The Republican Drift From Compassion

Was President Bush wrong? Is Ron Paul right? Should the government stay out of these issues? Are these isolated events or is this the face of the Republican Party?
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There have been at least six unexpected reactions from the audience at recent GOP Presidential debates.

  • The audience cheered at the death of 234 people;
  • Members of the audience booed the idea that a child receive a tax payer subsidized education;
  • Several audience members chanted "let him die;"
  • Several audience members booed a gay solider.
  • An audience cheered when a GOP candidate said he wanted to build a border fence that would electrocute people that would "kill you;"
  • A GOP debate audience cheered when a candidate blamed the unemployed for being unemployed.

But the drift from compassion doesn't end there. There has been no discussion about helping the poor or facilitating ex-offender reentry, or any other issue that Jesus would likely take up.

Are these isolated events or is this the face of the Republican Party?

GOP Presidential candidate Rick Perry said that he always errs on the side of life, but this doesn't seem to be the case when talking about the death penalty. Perry was also booed for his position on the children of illegal immigrants, who by no fault of their own, are here illegally, but also should be educated so as to become a productive member of society. Other GOP candidates have said it is not about not having a heart; it is about common sense to not educate children of illegal immigrants.

In response to a question about Obamacare, GOP Presidential candidate Ron Paul was not about to say: "Let him die!," which some members of the audience chanted. He went on to explain that compassion still has a place but it was not the government that should be doing it.

GOP Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum doesn't seem to understand 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' (DADT). First, it was declared unconstitutional so he could not reinstate it as he suggested. Second, gay soldiers don't want to openly talk about or do sexual activity openly; they just don't want to be thrown out of the military for who they love and want to partner with. It is not about them getting something special or preferential treatment, it is about them getting equal treatment.

This observation is not limited to the GOP debates.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said that federal disaster relief must be offset by spending cuts, to which Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) said of Cantor:

"Where is his heart?" ... "Where is his compassion for people who are suffering today?" ... "If they want to fight and quibble over the supplemental, I mean, they are heartless. What's wrong with them?" ... "Nothing for the average American community. That's what they're saying: we don't have anything for the average American community."

As to Herman Cain's joke that we have an electric fence that can kill people, this is not a joke. It doesn't matter if someone is the "anti-politician" of if one has previously said that "America needs to learn to take a joke." National security is not something to be taken lightly, and neither is life and death. And blaming the unemployed for being unemployed is like blaming the victim; the vast majority of the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the unemployed in general want to work.

What ever happened to compassionate conservatism? George W. Bush said: "It is compassionate to actively help our citizens in need. It is conservative to insist on accountability and results."

And former Bush chief speechwriter Michael Gerson said: "Compassionate conservatism is the theory that the government should encourage the effective provision of social services without providing the service itself." One view of Ronald Reagan was that he believed the government should stay out of these matters.

The government is supposed to be about people serving people. There is nothing wrong with the government stepping in to fill that role.

But was President Bush wrong? Is Ron Paul right? Should the government stay out of these issues? Are these isolated events or is this the face of the Republican Party?

Paul Heroux is a freelance columnist and graduate of the Harvard University JFK School of Government. He can be reached at

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