There is plenty for people to agree on or at least concede a little on, but no one wants to try.
It would be one thing if this were limited to the political campaigns, but it filters down to (or perhaps rose up from) general politics. From race issues to education, people take sides and refuse to budge. As a result, nothing gets done. While the United States is still at the top of the global pyramid, we seem hell bent on knocking ourselves down. Like most other empires (and that is honestly what we are), we are killing ourselves from within.
The question is what any of this gets us? Honestly, what good does it do to refuse to help someone without health insurance? What good does it do to cheer executions? What good does it do to boo an active soldier who could snap your neck like a Popsicle stick?What good does it do to oppose every single thing one side presents, even when they present your own ideas?
As I watch this political season unfold, I keep in mind that most of my friends and former classmates either have terrible part-time jobs or no job at all. I listen to the talking points from both sides, and all I can think is that damn near all of them would let this country collapse just for a taste of power/