Don’t Ask, Don’t Vote

The Senate today mustered only 56 votes – four short of the necessary 60 – to break a filibuster and bring to a vote a defense appropriations bill containing two highly controversial provisions: (1) a measure repealing the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy (a Clinton-era policy) that permits gays to serve in the military only if they are not openly gay, and (2) the DREAM Act, which permits illegal aliens to earn citizenship either by military service or enrollment in college. Leaving aside Harry Reid (who voted against cloture for procedural reasons*), the opposing votes included all present Republicans as well as Arkansas’ two Democratic Senators, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor.
The DADT vote was the headliner, and the subject of much anguish among liberals/progressives and their Hollywood allies who see ending DADT as a key unfulfilled Obama campaign promise. But the fact is, the Democratic leadership was never serious about using this vote to overturn DADT. Let us count the ways.

(1) Having a DREAM
DADT repeal was appended to an otherwise uncontroversial measure, the annual defense appropriations authorization bill. But it wasn’t the only controversial measure; the bill also included the DREAM Act, which not only allows illegal aliens to become citizens through honorable military service (a not-uncontroversial provision, but on balance a reasonable one and rationally related to the purpose of the bill) but also extends citizenship for attending college. This is a radical expansion of immigration law, and one fraught with perils; as we know from experience with federal education grants (and, further back, draft deferments), if you give people something really valuable in exchange for being in “college,” you create incentives for lots of shady “colleges” to offer enrollment to people desperate to gain federal benefits.
Anyway, by offering two separate cultural flashpoints in the same bill, the Democrats guaranteed an out to any Republican – or Democrat – who wanted to vote against the bill. Scott Brown, for example, might have felt some pressure from his constituents to support DADT repeal, but Brown is on record as an opponent of illegal immigration, and so he could comfortably sidestep that issue by declaring the DREAM Act a game-breaker. Meanwhile, Reid – who has no particular need for gay support but needs Latino support in a big way to get re-elected, which is why he famously declared that the Nevada construction industry employs no illegal immigrants – gets to go back and run Spanish-language ads casting the vote as some sort of anti-Latino pogrom.
(2) Limiting GOP Amendments
It’s Beltway inside baseball to be sure, but while Reid stuffed the bill with liberal hot-button cultural issues, he refused to allow Republicans to offer much in the way of amendments – a decision that made it easy for wavering liberal Republicans like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe to decide that their votes for this bill were not wanted.
(3) Rushing It
The military is scheduled to deliver a report on DADT in December. While the bill in question would have formally required that DADT repeal be delayed until a certification that the report was favorable to repeal, that’s not the same as allowing legislators to read the report and put their own interpretation on it when it comes out.
Personally, like a lot of Republicans, I have no particular stake in DADT. While there are arguments on both sides of this issue – including the fact that military histories are full of successful soldiers, even military commanders, who were known or broadly suspected to be gay – I think the arguments for allowing openly gay soldiers to serve are stronger in theory. But of course, militaries don’t operate in theory, they operate in the most ruthlessly practical of realities, and so the views of the people charged with actually running the military on a day-to-day basis (particularly the NCO corps) are quite important to deciding whether the military is ready to deal with the unique challenges presented by openly gay soldiers.
If the Administration and Senator Reid waited for the report to come down, they might find a good deal more bipartisan support for DADT repeal, as liberal Republicans – even filibuster leader John McCain, who has expressed openness to changing his mind on this issue – may have found bipartisan cover for supporting repeal. But they’re not interested in doing this as a bipartisan measure; they were interested in a polarizing social-issue split to help fire up their dispirited base for the election, and perhaps preempting the possibility that the military report would be less favorable than advertised. I just hope that base understands the cynical calculations involved in the vote.
(4) Unseriousness
The Administration pulled so few strings to get this bill passed that Mother Jones magazine was left to ask plaintively, “Is Lady Gaga a Better Politician Than Barack Obama?,” referencing the stump speeches and Twitter activity by the 24-year-old pop star in favor of the bill. One can forgive Gaga for her political naivete – or commercial cynicism, as her fanbase is heavily gay and overwhelmingly in favor of DADT repeal – but the lack of initiative by the Administration on behalf of the bill is telling, if not of President Obama’s fatal political weakness, then of his unwillingness to spend political capital on DADT repeal.
* – Only a Senator who votes against cloture can bring a bill back up for a later vote. Thus, the Majority Leader generally votes against cloture if he does not have the votes to break the filibuster.

37 thoughts on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Vote”

  1. Honestly if I was a moonbat, I would be livid at the Dems-now when the Republicans have 41 votes and all the momentum is on their side, 40 days before the election, now is when you put these things up for a vote. Really?

  2. “But the fact is, the Democratic leadership was never serious about using this vote to overturn DADT.”
    Is this a baseball post(?), because I just agreed 100% with something Crank wrote.
    The whole “Democrats vs. Republicans” thing is a kabuki. They both work for (and get paid by) the same guys.

  3. BTW, the best one is from Susan Collins regarding Crank’s point (2): She wants to protect the rights of 100 Senators, but not the rights of 100s of thousand of homosexuals who serve in the military. What’s an “elite”, again?

  4. Berto,
    Just what rights of the “..100s of thousand of homosexuals who serve in the military” are being violated?
    Also, where did you get the number of “100s of thousand of homosexuals who serve in the military”. Did you pull that one out of your yakabooski?

  5. The military over the years has rightly attempted to limit gays in the military. The reason has nothing to do with discrimination, but everything to do with dicipline and maintaining order. In basic training 50+ men/women bunk in a single room and share shower and bathroom facilities. In the case of the Navy all quarters are shared sometimes with members even sharing the same bed on different shifts.
    Berto, you are quick to cry human rights and you are right, but also wrong. You are defending the minority (and it is a minority by a huge margin) and ignoring the rights of the majority not to be subjected to the gay lifestyle.
    Personally, I believe that what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home is their business. However, when they bring that lifestyle that is offensive to many into the public they are asking for condemnation.
    Back to the military. In a confined area with a large number of people, usually young and still not mature, it is difficult to maintain proper order as it is. When you purposely introduce inflamitory behavior into the situation you are asking for trouble.
    Berto, if you choose to be gay I believe that is your right and I can certainly understand you defending your lifestyle, but if I see you on a street corner giving a guy a hummer…I will press charges.

  6. Irish, I’m not gay, but I think your argument is wrong. Because if you are straight, and have a relationship with someone else in the military, I believe you are supposed to end it or leave. If I’m wrong, then I am. It should be the same if you are gay.
    Are the fewer women we have serving on ships at risk from all the straight men? If so, then they should only have gay men serving with them. The point is that it’s wrong to assume that straight people can control themselves but gay people cannot.

  7. DADT is an outrage that needs to be stricken from our laws. The pending survey is ludicrous and McCain’s leadership here is the final nail in what was left of his integrity.
    Nevertheless, I largely agree with Crank’s positions regarding the immigration rider. Citizenship for honorable service in the armed forces is the least we can do. Going to college? Really? What is the possible rationale for that?
    Finally, Crank’s criticism of holding political, polarizing votes for the purpose of stirring the base doesn’t pass the laugh test. His side are masters at that tactic. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

  8. Daryl, relationships are not taboo in the military. The only restriction I am aware of are if one member is senior in rank to the other. That is in place to insure that one member does not us rank to gain an advantage of the other.
    The matter of women serving on ships in another issue. In my opinion they should not and for many of the same reasons that gays should not serve.

  9. Mad,
    To say you are behind the times on this topic (gays serving in the military) is an understatement. Survey after survery of troops shows that this is not something they view as an issue. What about an all-fag batallion? Would that be okay? We could paint a sub rainbow colors (or khaki, depending on gender) and we could put all the gays and lesbians there that would like to serve their country. Would that be all right?

  10. Crank, I agree that you do not “suggest” the Republicans don’t do what you accuse the Dems of doing. You just, somehow, never manage to criticize it when the GOP does it. I’m sure that is just a coincidence.

  11. having actually served in the military I can tell you there are plenty of gays in the military. Not really a big deal. The biggest problem for NCO’s is not a younger troop being gay but the myriad of other problems that come with leading a large group of 20 somethings away from home for the first time with time and money. Being gay is well down the list.

  12. maddirishman,
    I’m not gay, nor am I a Republican politician, so you don’t have to worry about ever seeing me on a street corner giving a hummer.
    Israel and Britain allow military service by the openly gay, but I understand your point about America just not being good enough to do the same.

  13. The Republicans who worship the military and believe it cannot do any wrong are crazy to prevent willing and able Americans to serve only because they are gay. Republicans for the most part are afraid of gays and they don’t like them, and that is the only inference that can reasonably be drawn.

  14. “Republicans who worship the mlitary”-every year multiple polls are done on institutions that Americans trust and respect-the military always is listed number one and their support is wide. “Republicans for the most part are afraid of gays”-really please show all the empirical evidence backing that up. Putting aside the laughable presumption that if you are not for something its because you are “afraid” Also how do you square that with gay marriage going down in 31 states. BTW -are you saying that substantial percentages of Democrats are not against DADT or gay marriage. How about the most loyal Democratic group-blacks? What’s their views on gay issues, hmmm?

  15. I disagree that “Republicans are afraid of gays”. It just seems that way when bigots are afraid of gays, and the Republican Party courts the bigot vote.

  16. Regarding the polls on how people trust the military, it’s a well earned trust. Certainly different when I was draft age (VietNam, lottery no. 64, and legally blind without glasses). I think it was Christopher Hitchens who pointed out that if he wants to find idealistic young people these days, he looks in the armed forces. And most of them don’t give a rat’s ass about this issue.
    I am really tired of the issue, because it’s just stupid. In many ways, my biggest beef about the Wingnuts, besides the loud lying, is that they treat Mr. Madison’s document with contempt. You like the first amendment when it helps you, you love the second amendment like no other,the fifth amendment is the enemy, blah blah blah. Now it’s, marriage is only between one man and one woman. Fine if you believe it, not fine if you don’t. On and on. Aren’t there more important issues than this one? Oh yes, values. Puhleese. We have a growing deficit our great grandchildren can’t pay back, because our gutless Congress and Presidents (mainly Congress, both sides of the aisle, and W) wanted to lower taxes and fight two wars half a world away, and tell people it’s not a problem, and ask for no sacrifice at all; we have global warming –a Republican curse–because it lacks the vitality to deal with a new and growing challenge and investment, wanting to keep their coal and oil shares alive, and wants to eat at restaurants, but doesn’t want to keep the only workers in them from working, unless you guys are willing to pay probably double for a meal. And you fixate on someone who is gay who is willing to keep your asses safe?
    Crank, as a duly deputized officer of the far right, let me ask you, just what is it about being gay that so scares the daylights out of you? Or of someone who is gay, picked up a rifle and walked a post to keep you and your kids safe that threatens you?
    The Constitution says nothing about people being gay or straight, so that means, to me, that the government has absolutely no business in the gay or straight business, period. James Madison was smarter than any politician around now. Hey, so was Thomas Jefferson, but the loonies in Texas want him basically banned too. Can’t you guys just stop being so childish?

  17. Trust and respect the military? Go see “The Tillman Story” and see if you think the same when you leave.

  18. Magrooder, in my case, I know in Hitchens’ case (read my post again, I referred to young people), and I think in most people’s cases, the reference is to our military in specific, not general. Meaning the soldiers and sailors and marines, not the generals. The higher you go in any beaurocracy, the more you get major league cover your ass types. So it’s the Pat Tillmans of the world we respect, not his higher up generals who pulled a Nixon.
    So I repeat my statement here, and, as usual, I will quote someone who writes way better than I can (Aaron Sorkin and A Few Good Men is a great example): “I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to. ” I remember Pat Tillman, I also remember Lt. Calley, I also know just what went on in any war, against Japan in the Pacific, this was a war fought with no rules whatsoever, and that’s the way it was.
    Do I trust several million men and women who want to stand that post and keeps me safe from lunatics who want to destroy us? Yes. Are they perfect? Of course not. Do I care if they are straight or gay? Why would I. Does anyone remember how the Equal Rights Amendment failed? Because the idea of women going into combat was considered absurd. Times change, and the military has done a better job of it than the Wingnuts have. The Teabaggers want to turn the clock back to 1958; the Republicans are terrified of admitting the truth; and the military almost always looks forward.

  19. I’ll weigh in on this, even though this is not exactly a big deal to me, and hardly the kind of issue on which to hinge an election. As others on here have pointed out, there are more important ones.
    (1) It’s fairly clear to me that the current vote was designed to create an election issue, and nothing more. No one was going to spend too much political capital on it, particularly Obama.
    (2) I’m a big believer that you should be looking at the best arguments each side can muster on an issue and not the dumbest ones. Surely there are some who are “afraid” of gays, but I don’t know how you can get that out of Crank’s post, which states:
    It states: “Personally, like a lot of Republicans, I have no particular stake in DADT. While there are arguments on both sides of this issue – including the fact that military histories are full of successful soldiers, even military commanders, who were known or broadly suspected to be gay – I think the arguments for allowing openly gay soldiers to serve are stronger in theory.”
    (3) If I was a solider in the military (which I am not), I wouldn’t care if the guys in my unit were openly gay. But that doesn’t mean that others might not, and because of that, there may be legitimate morale issues involved. I’d wait for the military to weigh in on this issue.

  20. 1. As I said in the post, my only concern is the effectiveness and unit cohesion of the military. I have no dog in this fight (offhand this may be the first time I’ve written on this issue in 17 years), but not having served, I’m hesitant to go making sweeping pronouncements about what will and won’t affect those things. That was basically my position on this in 1993, when it was pretty clear that the military was opposed to openly gay servicepeople, and it still is. I prefer to wait to see the Pentagon review and analyses of it.
    2. It’s quite true, as anyone who’s served can tell you, that the military is a wasteful and sometimes self-defeating bureaucracy like any other. All govt bureaucracies are like that, it’s why we should employ them only when we have – as in the case of national security – no other choice.
    3. I reject the “there are more important issues” line of argument. As I said upthread, the cultural Left indisputably has an agenda it is actively pursuing on a broad variety of issues. Ignoring that isn’t a choice; either you agree with them or you fight back. Don’t pretend that it’s the Right alone that starts these battles.

  21. “I reject the “there are more important issues” line of argument. As I said upthread, the cultural Left indisputably has an agenda it is actively pursuing on a broad variety of issues. Ignoring that isn’t a choice; either you agree with them or you fight back. ”
    I’m not surprised that you reject that line of argument, but this issue isn’t going to make or break the US military either way it gets resolved. There are bigger fish to fry, such as the economy and what to do about it.
    Both the left and right can be described as having an “agenda,” and neither of them has convinced me that somehow its vision for America is either going to save America or that the other side will doom it.
    Worse yet, each wing seems deluded into thinking that they actually have a coherent vision, and somehow they have become convinced that the “founding fathers” are on their side.
    Liberals and conservatives are best thought of as a set of policy positions, not as competing philosophies, and each side tries to paper over the obvious inconsistencies and contradictions among their own positions in order to win elections. And both sides are kidding themselves when they call “moderates” squishy or moral relativists. It’s just a different policy mix.

  22. “unit cohesion,” “effectiveness,” “legitmate moral issues.”
    Phrases like these were used as raitonales for segreation of the races in military units. No one in their right mind could still argue that balcks and whites cannot serve together. Were there “issues” among those who were prejudiced? Undoubtedly.
    I don’t care what the Pentagon thinks or what the survey shows, the law is indefensible and should be repealed.
    Daryl, go see the movie. Tillman’s fellow grunts recklessly shot on his position and then lied about what they had done. It’s not just the generals, just as it was not just a few “bad apples” at Abu Ghraib.

  23. The Tillman story-puhlease. i read the the Jon Kraknaeur( spelling his name wrong)-short synopsis-his buddies, his team mates, his friends -people he lived with, trusted-accidentaly shot him during a firefight-something which has happened 100s of thousands if not more since the introduction of firearms into warfare and lefty simpletons are trying to make into something more-thats it-end of story. Try and yell at someone in an open field from 40-50 yards away see if they can hear you. His friends felt bad/guilty and /or didn’t know what occured-but lets conflate this into some lefty hit piece. Honestly, being a lefty is the same is being mentally ill.

  24. I haven’t seen the movie but I did see the utter dog and pony show the Bush Administration trotted out to gin this up. There was also an actual movie based on the wildly fictional account of. the rescue of what’s-her-name. We were in a war of choice and the Admin used stuff like this to continually sell the Iraq disaster to America. Y’all bitch, bitch, bitch about the left-wing media but you had two totally fake stories made up of whole cloth that were trumped up in the papers and on TV. Pat Tillman and his family got used by their government for propaganda purposes. That’s foul.
    Magrooder has it right about all the little code words that are just angles to deflect the real issue. The U.S. Military can’t handle discipline at this level? Please.

  25. dch,
    I see where you’re coming from. Well known football players shouldn’t go to war. Let’s leave that for the poor and your car mechanic’s kids (certainly not someone like you who cheers wars along).

  26. First Jim, you act shocked, shocked do you hear, that the right wing claims the left wing media is after them, when they have Fox Non-New, with their motto: “We lie, you don’t have to decide.”
    Second, I still admire the military, including much of the top brass. To try and hold them to a civilian standard, which we must I guess, is almost wrong. You send people into war, they change, and the situation is never ever what the books say it is.
    Tillman died in Afghanistan, which was not a war of choice. However, we could debate what choices were made by a clearly incompetent Bush White House over how it was planned and administered (and paid for…oops, wait, we haven’t paid yet, just borrowed it…our grandchildren are the lucky ones to get the bill).
    And hey you WingNuts. How about saying that Obama is doing it the way you want, trying to have DADT settled through legislation, and not the courts. Oh, I forgot, he’s a Democrat, so if he does it, it’s wrong. Your core principal is you have none.

  27. Actually, Obama’s trying to collude with the court challenges to DADT. Gibbs just confirmed that the Admin opposition defending the law is “pro forma.”
    I don’t object to doing this legislatively once we have the Pentagon review in hand. I just don’t think when you commission a big review of an issue on which the facts are genuinely in flux, you should then try to short-circuit it by rushing to ram through legislation ahead of an election.

  28. Daryl,
    No shock here. It’s just tiring to hear the laments all the time. I realized Tillman was killed in Afghanastan but he signed up based on the fairy tales told about Iraq. Sad that our government would do such a disservice to someone like him. That, however, was not surprising either.

  29. Again its fascinating listening to the alternate reality lefty mental patients live in. Anything the admin said about Tillman was based on what they were told up the chain of command. The new lefty lie about the admin ” dog and pony show” about Tillmans death-reality initially they said basically nothing and then said it might be a case of friendly fire. They were generally cautious with the story, but since lefties always have to lie-why don’t you link to all these things you are accusing the Bush Admin of doing-lets see what you got. I mean its not like you are just mindlessly repeating something you heard or read elsewhere, right?

  30. DADT is just dumb. If you do five minutes of research having homosexuals serve openly is really not a big deal. Now days all members that live on base have private rooms maybe one roommate (no community showers). In boot camp you far to tired to ogle a dude in the shower. As far as this change eroding discipline the largest concerns for leadership in the military is alcohol abuse, for women is sexual assault, for the married it is domestic violence. But noo we have to debate a silly policy of DADT. So military members we don’t really care if you develop a drinking problem, women is you get assaulted sexually or if you beat your wife it is all good. Just no gays b/c we know they are sexually preoccupied.

  31. dch,
    That is one of the dumbest things you have ever written here. Right. There was no investigation of this event prior to the hero-worship line they went with. They just asked around and went with what anyone had to say at facvalue. Please. They investigated the crap out of this, new exactly what happened and the Administration made up a big old story. Jesus, should I send you a link to the freaking Wikipedia page about the whole mess or is that some left-wing paranoia-fest too?

  32. Jesus, should I send you a link to the freaking Wikipedia page about the whole mess or is that some left-wing paranoia-fest too?
    Posted by jim at September 24, 2010 3:51 PM
    Yes and yes.

  33. I didn’t catch that someone posted here.
    Wow, behind the times on technology there Joe? But with a healthy dose of up-to-date, state-of-the-art, 21st century right-wing paranoia I see.

Comments are closed.