Lawrence ODonnell thinks so. The host of The Last Word on MSNBC — that ever-so-GOP-friendly and fair-minded network — argues that the Republican Party of the 21st Century, if we are to judge by the debate audiences, has obviously lost its soul.
Prior to his diagnosis, he aired selected video clips from recent presidential debates, during which Republicans applauded the large number of Texas executions, booed a gay soldier stationed in Iraq, and wanted to let a sick person lacking health insurance die.
ODonnell sees these as indicative of bloodlust and cruelty. Is he right? Do conservatives get involved in politics to satisfy such malign drives? I dont think so.
After all, some of my best friends are Republicans. (Of course, some of my best friends are Democrats, too, and theyre not especially malicious, either.)
Calm down. Take each issue one at a time. Establish context.
Most Americans believe in the death penalty for those convicted of committing especially heinous murders. Now, Im in a minority: I dont support capital punishment. Why? I think our justice system is too fallible to wield such power. But heres where I differ with ODonnell: I dont think the people who disagree with me are evil.
Besides, the applause wasnt for death as a good thing in and of itself. It was in response to a slanted question asking Texas Governor Rick Perry how he could sleep at night, and for the Governors answer that he was determined to make it exceedingly unwise for a murderer to mess with a Texan.
This dont mess with Texas mentality is not just a Texan thing. Or a conservative thing. Its an American thing. Its linked to defending our rights.
Then a gay soldier serving in Iraq asked a question and was booed. Booing implies, of course, more than one boo or more than one person booing. If you listen to the tape, it does seem like there were two booers. Yes, somewhere there are two Republicans without the good manners Id like them to have. The two booers are boors.
This meager data point doesnt exactly prove a trend, or affix itself to a whole group.
Should a person, who refused to buy health insurance and finds himself with an expensive life-threatening illness, be denied medical care? ODonnell charges that Republicans would gleefully impose the death penalty themselves on sick people, if just given the chance.
So clarify. When Congressman Ron Paul was asked if we should just let the man die, a couple of people in the audience did shout, Yes! (The same two dudes?)
But Ron Paul said, No. Too bad more attention wasnt paid to his comments about practicing medicine before there was Medicaid. Dr. Paul is indeed old enough to remember what that was like. And what did he say? I practiced medicine before we had Medicaid in the early 1960s when I got out of medical school. I practiced at Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio and the churches took care of them. We never turned anybody away from the hospital.
Thats not meanness of spirit. Thats not bloodlust. And its certainly not evil.
You might say its evidence of soul.