By Arturo R. García
And things only got more disturbing after that video.
CNN’S partnership with the Tea Party for Monday night’s Republican presidential debate in Florida was definitely a double-edged sword. On the one hand, a news organization that likes to paint itself as being above political pettiness was visibly validating an astro-turfed faction of a party even longtime supporters are comparing to death cults. But on the upside, this was a chance for more people to see just how beyond the pale these folks really are.
In that regard, they did not disappoint.
So while many of the contenders busied themselves taking shots at Texas Governor Rick Perry, the audience made its’ presence known in ways perhaps not even the candidates anticipated – or wanted.
Perry, who came into Monday evening with some media-driven momentum, was jeered by members of the crowd for defending the Texas DREAM Act. Of course, he was also behind a state ban on sanctuary cities for immigrants, but it was enough of an opening for Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to accuse him of supporting “people who have broken our laws or who are here in the United States illegally.”
For his part, ex-Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum doubled down on the xenophobia. Not only did he accuse Perry of trying to attract “illegal — I mean Latino — voters,” but he took aim at Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-TX) criticism of U.S. foreign policy before this past Sept. 11th, leading to some pushback from the audience. The transcript of the exchange is under the clip.
SANTORUM: We were attacked because we have a civilization because we have a society that is antithetical to the civilization of the Jihadists. And they wanna kill us because of who we are and what we stand for. And we stand for American exceptionalism. We stand for freedom and opportunity for everyone around the world and I am not ashamed to do that.
PAUL: As long as this country follows that idea, we’re gonna be in a lot of danger. This whole idea that the whole Muslim world is responsible for this and they’re attacking us because we’re free and prosperous, that is just not true. Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda have been explicit (boos begin).They have been explicit and they wrote and said, ‘We attacked America bcause you had bases on our holy land of Saudi Arabia. You do not give Palestinians fair treatment and you have been bombing (boos intensify) I’m trying to get you to understand what the motive was behind the bombing. At the same time, we had been bombing and killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis for ten years. Would you be annoyed? If you’re not annoyed, there’s some problem.
Paul was also involved in the other major audience flare-up, when host Wolf Blitzer asked him about healthcare costs:
BLITZER: You’re a physician, Ron Paul, so you’re a doctor, you know something about this subject. Let me ask you this hypothetical question: a healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, ‘You know what? I’m not gonna spend $200 or $300 a month ’cause I’m healthy, I don’t need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it. Who’s gonna pay for, if he goes into a coma –
PAUL: In a society that expects welfareism and socialism, he expects the government to take care of it.
BLITZER: What do you want?
PAUL: What he should do is whatever he wants to do and assume responsibility for himself. My advice for him would have a major medical policy.
BLITZER: But he doesn’t have that. He doesn’t have it and he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?
PAUL: That’s what freedom is all about – taking your own risks. (Applause) This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody …
BLITZER: But, Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Yeah!
Late in the debate, businessman Herman Cain said he would bring “a sense of humor” to the White House if elected, “because America is too uptight.” Right now there’s plenty of comedy to go around in this field, alright – if you’re into gallows humor. It’s gonna be a long race, folks.