September 23, 2011 11:33 am ET - by Kate Conway
While Mitt Romney and Rick Perry's attempts to bash one another over the head with their respective records made for some hoot-worthy highlights during last night's Fox News/Google GOP presidential primary debate, a few audience members once again stole the show when they booed a gay soldier who had submitted a question via YouTube. Extreme reactions from the debate viewers are become par for the course during the GOP primary campaign — in previous debates, audience members have cheered the prospect of letting an uninsured man die and roared their approval of Rick Perry's astounding record on the death penalty.
Homophobic former Senator Rick Santorum needed no encouragement. He unabashedly told the soldier that he would reinstate "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," because, he said, sex should not be an issue in the military — and then went into some nonsensical detail about the logistics of pushing gay soldiers back into the closet.
For the rest of the debate, falsehoods, distortions, and unwarranted attacks on President Obama abounded. Romney accused the president of doing "everything wrong" on the economy, despite Romney's own dismal economic record, and earned himself a Pants On Fire rating from PolitiFact for saying that Obama "traveled around the globe to apologize for America." Later in the debate, Romney absurdly claimed that calling for smaller class sizes is a bogus union talking point, and Santorum jumped on the anti-union bandwagon by calling for the complete eradication of public employee unions.
Yet despite his misstatements, Romney seemed to come out on top of the debate, putting Perry on the defensive in a number of exchanges. In particular, Perry found himself scrambling to defend prior comments calling Social Security a "Ponzi scheme," insisting last night that Social Security recipients "don't have anything in the world to worry about" if he wins. Perry also earned his own Pants On Fire rating with the claim that the "federal government has not engaged in" border security "at all."
Michele Bachmann also found herself defending prior gaffes, but continued to criticize the safety of HPV vaccinations. Herman Cain distorted the truth about health care reform, insisting that he'd "be dead under Obamacare" but basing his conclusion on a completely erroneous representation of the Affordable Care Act.
Other highlights included Newt Gingrich bemoaning "Obama's socialist policy" and "class warfare"; Bachmann demanding "private solutions that are permanent in the private sector"; Huntsman dismissing Americans' real opinions on fair taxation; and a show-stealing (but also stolen) joke from Gary Johnson: "My neighbor's two dogs have created more shovel-ready projects than this president."
Watch highlights below the fold.
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