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not part of the working group’s mandate to ask Servicemembers the broad question of whether they think DADT should be repealed, which, in effect, would amount to a referendum.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.
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.
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