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Today’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Hearing Highlights

by David Badash on February 2, 2010

in Civil Rights,Discrimination,News,Politics

Post image for Today’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Hearing Highlights

Gates: “I fully support the president’s decision” to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” (But read the fine print…)

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin held a hearing this afternoon on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” There are few new headlines, but here’s my overall perspective, with some key quotes and exchanges. Bottom line: Republicans tried to turn the purpose of the hearing into a “whether we should repeal DADT,” and the Democrats conducted the hearing as an effort to assist and understand the military’s route to repealing DADT — how and when.

Sadly, all three sides — the GOP, the Dems, and the military — are approaching this wrong. There was too much call for delay and stalling.

Both witnesses testifying at today’s hearing, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (remember, appointed by Bush) and Admiral Mike Mullin fully support repeal.
As I reported last night, Gates trotted out that he will have the military conduct a year-long study to determine all the perils and pitfalls of repealing DADT. He called for a “working group” to study the effects of repealing DADT on “unit cohesion,” saying they will “reach out to outside experts.” Not one single senator actively challenged the need for yet one more study on DADT repeal.

This “study” is a stalling tactic. I support making sure policy changes are rolled out effectively, but, as General McCaffrey said earlier today, “This is not going to be a problem unless we have an individual debate, topic by topic.”

Gates did mention that this is the first time the military itself is doing a study on DADT repeal, saying also, “We would feel it very important we be given enough time for that implementation — at least a year.” So, one year to study, then one year (at least!) to implement. Meanwhile, hundreds more LGBTQ soldiers will be subject to discharge, even though Gates said the military will ease up on that process.

In his opening statement, Gates proclaimed, “We have received our orders from the Commander in Chief and we are moving accordingly.” Admiral Mullin stated, “Allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. For me it comes down to integrity… Our members can and would accommodate such a change.”

Senator John McCain was perhaps the most active opponent of repealing DADT during the hearing, railing against Secretary Gates, stating, “I’m deeply disappointed in your statement Secretary Gates … it’s one that is clearly biased. Then, to both Gates and Mullins, McCain, clearly posturing for a fight, lectured, “I’m happy to say we still have a Congress despite your plan to repeal [DADT] by fiat.”

(John Aravoisis points out McCain’s hypocrisy and inability to accept views he doesn’t agree with. McCain in 2006: “…the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, Senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.”)

But perhaps the most offensive comments came from Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) who equated a law banning gays serving in the military — at all — to military regulations banning “alcohol, adultery, body art, and fraternization.” He went on to say, “The presence in the armed forces of homosexuals poses an unacceptable risk to standards of good order and discipline.”

(One must therefore assume our armed services are a disaster. Or, Senator Chambliss is extraordinarily ill-informed.)

Fortunately, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MI) indirectly set Chambliss straight. Stating to Admiral Mullin that we “welcome the service of gays and lesbians in our armed forces,” that they are serving “with distinction,” she asked how the Pentagon’s study will be sure to include their voices. The Admiral, recognizing that any service member who is outed is subject to discharge, and therefore, participating in the study could end their career, was, well, a bit shaken.

Senator Susan Collns (R-ME) asked leading questions which seemed to place her in favor of repeal. She asked Mullins if, as our forces are working directly with NATO forces, whcih have openly LGBTQ members, have there been any incidents that had “any impact on combat effectiveness?” The answer: “No.”

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