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John McCain Stands with Discrimination

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John McCain has had a very interesting couple of years. Since the beginning of his last ill-fated Presidential campaign, public perception has steadily declined in light of a series of sometimes confusing and occasionally outright hypocritical decisions and sound-bites. A decorated war veteran often recognized as a quality moderate voice in the political theater, he now seems a stalwart far-right spokesman, willing and able to backtrack on issues on which he has an established history.

The latest, it seems, is his stance on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the active military policy preventing openly LGBT men and women from serving their country. In October of 2006, McCain went on record as saying that he would support the repeal of the controversial policy when the military officials requested it. However, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that he would formally ask for its repeal in February of this year, McCain quickly shifted his stance.

At first, he seemed merely reluctant to support an immediate reversal, citing concern over the readiness of the military. Then, after an extensive study concluded that the military was, indeed, ready to accept openly LGBT men and women, McCain again shifted his position. Suddenly, McCain seems to want to maintain the policy indefinitely, now leading a Republican opposition to a repeal, arguing that “…troops would quit in droves if Congress repealed the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law.”

This argument is in stark opposition to the study, which discovered that 92 percent of those polled who had served with LGBT service members found had no issue working together with them. That point was made unambiguously by Admiral Michael Mullen yesterday during hearing testimony. General George Casey, however, a member of the opposition movement led by McCain, asserts that the study was not comprehensive enough, arguing that “…implementing repeal and assimilating openly homosexual Marines into the tightly woven fabric of our combat units has strong potential for disruption at the small unit level…”

The debate yesterday became particularly heated when McCain seemed to insinuate that Admiral Mullen wasn’t properly considering the needs of the military when he said, “every great leader I’ve ever known always consulted subordinates for their views, no matter what the issue.” Admiral Mullen responded strongly by saying, “…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.”

The issue of civil liberties has, tragically, not been appropriately broached by either side. McCain made his ignorance of that concern most evident when he expressed that there were “…no problems in the military with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,'” and that to “…allege that this policy has been damaging to the military is simply false.” Not once did McCain make mention of the countless men and women who have been harmed by an unfair discharge at the hands of this discriminatory policy, estimated to have been at a rate of a little more than one person per calendar day last year.

John McCain simply does not understand the problem.

With such opposition, it seems the movement to repeal is destined to be a fight that rages for many months more. Thankfully, there is a leader and proponent for civil liberties in Admiral Mullen, who has been making a passionate case for the repeal of DADT even in the face of opposing officials that are ranked above him. Yesterday, he said that he believes “America has moved on and, if you look closely at this study, I think you’ll find that America’s military is, by and large, ready to move on as well.” He continued by saying he believes that “…history tells us, that most of them will put aside personal proclivities for something larger than themselves and for each other.”

The lines have been drawn and people are taking their sides. And McCain, in confusing and irrational opposition to previous comments, has taken side with discrimination and bigotry. And he seems unaware of what he is doing to his reputation, his legacy and his country by doing so. I can only hope there is enough sanity and rationality amongst Washington to see fit to take up arms with equality and rationality.

Time will tell.

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  • Dave Nalle (#14), two points. First, the military’s “change of position” re DADT is not nearly so clear cut as you imply. Gates & Mullen have gone out on a limb with Barack Obama, all three insisting that DADT must be repealed before the end of 2010. Friday’s Senate hearing with the service chiefs, however, exposed a gulf between the Pentagon’s topmost leadership and those just one rung below. The Army’s General Casey said “not now,” Air Force’s General Schwartz said “not until 2012,” and Marine General Amos said it can only begin “when our singular focus is no longer on combat operations or preparing units for combat.” This gives McCain and other congressional opponents of repeal all the daylight they need to claim that the military’s top brass is divided.

    Second, even if the entire senior military were on board the Gates/Mullen express, that would have no bearing on the legal case at hand, Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America. Judge Phillips’s decision is based on the First and Fifth Amendments, not on attitudinal surveys among the ranks. She rightly confined herself to the constitutionality of the law as written by Congress. The military’s presumed change of heart enunciated by Gates & Mullen months after her decision is irrelevant.

    You must understand that under our legal system, appellate courts consider a case only on its record, not on matters that were unavailable to the trier of fact in the court of first impression. That’s why when new evidence is developed in criminal cases, such as DNA proof that a man condemned to death for murder is not guilty, the most an appellate court can do is remand the case for retrial. But such actions are extraordinary. In this instance, Gates & Mullen have not submitted DNA-quality proof of anything.

    Watching the Pentagon leadership this past week reminded me of Linda Blair in The Exorcist. The military’s head was moving, alright; but its body remained stationary.

  • Judicial deference towards the military is longstanding and, especially among conservative jurists, sacrosanct. That tradition won’t be overturned merely because the Log Cabin plaintiffs call themselves “Republicans.”

    Alan, I didn’t mean to suggest that the political allegiance of the plaintiffs would influence the court, but I think that the military’s change of position very well might, and I think that the natural inclination of the conservative jurists will be to side with civil liberties as they have throughout their careers.


  • Alan, I didn’t get that impression from what Baritone said; it was pretty clearly an allegory and not a direct accusation. And he has quite clearly acted homophobic.

    More to the point, serving in the military, no matter how selfless, cannot be used as an excuse for everything. I liked the man very much, but there is no excuse for his recent behavior and attitude.

  • Alan – I don’t belittle McCain as regards his service, but in the overall scheme of things – it is he who has belittled himself.

    Had you read my comment with any intelligence, you would not have concluded that I was portraying McCain as either a racist or a sexist. Homophope? Yes. That is clear.

    Rather, my comment made the reference to racial and female integration into the military as a like example – charging that McCain’s reservations regarding the end of DADT could, by extension be applied to race and sex. “Gee, the guys may not like sharing the shower with a peter puffer. We don’t want to hurt their delicate macho sensibilities.” By extension, as I noted, there are most certainly still racists and those who object to the presence of women in service. Should those issues be revisited in the same manner as McCain and others are dealing with DADT?

    McCain put his hat into the political ring many years ago. He and his idolators should understand that pretty much all bets are off when anyone takes that fateful step. His service, while exemplary, does not give him dispensation from taking political heat. Neither does it render his opinions sacrosanct. His actions over the past 3 years or more have made it clear that he has abandoned any principles or ideology he may have kept in the past, and rather, he does and says whatever it takes to retain his Senate seat. So, in that light, yes, I say he is an ass.


  • Baritone (#10), perhaps you can explain how crude name-calling helps advance the cause of repealing DADT. You castigate Senator McCain, who has given a lifetime of service to his country, as a “homophobe” and “an ass.” You insinuate that he is a racist and a sexist who wants to see the military re-segregated so that blacks cannot serve with whites and women cannot serve with men. Of course, Senator McCain has never advocated any such thing, but that seems to make little difference to you. Frankly, I don’t know how you can look yourself in the mirror.

  • Harry Truman enacted integration of blacks in the military despite the fact the 4 out of 5 in the service opposed it. The result was that the world didn’t end. Our military did not fall apart in heated racial disarray. I’ve no doubt there were incidents – bumps in the road – but overall racial integration of the military had little, if any, deleterious effect.

    Whenever homophobes like McCain and others finally are forced to give way to the tide of history in this matter, there will be a point not long after wherein people will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.

    If we were to take McCains’ supposed concerns to their full length, then we should perhaps dis-integrate the military in deference to those who still harbor prejudice and/or racial hatred. Perhaps we should also remove all women from service owing to similar concerns.

    Frankly, I don’t know how McCain can look himself in the mirror. He has, IMO, fallen completely from whatever grace he may have enjoyed. He is an ass.


  • Dave (#7), I don’t disagree that principled conservatives can be strong on civil liberties. But it’s doubtful this particular case (Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America) will be decided on the basis of either the First Amendment or Fifth Amendment, upon which Judge Phillips predicated her decision.

    Rather, the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to shift the focus back to the judiciary’s “great deference to the professional judgment of military authorities concerning the relative importance of a particular military interest.” Goldman v. Weinberger (1986). That case relied on the Supreme Court’s earlier decision in Rostker v. Goldberg (1981), which established that “judicial deference is at its apogee when legislative action under the congressional authority to raise and support armies and make rules and regulations for their governance is challenged.”

    Judicial deference towards the military is longstanding and, especially among conservative jurists, sacrosanct. That tradition won’t be overturned merely because the Log Cabin plaintiffs call themselves “Republicans.”

  • zingzing

    “principled” being a rather rare concept in washington. indeed, it’s a rather rare concept altogether. if you expect politics to make any sense, you’ve got some learning to do about politics. it would seem that dadt is obviously unconstitutional, but it’s survived this long for some stupid reason.

  • Don’t get me started on that useless turd Lindsey Graham. He was on the air recently on CNN suggesting that we should have 2 permanent airforce bases in Afghanistan. He’s utterly delusional.

    But to defend the justices, there’s not really any reason why strong conservative principles wouldn’t lead them to strike down DADT. The lawyers pushing for it are Republicans and they’ve convinced other Republican judges. The fact is that principled conservatives are very strong on civil rights issues even if a lot of people don’t realize it.


  • Dave, McCain may have lost credibility with you personally, and with Bryan Healey. But it’d be a mistake to think he doesn’t still represent the Great War Hero in the U.S. Senate. Nobody else even comes close. Lindsey Graham? The guy was an Air Force JAG officer, for cryin’ out loud.

    On matters military, enough junior senators will defer to McCain to enable him to once again successfully (as he did in September) lead a filibuster if necessary to defeat repeal of DADT in this lame duck session. And come January, imagine the awe in which incoming freshmen GOP senators will view John McCain.

    Let’s face it, guys. Much as the three of us might like to see DADT repealed legislatively, it ain’t gonna happen. It’s going to be up to the courts. And whereas the liberal 9th Circuit may uphold Judge Phillips’s ruling that DADT is unconstitutional, when that case gets to the U.S. Supreme Court, it’ll be DOA. The court’s conservative majority will overturn Phillips’s ruling and any affirmation by the 9th Circuit. In other words, get ready for at least another couple of years of DADT in place.

    And it simply doesn’t matter that most Americans (including servicemembers) are OK with repealing DADT. We don’t elect “most Americans” to Congress, we elect what are generally more extreme candidates on either side of the political spectrum, from conservative Republicans to liberal Democrats. Nor do “most Americans” get appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices such as Thomas and Scalia are adamant right-wing ideologues, not flexible social moderates. Repeal of DADT will be decided by men such as these, not by public opinion polls.

  • Alan, all of the heads of all the services except Mullen want to delay ending DADT.

    As for McCain, he’s totally lost any credibility he once had.


  • The “shift” I am referring to is his newfound openness over his reasoning for opposing the repeal, even yesterday going so far as saying that the policy does not negatively affect the military. He seems now happy to abandon his previous excuses.

    It agitates me personally, too, because I used to like him. I even voted for him in 2004, as I did not like either Bush or Kerry and didn’t feel like voting for myself. Amazing the difference six years can have in a person.

  • Another point is the timing of McCain’s opposition to repeal. “At first, he seemed merely reluctant to support an immediate reversal, citing concern over the readiness of the military,” you write. “Then, after an extensive study concluded that the military was, indeed, ready to accept openly LGBT men and women, McCain again shifted his position. Suddenly, McCain seems to want to maintain the policy indefinitely ….”

    This “shift” is not sudden by any measure. On September 21, McCain singlehandedly led the filibuster that stalled the House bill to repeal DADT in the Senate. This did not happen “after an extensive study” but rather ten weeks before the DoD’s report was released this week. When it comes to opposing repeal of DADT, Senator McCain is no Johnny-come-lately.

  • I am very sorry, you are correct. I was thinking of General Casey, who is of course not ranked higher. Thank you for pointing out my error!

  • Clarification, please. “Admiral Mullen,” you write, “has been making a passionate case for the repeal of DADT even in the face of opposing officials that are ranked above him.”

    Which officials would those be? The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is our highest ranking military officer. He reports directly to the Secretary of Defense, who shares Mullen’s desire to repeal DADT. Secretary Gates in turn reports to the commander-in-chief, President Obama, who has long supported repeal of DADT.

    So who are these unnamed officials who outrank Mullen? Surely you can’t mean Senator McCain, who is in no way part of Mullen’s chain of command, or that of any other military servicemember.