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Annals of Courage

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

The ways of the US Senate are mysterious. Who am I to try to understand them, much less explain them? Today was one of the Senate’s prouder moments, as it managed in its election-season cowardice to defer taking up the military authorization bill, thereby also deferring (or avoiding) debate on repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell. From the NYT account:

The Senate on Tuesday voted against taking up a major military bill that would allow the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, disappointing advocates of allowing gay Americans to serve openly in the armed forces but leaving open the likelihood of another vote later this year.

The outcome, at a time when Congress is increasingly paralyzed by the partisan fury of the midterm elections, was more a result of a dispute between Democrats and Republicans over legislative process than a straightforward referendum on whether to allow gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers to serve openly.

President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have all said they favor repealing the 17-year-old policy. And the House has already approved legislation that would allow the Pentagon to rescind it, while the legal fight is advancing in the federal courts.

But Senate Republicans voted unanimously to block debate on the bill, the annual authorization of military programs . . .

The procedural details are confusing, but the result is the same: DADT remains in force. In anticipation of today’s vote, Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens had a piece urging Republicans to support repeal of DADT. Such a column in the WSJ is itself an indication of how out of touch much of the Senate is. Stephens relies in part on the comments of retired Major General Dennis Laich, who “thinks DADT is nuts.”

“Five years from now we’ll look back at this and say, what was all the fuss?” he says. “These young soldiers, sailors and Marines come from a society where gays and lesbians are readily accepted and work with them and go to school with them.”

In the meantime, it’s worth noting that there are an estimated 48,000 homosexuals on active duty or the reserves, many of them in critical occupations, many with distinguished service records. If they pose any risk at all to America’s security, it is, paradoxically, because DADT institutionalizes dishonesty, puts them at risk of blackmail, and forces fellow warfighters who may know about their orientation to make an invidious choice between comradeship and the law. That’s no way to run a military.

Republican senators are now bellyaching that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid intends to jam the repeal amendment into a bill they have no real choice but to vote for. They should be silently thanking him. He’s giving them the chance to do the right thing while blaming the Democrats for it. It’s a GOP twofer, plus a vote they’ll someday be proud of.

What more is there to say? I would say nothing, but I also want to suggest that you watch the video embedded at the top, containing remarks Al Franken made in the Senate today.

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