Republican Candidates Support “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Jim Burroway

November 29th, 2007

In last night’s Republican CNN/YouTube debate, there were two questions about gay issues.

The first question came from Brigadier Gen. Keith Kerr (Ret.), who has been openly gay since his retirement. He asked about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The second question was about whether the candidates would accept support from the Log Cabin Republicans.

Here is the transcript from that debate:

Anderson Cooper: All right, let’s get back to the debate. Another question from a YouTube viewer. Let’s watch.

Brigadier Gen. Keith Kerr (Ret.): My name’s Keith Kerr, from Santa Rosa, California. I’m a retired brigadier general with 43 years of service. And I’m a graduate of the Special Forces Officer Course, the Commanding General Staff Course and the Army War College. And I’m an openly gay man.

I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.

Cooper: I want to point out that Brigadier General Keith Kerr is here with us tonight. I’m glad you’re here.

(Applause)

Again, the question to Congressman Hunter.

Hunter: General, thanks for your service, but I believe in what Colin Powell said when he said that having openly homosexual people serving in the ranks would be bad for unit cohesion.

The reason for that, even though people point to the Israelis and point to the Brits and point to other people as having homosexuals serve, is that most Americans, most kids who leave that breakfast table and go out and serve in the military and make that corporate decision with their family, most of them are conservatives.

They have conservative values, and they have Judeo-Christian values. To force those people to work in a small tight unit with somebody who is openly homosexual goes against what they believe to be their principles, and it is their principles, is I think a disservice to them. I agree with Colin Powell that it would be bad for unit cohesion.

Cooper: I want to direct this to Governor Huckabee.

Thirty seconds.

Huckabee: The Uniform Code of Military Justice is probably the best rule, and it has to do with conduct. People have a right to have whatever feelings, whatever attitudes they wish, but when their conduct could put at risk the morale, or put at risk even the cohesion that Duncan Hunter spoke of, I think that’s what is at issue. And that’s why our policy is what it is.

Cooper: Governor Romney, you said in 1994 that you looked forward to the day when gays and lesbians could serve, and I quote, “openly and honestly in our nation’s military.” Do you stand by that?

Romney: This isn’t that time. This is not that time. We’re in the middle of a war. The people who have…

Cooper: Do you look forward to that time, though, one day?

Romney: I’m going to listen to the people who run the military to see what the circumstances are like. And my view is that, at this stage, this is not the time for us to make that kind of…

Cooper: Is that a change in your position…

Romney: Yes, I didn’t think it would work. I didn’t think “don’t ask/don’t tell” would work. That was my — I didn’t think that would work. I thought that was a policy, when I heard about it, I laughed. I said that doesn’t make any sense to me.

And you know what? It’s been there now for, what, 15 years? It seems to have worked.

Cooper: So, just so I’m clear, at this point, do you still look forward to a day when gays can serve openly in the military or no longer?

Romney: I look forward to hearing from the military exactly what they believe is the right way to have the right kind of cohesion and support in our troops and I listen to what they have to say.

(Audience booing)

Cooper: All right. General Kerr is — as I said — is here.

Please stand up, General. Thank you very much for being with us.

Did you feel you got an answer to your question?

Kerr: With all due respect, I did not get an answer from the candidates.

(Applause)

Cooper: What do you feel you did not…

Kerr: American men and women in the military are professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.

For 42 years, I wore the army uniform on active duty, in the Reserve, and also for the state of California. I revealed I was a gay man after I retired.

Today, “don’t ask/don’t tell” is destructive to our military policy.

Every day, the Department of Defense discharges two people, not for misconduct, not for the unit cohesion…

Cooper: Wait, the mike is — you’ve lost me. Is the microphone not working? Please, just finish your — what is your question?

Kerr: Not for the unit cohesion that Congressman Hunter is talking about, but simply because they happen to be gay.

Cooper: OK. Senator McCain …

Kerr: And we’re talking about doctors, nurses, pilots, and the surgeon who sews somebody up when they’re taken from the battlefield.

Cooper: I appreciate your comments.

Senator McCain, I want to give you 30 seconds. You served in the military.

McCain: General, I thank you for your service to our nation. I respect it. All the time, I talk to our military leaders, beginning with our joint chiefs of staff and the leaders in the field, such as General Petraeus and General Odierno and others who are designated leaders with the responsibility of the safety of the men and women under their command and their security and protect them as best they can.

Almost unanimously, they tell me that this present policy is working, that we have the best military in history, that we have the bravest, most professional, best prepared, and that this policy ought to be continued because it’s working.

Cooper: All right. We’ve got another question. Let’s listen.

David Cercone: Hi, my name is David Cercone. I’d like to ask all the candidates if they accept the support of the Log Cabin Republicans, and why should the Log Cabin Republicans support their candidacy?

Cooper: Governor Huckabee, would you support — would you allow support from the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay Republicans?

Huckabee: You know, in my position in this entire election, I need the support of anybody and everybody I can get.

(Applause)

(Crosstalk)

Huckabee: Sure, they should. I disagree with them, strongly disagree with them on the idea of same-sex marriage, but in a democracy we can have disagreements over some policies and still agree on the greater things that make us Republicans.

So would I accept their support? Of course. Would I change my position on same-sex marriage? No, I wouldn’t. But if they’re willing to support me, I’ll be their president. I’ll be anybody’s president, but I’ll be true to my convictions, and I think that’s what Americans look for — not someone they’re going to agree with on everything, but somebody who at least has some convictions, sticks with them, can explain them, and can at least have respect for people who have different ones.

(Applause)

Jason

November 29th, 2007

Isn’t it just like a politician? You ask a direct question…

“I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.”

and you get BS about unit cohesion and the policy “working”. Slavery seemed to work, in fact, that was the reason the south fought against it’s repeal. That and not wanting to be told what to do.

Not letting women vote, segregation, not letting interracial couples marry all seem to have “worked” at the time, should they still be in place?

So Hunter thinks it’s better to do a disservice to the country, and to it’s gay citizens, then to do a disservice to the majority? Isn’t the constitution supposed to protect the few from the many?

And what about those conservative christian soldiers, should they not have to serve in a unit with a muslim? An atheist? A woman who’s pro-choice?

Ben in Oakland

November 29th, 2007

At least they are admitting it is about prejudice. now, if we can get someone to pressthem on that issue, rathr than allowing the slippery slidiness of unit cohesion.

Benton

November 29th, 2007

Did they even hear the questions?

Timothy Kincaid

November 29th, 2007

I believe that Hunter did answer the question asked of him, I just don’t think that he realized that he did.

Q I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.

A … most kids who … serve in the military … have conservative values, and they have Judeo-Christian values.

In other words, Mr. Hunter believes that Judeo-Christian values precludes one from being professional.

As a Christian, I find Hunter’s assumptions to be utterly offensive and patronizing.

Timothy Kincaid

November 29th, 2007

At first I was perplexed about the Log Cabin question. Then I looked closer and realized how clever it is.

1. Cercone start with the assumption that all Americans are familiar with Log Cabin Republicans. He offers no explanation of the group.

This is smart of LCR as it both raises their profile and also starts with the base assumption that gay people are just a standard part of the Republican Party. This feeds the “gays are everywhere” idea back to the American public and confirms the “humdrum, everyday, non-crazy-activist-leftist, just like you” image of gay people that most folks would share if not for wackjobs that constantly scream about “liberals” and “anti-Christians” and “secular progressives”.

2. When Dole was the party’s nominee he returned a check from Log Cabin (which blew up in his face). He thought the support of Log Cabin was an albatross to be avoided.

For many years the more conservative candidates prided themselves that they did not have Log Cabin’s support.

But in just a decade, the Southern Baptist preacher running for President felt it necessary to proclaim to a Republican audience that he would welcome gay support. Yes he qualified it all over the place, but at least with the cameras running he welcomed it.

What LCR did with this question was raise the bar. No longer can a candidate oppose gay Republicans, per se, without being perceived as hateful. And that’s good for all gay people.

3. The last part of the question (why should LCR support you?) was interesting but not as effective.

Had it gone well, a candidate may have been able to list the things that gay Republicans have in common with other Republicans. I suspect McCain or Giulianni might have handled it in that way – talking about small businesses and tax bases etc. Which would again have helped those Republicans watching feel kinship to gays. Alas, Huckabee didn’t go there.

Some have noted that perhaps a better question might have been about one of our issues – marriage, DADT, ENDA, etc. – but I think Log Cabin asked a question that only they could ask (though in other words): “Mr. Candidate, do you consider gay Republicans to be part of your Party”. And while I might have preferred a more resounding “Yes”, it’s nice to know that a very conservative Republican candidate speaking to a Republican audience is no longer comfortable saying “No”.

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