D.C.’s Omni Shoreham Hotel was, this weekend, the site of the “Value Voters Summit” — a place where Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) ran neck-and-neck to lead the 2012 presidential straw poll, where Delaware’s “Tea Party” Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell (R) was greeted as a superstar and where panelists discussed how harmful repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would be.
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins moderated a discussion on Friday with with Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis (Ret.) and Sgt. Brian Fleming, a veteran wounded in Afghanistan, that was less of a debate about DADT than it was a chance for the three men to give anecdotes and opinions about why repealing the law would lead to horrors.
From MacGinnis’s repetition of his earlier distorted claims about the impact of a repeal of DADT on chaplains to Fleming’s claimed concerns about straight soldiers serving alongside gay soldiers (as if they don’t already), there was nothing new to be heard in terms of the religious right’s reasons why they think the policy should be kept.
At one point, though, Perkins somewhat oddly noted, “Homosexual immorality is also against the law in the military.” To which Maginnis replied, “It’s prosecuted all the time.” Well, yes, DADT prosecutions do continue. But, it’s not quite clear what point this was making — other than that DADT remains in effect.
Then Fleming asserted, with no apparent evidence to back up his claim, that “I have no doubt that … from my experience, the guys I served with, they would be very much against ending this policy, for all the reasons we’ve stated here today.”
Finally, Perkins gave what he appeared to think was his strongest hit on DADT repeal efforts:
Each branch of the service has a chief general or admiral who is over that branch operationally. All four of them have spoken out in opposition to overturning this policy. It’s only the president, secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs — who also were selected by the president.
If only that were an accurate depiction of the facts surrounding repeal consideration.
All four of the service chiefs gave testimony to Congress earlier this year about their views on the DADT law and policy. Their views differed from President Obama and from each other. They most definitely were not all in opposition to overturning the policy, with Navy Chief Adm. Gary Roughead specifically supporting the course of action laid out by Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen. The others expressed concerns about the proposed repeal, but only Marine Corps Cmdt. James Conway has been wholly opposed to the repeal.
Moreover, the service branch secretaries were by and large supportive of the course laid out by Gates and Mullen. Perkins, of course, ignored that.
Regardless, the fact is that the service chiefs have expressed concern that verges from opposition to caution — but caution is not opposition, despite how Perkins would like to play it.
Finally, although President Obama renominated both Gates and Mullen to their positions, the men originally were selected for the jobs by President George W. Bush, which makes Perkins’s statement seem a little less than he would wish for it to be.