The current crop of Republican presidential candidates has attracted a grotesque following. And instead of renouncing the ugliness, the candidates continue to play to it. I’m sure you know what I mean. As the Republican standard bearer, John McCain had the decency to set a dizzy old woman straight when she suggested Barack Obama was an Arab terrorist. This time around, the Republican candidates seem to thrive on craziness like that.
The crowd reaction on the nomination campaign trail has been shameful. From the cheering when the death penalty was mentioned to the booing of a gay soldier who asked a question to suggesting that uninsured people should be allowed to die if they can’t afford hospital treatment.
And the beat goes on. Last week, while candidate Rick Santorum was showing off his marksmanship skill, some woman yelled, “Pretend it’s Obama!” The crowd giggled its approval.
So I find it ironic when candidates of this ilk accuse President Obama of being “divisive” in pointing out he can identify with the parents of a black teenager who was shot to death while walking to his father’s home in a Florida subdivision.
The president made a personal plea for Americans to come together and do some “soul searching” after Trayvon Martin (photo above, left) was killed by a neighborhood watch guard in Sanford, near Orlando.
“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” said the president (shown above right as a teenager).
Commenting on the charge that race played a central role in the tragedy, the president said “all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen – and that means that we examine the laws and the context for what happened as well as the specifics of the incident.”
Republican candidate Newt Gingrich chose to misinterpret the president’s remarks in the most churlish manner possible.
“Is the president suggesting if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it wouldn’t look like him?” Gingrich asked Friday on Sean Hannity’s radio show. “That’s just nonsense. I mean, dividing this country up.”
In a separate radio interview Friday, Santorum showed the same disdain for decency.
“What the president of the United States should do is try to bring people together, not use these types of horrible and tragic individual cases to try to drive a wedge in America,” Santorum said.
This presidential campaign is shaping up as one of the nastiest episodes in America’s history. The contest for the Republican nomination has been a no-holds-barred smearfest where mud flies freely. I can only imagine what the general election campaign will be like.
It doesn’t help to say Americans deserve better. Obviously, some of them don’t.