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indefinitely, now leading a Republican opposition to a repeal, arguing that “…troops would quit in droves if Congress repealed the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law.”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.