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DADT update: McCain looking more extreme

Timothy Kincaid

November 23rd, 2010

Most of the recent news about the potential repeal of the Military’s anti-gay Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy surrounds the report on the Military’s survey of troops and families. And it is not looking good for DADT’s chief defender, Sen. John McCain.

McCain continues to trumpet his latest objection to repeal, his assertion that the report didn’t ask the right questions. In fact, it now appears that McCain has been in correspondence with the Pentagon over this issue for some time. In April he objected that the survey was studying whether the repeal would have impact on the troops and how best to go about it rather than whether the ban should be lifted. In September, he tried again, this time writing to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, on Armed Services Committee stationery, making suggestions as to the extent and content of the survey:

I urge you and Admiral Mullen to modify the review and survey instrument, or to conduct supplemental surveys, aimed at ensuring that the question of whether the DADT policy should be changed is answered.

It is essential – and I think it’s clear that the Service Chiefs strongly agree with this point – that the survey provide the input needed to inform the Department and Congress on the views and recommendations of those most effected by this change, the men and women in uniform.

Gates’ response rejected McCain’s suggestion and politely reminded him that the Military is not structured as a democracy:

It is not part of the working group’s mandate to ask Servicemembers the broad question of whether they think DADT should be repealed, which, in effect, would amount to a referendum. I do not believe that military policy decisions — on this or any other subject — should be made through a referendum of Servicemembers.

As his letter suggests, the Curmudgeon in Chief is relying on the “strong agreement” of the Service Chiefs to provide a basis for his public opposition of open service. Last week he told reporters, “I respect and admire these four service chiefs who have expressed either outright opposition or deep reservation about the repeal.”

McCain seems to be relying on letters he solicited and received in May from the individual Chiefs and which he interpreted to be an endorsement of the anti-gay policy. But he really should have read them more closely before waving them on the floor of the Senate and touting them as agreeing with him.

Because, as it turns out, the Service Chiefs had reviewed the questions and, according to Gates, “fully support the approach and efforts of the working group.” As some of them have expressed in the past few days.

Over the weekend, Navy Chief Adm. Gary Roughead, who had written that “the best approach would be to complete the DOD review before there is any legislation to change the law” now seems pleased with the review. (National Journal)

“I think the survey, without question, was the most expansive survey of the American military that’s ever been undertaken,” Roughead said during an interview Saturday aboard his plane. “I think the work that has been done is extraordinary.”

This morning Air Force Chief Gen. Norton Schwartz echoed the praise (The Hill)

“The study was a good process; it was healthy; it is informative,” Schwartz told reporters at a breakfast meeting. The Air Force chief declined to offer any specifics, stressing his commitment to keep his recommendations to the Pentagon leadership confidential for now.

The sole negative comment appears to be that of Marine Chief Gen. James Amos, who said earlier in the month that now was not the right time to lift the ban. While this comment was made before the draft or the report was leaked and the Service Chiefs’ comments were incorporated, Amos may be McCain’s only ally in his quest to keep institutionalized discrimination in the Military.

Or, should Amos support the conclusions of the report, McCain may be standing alone, supported only by religious zealots and obvious bigots.

Secretary Gates has also taken the step of making at least a token effort to respond to Senators Lieberman and Collins’ request to expedite the release of the report. (WaPo)

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has ordered the report to be released Nov. 30, one day earlier than planned, “to support Congress’s wish to consider repeal before they adjourn,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Sunday.

However, we should be cautious not to be overly optimistic about the report. The recommendations, while based on survey responses which are leaked to be positive, may well be far less than we hope for. I very much doubt that this report will call for an immediate repeal of the ban.

Rather, I suspect that it will suggest a phase-in of repeal, perhaps emphasizing certain branches of service enacting open service earlier than others. I also suspect that it will involve the transfer of openly gay servicemembers from certain forms of service to other forms, rather than discharge.

Whatever the recommendations, they are likely to be disappointing. Which, ironically, may make them more palatable to legislators on the fence.

Meanwhile, Log Cabin Republicans continues its court-based assault on the policy. (Merc)

On Friday, Log Cabin Republicans filed a motion with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an expedited schedule. It would put the case on track for oral arguments in April.

In response to LCR’s court win declaring DADT to be unconstitutional, the Military implemented new rules requiring that no person could be discharged under DADT without “personal approval of the secretary of the military department concerned, and only in coordination with [Secretary Gates] and the General Counsel of the Department of Defense.”

Unsurprisingly, this has proved to be a virtual moratorium on the application of the policy (WaPo)

No U.S. service members have been discharged for being openly gay in the month since the Defense Department adopted new rules surrounding the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Monday.

Increasingly, it looks evident that this policy will soon be gone. And increasingly it looks as though Senator John McCain, after a long contribution to his country, will be most remembered as a man who, in the waning years of his service, frittered away his influence by cantankerously clinging to prejudices and fighting against the coming of a world that was already there.



Ben in Oakland
November 23rd, 2010 | LINK

I am sure the army asked all of the soldiers if they wanted to invade Afghanistan, something I suspect many had some reservations about.

Is there anyone of any importance, with a platform to speak, who is not calling out Mccain on his obvious idiocy?

Is it known yet what the response rate was? It seems to me that is of paramount importance.

November 23rd, 2010 | LINK

When DADT goes, McCain should never be allowed to forget the way he kicked LGB servicepeople down. He is a disgrace to america. The calls for his resignation should echo across arizona.

November 23rd, 2010 | LINK

He is another old homophobe living in the past. Whinning about things not going his way. I don’t see how Ariz. people think he is such a great senator. Just an old crybaby.

November 23rd, 2010 | LINK

Timothy, thank you for pointing out that the letters that McPain is waving in the air are for supporting the Secretary’s review and call for waiting until the process is complete. McPain keeps touting these letters as support for keeping the ban in place and they say nothing of the sort. I really wish this man was not my senator but as a member of the military, I am a non resident of AZ, fortunately my senators from MI are doing a stand up job. Keep up the good work and happy Thanksgiving

November 23rd, 2010 | LINK

Tim, Well put.

Now, that the venerated, and well respected SPLC is going to add the AFA and the FRC to their LIST!, I think it’s only natural that DADT shall once and for all be cast to the waste side.

Eric in Oakland
November 24th, 2010 | LINK

I get annoyed when people, including McCain as quoted above, claim “those most effected by this change (are) the men and women in uniform”. Aren’t “those most effected” the gay and Lesbian servicemembers who have been discharged and are still at risk of discharge?

November 24th, 2010 | LINK

In life you need either inspiration or desperation. McCain is not inspiring.

November 24th, 2010 | LINK

blah blah blah
Why are we even listening to this?
Why does everyone think their sole existence is to mollify and appease John McCurmudgeon???
In fact, why are gay people acting as if they give a crap what anybody else even thinks? Live you life the way you were meant to live it. It’s YOUR life, and you’re not living it for anybody else’s pleasure or comfort.

Taylor Siluwé
November 24th, 2010 | LINK

Yes, John McCain’s legacy will be his spending his waning years clinging to ol’ school (George Wallace style) hate — however, we should give him major kudos for bestowing on American culture a true national treasure, that thing that makes us smile daily, everyone’s favorite Mama Grizzly.

I mean c’mon, how can you not love someone after watchin’ her bludgeon a halibut?

**end sarcasm**

Priya Lynn
November 24th, 2010 | LINK

Jim said “Why are we even listening to this?…Live you life the way you were meant to live it.”.

Jim, suppose a gay person thinks they were meant to live their life as a member of the military? That’s why people are listening to this.

November 24th, 2010 | LINK

It sounds like what McCain is trying to do is have the military vote on whether or not to repeal DADT much as states have voted on same-sex marriage. Presumably because he figures that it would be voted down. As others have stated, the military is not a democracy, they don’t get to vote on things.

Taylor Siluwé
November 24th, 2010 | LINK

John, thats exactly what he’s trying to do – a referendum.

Sadly such polls on human rights weighs opinions of the progressive and the troglodytic, with the latter always being the most vehement. Fortunately the military (despite the infuriating nature of polling for equality) seems to be leaning progressive.

And people wonder why Dan Choi got so upset (almost to point of incoherence) on Hardball. I wonder if the average, non-LGBT American would keep their cool if their equality was put up to the consensus of the masses?

Timothy Kincaid
November 24th, 2010 | LINK

McCain is failing to realize that this survey is a referendum of sorts. When asked a host of questions about repealing DADT, about 70% couldn’t care enough to respond, even with the Pentagon calling for participation.

Of those who bothered, about 70% said that they have no concerns about repealing DADT.

So there’s your answer, Sen. McCain: about 9% of servicemembers and their families oppose the repeal enough to say so.

November 24th, 2010 | LINK

“In April he objected that the survey was studying whether the repeal would have impact on the troops and how best to go about it rather than whether the ban should be lifted.”

Isn’t studying whether repeal would have an impact on the troops the same as studying whether repeal should happen? The only justification for keeping the ban that is not purely rooted in bigotry is the argument that letting gay people serve openly will have a negative impact on unit cohesion. Which is why the Pentagon was studying whether letting gay people serve would have an effect on other servicemembers. So this study seems to have asked exactly the right questions.

November 25th, 2010 | LINK

One of my favourite quotes is this corker by J. M. Straczynski:

“I’ll tell you one thing, if the primates that we came from had known that someday politicians would come out of the gene pool, they’d’ve stayed up in the trees and written evolution off as a bad idea.”

In McCain’s case those primates would have gotten rather confused, however. Evolution is supposed to go forwards. McCain’s attitude seems to have less in common with enlightened thought, and more in common with the bone-headedness of long-extinct creatures like the Pachycephalosaurs.

November 25th, 2010 | LINK

Keep those emails rolling daily!

Email The Whitehouse:

Email Congress:

Email Senate:

Call the Congress and Senate: (202)224-3121

*The Operator will direct you if you do not know your representative

*IMPORTANT* Be polite and to the point.

November 26th, 2010 | LINK

I learned an interesting fact about the Marines in a NYT article’ ( )

Both the Marines, and General Amos, are probably less accepting of the idea of repealing DADT because it has “many of its roughly 200,000 members hailing from small towns and rural areas in the South.”

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