How the Boos for the Gay Soldier Sounded on Stage

(Please see update below.) Concerning the most shameful moment of last night's Fox News/Google GOP Debate, I have received a slew of messages more or less to this effect:

>>My problem is that Santorum didn't say, "Listen! Don't you boo that soldier. Don't you ever, EVER boo our soldiers!"  And, if not Santorum, someone on that stage should have jumped in and stood up for that soldier against the mob's boos.  None did.  Not one person on that stage saw a possible political opportunity in backing the man serving his country in Iraq. And that speaks volumes about the state of the Republican party.<<

Or,

>>Here's my question:  Did ANY GOP candidate have the integrity to speak up and say it was inappropriate to boo anyone who is serving our country, regardless of their sexual orientation?  What does THAT say about the character of this field of candidates?<<

Given the track record of crowd response at two previous GOP debates -- the cheers for the record number of executions in Texas and for the proposition that someone without health insurance should "just be left to die" -- I'm willing to believe almost anything about the current extremist state of a lot of right-wing opinion. But just now I got a note from someone who works for one of the candidates on stage and was at the debate. This person writes:

"The acoustics were such that you couldn't really hear the booing if you were on stage."

This person adds that his own candidate, on seeing replays of the event, felt bad not to have realized what was happening and therefore to have missed the opportunity to say something like what the readers I quote wanted to hear.

This is offered for the record. While the crowd response at the previous debates, which candidates clearly heard, has highlighted some of the most bloody-minded parts of the Republican base, the practical circumstances of this debate may have made things seem worse than they were, or than at least one candidate wanted them to be.

UPDATE. Obvious question, which I should have included from the start. Why isn't this candidate -- or all the candidates -- saying something now? Who do they think might take offense?
[Santorum has now spoken up against the booing, on Fox News! And said that he didn't hear it.] [And, I have learned, Jon Huntsman was quoted shortly after the debate thus: " 'It was unfortunate,' Jon Huntsman told TPM. 'You know, we're all Americans, and the fact that he is an American who put on the uniform says something good about him.' "  It might be carping of me to point out that "says something good about him" is a little different from "how dare you boo someone who is now serving his country in Iraq?" Still ... it says something good about Huntsman that he made the point at all.]

Update-update: At ABC's site, Huntsman elaborates on his "unfortunate" comment, and Gary Johnson wins my respect by saying that he could hear the boos; that he thought the others probably could as well; and that he regrets not having said anything about them during the debate:

>>"That's not the Republican Party that I belong to," said Johnson. "I'm embarrassed by someone who serves in the military and can't express their sexuality. I am representing the Republican Party that is tolerant. And to me that shows an intolerance that I'm not a part of in any way whatsoever. "<<
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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