Sunday, December 05, 2010

Lame Duck session will run out of time for DADT (maybe); can the combat chief's objections be overcome?

Philip Rucker and Ed O’Keefe have a long story on p A7 of the Sunday Washington Post, “Repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ is far from certain: Competing priorities are consuming time left in Congress”, link here.

The story reports that the Obama administration has worked with gay activists, and some commentators still hint that the president could issue a Truman-style executive order, an idea considered and shot down before.

Gates insists that an appeals court (9th Circuit) ruling striking down DADT would be disruptive if Congress doesn’t act. The Ninth Circuit may well strike the policy down, but it is rather unlikely that the Supreme Court actually would. That hasn’t changes much since I argued such in my long “Chapter 4” of my 1997 book; it’s likely it would be a 5-4 vote, like a one-run baseball game or a football game decided by a field goal. It could go into extra innings or overtime, and Gate fears this would be disruptive, with no walk-off win in sight.

What’s so telling, an yet predictable, is that the combat chiefs – particularly the Marine Corps and some of the Army forces – are so much more skeptical; and social conservatives argue that lifting the ban would discourage religious families from sending their kids into the military. To me, so much of this comes down to a battle over the limits of individualism or personal autonomy itself, and the centering of that debate on DADT (as I have done) creates a bit of a paradox. GOP Senator John McCain kept pleading that this is an issue for the military only (almost as if speaking specifically to my own writings, and knowing that most of my life I have been “conservative”), and not to be conflated with broader social issues; but that is impossible. Those who cannot step up to share sacrifice and risk will indeed encounter second class citizenship and expropriation in “civilian life”. Those of us who grew up with a male-only draft know that.

Chris Matthews took this up Sunday morning with Andrew Sullivan, who pointed out that the objection among combat troops melts away among troops who know gay servicemembers personally. Sullivan said it is about the “right to come out”, not about the desire to, which in Britain did not happen.

Also, in the hearing, the acceptance of gays in quasi-military organizations like the CIA since the early 1990s (and Clinton’s 1995 XO on security clearances) was mentioned.

Selling anything, even in politics, seems to be about "overcoming objections."

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