Another Failure

DADT repeal's failure shows that McCain is ready to lead the charge against gay servicemembers, no matter the facts or cost

To look on the bright side of the failure of ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal this week in the Senate, when you’re used to being bitterly disappointed, bitter disappointment doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

I didn’t say that it was a particularly good bright side, but you take what you can get.

There are many different ways to greet the news that, once again, an issue that would have advanced the equality of gays and lesbians in our society went down to defeat: sarcastic humor, renewed activism, a sense of betrayal. At the moment, I’m sticking with resigned anger.

I know I’ll feel other things soon, but at the moment, that’s what I have.

The fact that failure to move repeal forward came with an obfuscatory flurry of claims and counter-claims about the use of senate procedural rules only twists the knife. Obviously, Majority Leader Harry Reid made some serious misjudgments in moving this forward in this fashion. But to hear Republicans, who have twisted the rules to create a legislative body unable to govern by anything other than a supermajority, whine about procedure is a bit too rich.

All this posturing is, of course, a smokescreen. There is no doubt that, no matter in what form the bill moved forward, John McCain was ready to lead the charge against it.

I’m proud to say that I’ve been perplexed by the John McCain cult of personality since back in the 2000 election when the press corps decided he was a man of unique principle and character. Actually, he’s a man with the not-so-unique habit of saying whatever seems at the time to best garner himself attention. It’s a continuous act of self-aggrandizement from a man who demonstrates exactly how much you can accomplish in America when you marry into a rich family.

As Chris Geidner reports in this issue, McCain signaled that the completion of the Pentagon’s survey of military personnel — a milestone that has been offered repeatedly by those opposing an immediate vote on repeal — will likely not be enough to gain his support for repeal. McCain said: ”I’m also very concerned about this survey itself. This survey itself is how to best implement repeal. What we really need is a survey that says what would be the effect on battle readiness, morale and recruitment.”

That is the sound of a senator constructing a plan to block repeal at all costs.

I wrote just last week about the importance of our community getting out to vote despite our frustrations with the glacial pace of change under a government run by people who are supposed to be our allies. I still stand by that, though in the wake of this defeat — watching a Senate unable to vote for a repeal supported by a large majority of Americans, including Republicans — it’s with ever less enthusiasm.

It’s also with a loss of faith in the basic goodwill of elected officials who bicker and posture in the search for any scrap of political advantage. Partisanship actually has a place in government — it’s how we debate and argue and decide. But repealing ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been debated and argued and decided by an American people who want to see it ended.

We may be feeling disappointment at the moment. We should be feeling anger. But we also need to keep ourselves committed to ending DADT – despite the desperate tactics of McCain and his ilk.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.

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