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Department of Missed Opportunities

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Remember August 2008, when John McCain still dreamed of asking Joe Lieberman to be his vice-presidential running mate? Then he came to his senses, realizing the right would excoriate him, and instead chose an obscure first-term governor from Alaska. What a clever move it seemed, following his post-convention rise in the polls and the excitement engendered by the move. But soon he recognized that in his ignorance and cynical desire to appeal to the right-wing base, he had selected a nincompoop who was destined to drag him down.

Last week brought us a vivid display of what we missed out on. There was McCain leading the valiant fight against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

In a sometimes tense hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mr. McCain, one of the senators who is closest to the military, was in the remarkable spot of arguing with a phalanx of its senior leadership — the defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the general who commands the Army in Europe and the Pentagon’s general counsel — and saying they should not push for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the 17-year-old law that requires gay men and women in the military to keep their sexual orientation secret or face discharge.

. . .

“I remain concerned,” Mr. McCain said, “as I have in the past, and as demonstrated in this study, that the closer we get to service members in combat, the more we encounter concerns about whether ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ should be repealed. These views should not be considered lightly, especially considering how much combat our forces face.”

As Fred Kaplan explains at Slate:

With the release of the Pentagon’s report on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” will Sen. John McCain and his fellow resisters man up, do the right thing, join the 21st century (as well as every other Western country), and let homosexuals openly enlist in the military?
Certainly the report’s findings leave little room for continued stalling on the issue.

McCain, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said a few years ago that he would consider repealing DADT once the senior military leadership endorsed doing so. When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did just that earlier this year, McCain said he would await the results of a Pentagon study that had been commissioned.

When the study came out on Nov. 30, concluding that repeal would carry “low” risks for any measure of military effectiveness, McCain said he needed to question the officers who actually command troops—which (with all due respect) neither Gates nor Mullen directly does—especially the service chiefs, including the commandant of the Marine Corps (who had already spoken out against repeal).

In persisting with this charade of bigotry disguised as prudence, McCain sidesteps the fact that the repeal of DADT has publicly been endorsed by his very own favorite officer, Gen. David Petraeus—who has been the commander of both the wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, that U.S. troops have been fighting lately.

Lieberman, in contrast, is strongly in favor of repealing DADT. He told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that “John is my good friend, but I disagree with him on this. … I think the question that John raised today has been answered in this survey. Two-thirds of the American military, a little more than that, say that they don’t think repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will have any effect on military effectiveness, and most importantly, 92 percent of the American military who feel that they have served with somebody gay or lesbian in their own unit say that it has simply not been a problem.”

But Lieberman had other things on his mind last week. In his role as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, he decided to exercise authority no one knew he had.

Early this week, after hacker attacks on its site, Wikileaks moved its operation, including all those diplomatic cables, to the greener pastures of Amazon.com’s cloud servers. But today, it was down again and mid-afternoon we found out the reason: Amazon had axed Wikileaks from its servers.

The announcement came from Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Lieberman said in a statement that Amazon’s “decision to cut off Wikileaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies Wikileaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material.”

Committee staff had seen news reports yesterday that Wikileaks was being hosted on Amazon’s servers, a committee spokeswoman told TPM. The service, we should note, is self-serve; as with services like YouTube, the company does not screen or pre-approve the content posted on its servers.

Staffers then, according to the spokeswoman, Leslie Phillips, called Amazon to ask about it, and left questions with a press secretary including, “Are there plans to take the site down?”

Amazon called them back this morning to say they had kicked Wikileaks off, Phillips said. Amazon said the site had violated unspecified terms of use.

Soon a company based here in Seattle had followed suit:

But his pressure on Amazon is already having a wider effect. The New York Times reported this afternoon that a Seattle-based company called Tableau had deleted charts and graphs uploaded by Wikileaks.

Tableau explains on its web site:

Our decision to remove the data from our servers came in response to a public request by Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, when he called for organizations hosting WikiLeaks to terminate their relationship with the website.

We are fortunate that Joe is watching out for the privacy interests of our empire, as self-appointed corporation watchdog and chief of police.

What a pair!

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