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Watching what one hopes will be the final throes of ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” unfold last week in Congress provided plenty of moments of political surrealism, starting with the handful of Republicans who took to the floor of the House to denounce homosexuality and the idea of using the military to further some nebulous ”social experiment” in acceptance.
Of course, whatever social experiment exists regarding homosexuality in this country has been going on for decades, with pretty consistent results given that with each passing year more and more straight people find themselves on the side of LGBT equality. Truly, when even a majority of white evangelicals agrees that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military, that particular social experiment is over.
One wonders, given the ever-growing and formidable support of Americans for ending the 17-year-old policy of official discrimination — more than 70 percent, as oft-cited from various polls — why so many Republicans have manned the barricades as if this were a final, pitched battle for the soul of the nation. Perhaps George Will, of all people, got it right on ABC’s This Week when he said of the House Republican grandstanding, ”They’re not being very intelligent.”
Over and over again, we’ve heard Republican congressmen and senators lament that Congress simply must bend to the will of the Pentagon, because what the Pentagon says on military issues must be heeded because the Pentagon always knows best.
Well, except when the Pentagon asks Congress not to continue spending money on unneeded and unwanted weapons systems, in which case many of those same congressmen and senators realize the Pentagon doesn’t know nearly as much about military issues as the defense contractors that operate in their districts.
That’s totally different, you see.
Once upon a time, I strongly opposed the idea of term limits. Given that American voters happily and repeatedly pull the lever for their own six-term senator while bitterly complaining that senators stay in office too long, it’s obvious that when people say they want term limits they mean they want term limits for everyone else.
But watching Arizona senator and mercifully failed Republican presidential candidate John McCain preen and strut over the importance of keeping ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — despite a past claim that he would be further along in repeal than President Obama — you see that he’s joined Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) as the gerontocratic proof of the need for term limits.
When your governing philosophy boils down to ”cantankerous,” it’s time to go.
McCain may have descended into an unintentionally comic sideshow for the Senate, but the true disappointment for me was Virginia Sen. Jim Webb (D), the once and future Republican who cast the only Democratic vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee against repeal. He bragged about the vote on CNN: ”I was really disappointed in – in the way that this process was accelerated. I was the only Democrat that voted against this in committee markup.”
Webb went to the well of deference to the military, his service in which is his political touchstone. ”I believe we had a process in place,” he said. ”And to preempt it in some ways, showed a disrespect for the people in the military.”
Here’s an idea: Perhaps Webb and his Republican compatriots could show some respect for the rights and responsibilities of gay and lesbian citizens, both military and civilian. It would seem to be the American thing to do.