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GOP debate highlight: Cheers over people dying

Updated: November 10, 2011 9:28AM

Imagine how much anger has to be boiling inside a person to openly applaud the argument that we should let a young man die because he chose not to buy health insurance.

If that happened in some Third World country, we’d shake our heads at the backward thinking and the lack of compassion. We’d be saying, what kind of religion do those people practice?

The above scenario actually played out on Monday night at the Tea Party debate in Tampa, when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) what should be done in the case of a hypothetical 30-year-old man who’s healthy and has a good job, opts not to buy insurance — and is struck ill and will die without proper care. If he goes into a coma, who pays for that?

“In a society that you expect welfare-ism and socialism, he expects the government to take care of him,” was Paul’s non-response of a response.

“What he should do is whatever he wants to do. My advice to him would be to have a major medical policy . . .”

“But he doesn’t have that,” said Blitzer. “And he needs intensive care for six months, who pays.”

“That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks,” responded Paul, drawing a big round of applause.

“Are you saying society should just let him die?” asked Blitzer — and before Paul could answer, a number of voices in the crowd yelled out, “Yeah!”

To his credit, Paul told of practicing medicine in the 1960s and said, “We never turned away anybody.”

On one level, Paul’s absolutely right. That healthy 30-year-old who can afford health insurance shouldn’t just opt not to pay and expect the same level of care given to the guy in the next office who’s paying thousands of dollars a year for insurance.

And it’s certainly understandable that hard-working, tax-paying, do-the-right-thing American citizens are fed up with those who don’t pay their fair share and still expect to reap all the benefits of living here.

But that aside, what’s the mindset of the audience member who enthusiastically shouts “Yeah!” when Blitzer asks, “Should we just let him die?” How do you become that callous?

Justice as a sporting event

There was a similarly jolting moment at the GOP presidential debate at the Reagan Library last week when Brian Williams said to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, “Your state has executed 234 Death Row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times,” and there was robust applause in the crowd, even a whistle or two as if a great song had just been played in concert.

Even if you believe in the death penalty with all your heart and soul, do you really cheer for it like you’re at a Bears game?

I know: you’ll often see death penalty-proponents whooping it up outside the scene of an execution. And when Osama bin Laden was taken out, more than a few Americans took to the streets to celebrate as if their favorite team had just won a championship. Remember the flag-waving and chanting and singing of the national anthem outside the White House?

No, I don’t weep for bin Laden. He was a terrorist, a coward, a mass murderer. Pure evil. He’s dead? Good. I wish somebody had taken him out 15 years ago.

To some, there’s no difference between Americans dancing in the streets when World War II ended and Americans bouncing around a beach ball and chanting “USA, USA, USA!” after hearing the news of bin Laden’s death. We’ve seen the footage of our enemies celebrating the deaths of American soldiers and innocent victims. Compared to that, celebrating the death of bin Laden — well, there is no comparison.

But I also believe a lot of Americans, including men and women who have served this country in war and have preserved freedoms and comforts we all enjoy — a lot of Americans simply don’t believe in celebrating or cheering for death, whether it’s the demise of a hypothetical young man who chose not to buy health insurance, the execution of a convicted killer or the end of a hated enemy. A lot of Americans think we’re supposed to be better than that.

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