Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT)– the weird US military policy that says gays and Lesbians can serve in the military as long as no one can tell they’re gay– has been in existence since the early 1990s. Repeal of DADT has popped up on the Congressional radar and on the campaign trail many times.
Presidential candidate John McCain said he would be in favor of repealing DADT– if the military brass approved. In the spring of 2010, General David Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “the time has come” to allow gays to serve openly in the military. But that wasn’t enough for McCain. In fact, he wouldn’t allow Patraeus to read his 8-minute prepared statement on DADT– obviously because he didn’t want to hear it.
In the summer of 2010, General Collin Powell said he had changed his position on DADT and now favors repeal. But that wasn’t enough for McCain– even though he had said he was waiting to hear Powell’s opinion.
McCain called for a survey of enlisted men on the subject of DADT. Recently, the results of that survey were released. It revealed that 70 percent of enlisted men and women think it would be no big deal to allow gays and Lesbians to serve openly in the military. Among combat Marine and Army combat troops, nearly 60 percent “said they thought repealing the law would hurt their units’ ability to fight on the battlefield,” according to an Associated Press story in the Arizona Daily Star.
Now McCain say the survey– that he called for– was flawed.
More details from the Star…
McCain seized on this finding to argue that forcing such a substantial personnel policy change in a time of war would be wrong for the military and the country. He also criticized the study for scrutinizing only how the law could be repealed, instead of whether doing so would benefit the military.
“At this time, we should be inherently cautious about making any changes that would affect our military, and what changes we do make should be the product of careful and deliberate consideration,” McCain said.
McCain’s statement was directly challenged by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the military’s top uniformed officer who chairs the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Repeal of the law will not prove unacceptable risk to military readiness,” Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Unit cohesion will not suffer if our units are well-led. And families will not encourage their loved ones to leave the service in droves.”
Mullen also said that Congress should act before the courts do, and that wartime is an ideal time for repeal.
“War does not stifle change; it demands it,” he said. “It does not make it harder; it facilitates it.”
McCain has previously suggested that Mullen’s opinion didn’t matter as much as other military commanders because he doesn’t directly lead troops.
In his opening statement, Mullen seemed to issue a direct challenge to McCain.
“For more than 40 years, I have made decisions that affected and even risked the lives of young men and women,” Mullen said. “You do not have to agree with me on this issue. But don’t think for one moment that I haven’t carefully considered the impact of the advice I give on those who will have to live with the decisions that advice informs.”
Marine Gen. James Cartwright, the No. 2 officer on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview that if Congress fails to act the military could handle an abrupt about-face mandated by the courts.
He like the other Pentagon leaders said that is by far the second choice, and would be disruptive for forces currently cycling through the military’s tightly planned rotation for wartime deployment.
“Bringing this into force quickly means that we have to do some of this in the battlefield. Probably doable, but it’s a bigger challenge than we really want to have to take,” Cartwright said.
Cartwright and the military chiefs of each service will testify before the same Senate panel on Friday. The focus will be on Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos because of the survey results showing high opposition to repeal among Marine combat troops.
“I cannot speak for him but I will speak as a Marine,” Cartwright said. “If the law is repealed the Marine Corps will lead the education, training, and bringing it in,” he said. “They will comply with the law, no doubt about it, and they will comply with the law aggressively.”
For more coverage on DADT and McCain’s flip-flopping, check out this link to The Daily Show’s archive. Particularly telling is The Daily Show’s clip from December 2– which provides some of the very specific questions that were asked (even the shower question).
Considering McCain’s long history of flip-flopping on DADT, I think it is obvious that his opinion on the issue– and other difficult questions– twists in the wind and depends upon the polls. I also think McCain is showing his age and his homophobia.