At the GOP debate on Sept. 7, another crowd exuberantly greeted news that Texas had executed 234 death row inmates during Gov. Rick Perry’s time in office, “more than any other governor in modern times,” according to NBC’s Brian Williams, who served as co-moderator at the event.

There are few things as predictable as the ramped-up political rhetoric that permeates the run-up to an election. But this year, it seems the politicians aren’t the only ones who seem to be portraying their party in a negative light.


Several recent events spring to mind. One of the most disturbing occurred during a GOP presidential debate co-sponsored by CNN and the tea party last week.


Moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, “What do you tell a guy who is sick, goes into a coma and doesn’t have health insurance? Who pays for his coverage? Are you saying society should just let him die?” It was the crowd’s response — cheers, laughter and enthusiastic shouts of “yeah” — that left me feeling ill. After all, this was a serious discussion about human life, not a victory celebration at the big game.


How can these people claim to believe so strongly in the sanctity of life and yet be perfectly happy at the idea of letting some innocent person perish for no reason other than he doesn’t have health insurance? Does the sheer hypocrisy even register with these people, or do they believe life is only precious before birth — and after that it is every man for himself?


The day after the debate, Protect Your Care, a health advocacy group, released a statement from its communications director, Eddie Vale, saying the moment provided “a disturbing view into the tea party’s extreme right-wing position on health care ... Even worse, none of the Republican candidates on stage expressed a word of disapproval as the tea party audience literally clapped for blood. This was a spectacle one would have expected back in the gladiatorial combat of ancient Rome, not at a presidential debate.”


I know there will be those who will be quick to point out that it is wrong to blame an entire party, or even the candidates who were present at the debate, for the actions of a few in the crowd. But the fact that so few have spoken out against it appears to indicate they either see nothing wrong with it or lack the courage to voice their beliefs and risk alienating voters.


It wasn’t an isolated incident, either. At the GOP debate on Sept. 7, another crowd exuberantly greeted news that Texas had executed 234 death row inmates during Gov. Rick Perry’s time in office, “more than any other governor in modern times,” according to NBC’s Brian Williams, who served as co-moderator at the event.


If theses crowds’ reactions are an accurate reflection of the feelings of the Republican Party –– which has, disappointingly, been largely silent, save for a few tepid responses –– then claiming to be the “party of life” is disingenuous at best.


The pious pretense doesn’t end there. Former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson also created a stir as of late with callous comments that contradict the very foundation of his so-called belief system.


In response to a question about dealing with a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease on the “700 Club,” the darling of the religious right had this to say: “I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.”


Robertson is right about one thing: It definitely sounds cruel ... because it is. How many times have religious figures railed against divorce, telling spouses that they need to “stay and work it out” with their partner, regardless of the circumstances? Apparently, one must honor a commitment when it comes to reasonable grounds for divorce, such as abuse, cheating or simply falling out of love, but illness is a deal breaker.


If that’s the case, why stop at Alzheimer’s? Having a spouse with cancer is certainly no picnic, so does Robertson think those people should also be free to seek greener, healthier pastures? It seems an odd, not to mention heartless, place to draw the line. When a person is dealing with a devastating illness, isn’t that when they most need the love and support of their family?


Could it be that Robertson really has forgotten that whole “in sickness and in health” part of the marriage vows? If so, perhaps his wife should file for divorce, as it seems his memory may be failing.


City editor Amy Gehrt may be reached at 217-346-1111, ext. 663, or at agehrt@pekintimes.com.