Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 30, 2010

GATES TO CONGRESS: TIME TO REPEAL DADT.... Thanks to a series of strategic leaks, we already had a very good sense that the Pentagon's troop survey on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" contained good news. But there were some lingering questions about exactly how encouraging the results would be, and how strong the repeal endorsement would be from military leaders.

By most standards, the news this afternoon is even better than expected.

The Pentagon's long-awaited report on gays in the military concludes that repealing the 17-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" law would present only a low risk to the armed forces' ability to carry out their missions and that 70 percent of service members believe it would have little or no effect on their units.

The conclusions published in Tuesday's report give a boost to President Obama and Congressional Democrats seeking to eliminate the ban before the end of the year and undercut the arguments of social conservatives and lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who believe ending the law would harm the military as it conducts two wars.

"The risk of repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell to overall military effectiveness is low," said the report's co-authors, Defense Department General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson and Army Gen. Carter F. Ham. While ending the ban would likely bring about "limited and isolated disruption" to unit cohesion and retention, "we do not believe this disruption will be widespread or long-lasting," they said.

Nearly seven in ten U.S. troops said they served alongside someone in their unit who they believed to be gay or lesbian, and 92% of these servicemen and women said their unit's ability to work together was fine. What's more, 89% of Army combat units and 84% of Marine combat units saying they had good or neutral experiences working with gays and lesbians.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, after noting the non-existent risk to military readiness, "strongly" urged the Senate to pass the pending legislation "before the end of this year." He added that repeal "would not be the wrenching, traumatic change that many have feared and predicted."

Commenting on the Pentagon report, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added, "We treat people with dignity and respect in the armed forces, or we don't last long in the armed forces: No special cases, no special treatment."

Igor Volsky has more, including a variety of related highlights from the survey findings. The entire report has been published online here.

As for the larger legislative context, remember, Senate Republicans recently refused to even allow a debate on funding U.S. troops because they wanted to wait for this report. They took a gamble, of sorts -- maybe the survey results would show servicemen and women agreeing with the GOP's anti-gay animus, thus giving the party a boost fighting pro-repeal Democrats.

The gamble failed. We now know a majority of U.S. troops, a majority of U.S. civilians, a majority of the House, a majority of the Senate, the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs are all ready to see DADT repeal move forward.

If John McCain and other anti-gay senators hoped to gain some leverage, those hopes were in vain. They've run out of excuses. It's time for the Senate to do the right and decent thing.

Remember, Democrats only need two Republicans -- literally, just two -- to break ranks. These GOP senators, if they exist, don't even have to vote for the spending bill that includes the DADT provision; they just need to let the Senate vote up or own. If this report doesn't lead two Republicans to drop the nonsense, nothing will.

Steve Benen 3:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (12)

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In a show of great political courage, Collins says there needs to be be more time for debate, or else she won't vote to repeal a policy she claimed to be against before the study results were even released.

Posted by: Holmes on November 30, 2010 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

If this report doesn't lead two Republicans to drop the nonsense, nothing will.

I'm going with 'nothing'. All they really need to do is delay for a few days. The special session is already crowded with a lot of critical legislation. And the Republicans (with their MSN allies) will successfully paint the Democrats as the ones holding up funding for the troops just let 'those people' serve in the military. Reid is more likely to cave a pull DADT from the bill than force a long floor fight when they still have the tax is to fold on.

And never underestimate the ability of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It's an institutional belief among many Dems that Clinton's efforts to allows gays and lesbians to serve openly was a key part of Republicans being able to brand him an 'extremist' and cost them the congress in 94.

Posted by: thorin-1 on November 30, 2010 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

A presser is currently running live on C-SPAN 2, with the brass answering questions. Jeh Johnson (DOD lawyer) summed it up for me, when he said the cadets at the service academies, aged 19-20, their response was "What's the big deal?"

Too bad we don't have some 19-20 year olds in Congress. . .

Posted by: DAY on November 30, 2010 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is the GOP is not interested in representing the people of the districts/states. They are only interested in representing the party itself and they see the interest of the GOP is to stop Obama from having any significant victories. By making Obama look weak they peel off independents and disaffected liberals (who will just stay home).

It's been an effective strategy so far.

Posted by: Seould on November 30, 2010 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

In some ways, this is just youth against age. It's a bunch of young kids serving, primarily, and most of them couldn't give a crap.

The times have permanently changed, and the two GOP senators should do the right thing --- especially closeted gay senators like Lindsay Graham, who are going to be primaried in 2012 no matter what they do now.

Posted by: Rathskeller on November 30, 2010 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

This is still an issue that strikes a nerve with the conservative base and tea bagger lunatics.

Not a single Republican will be on board when the dust settles.

Posted by: SaintZak on November 30, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

If this report doesn't lead two Republicans to drop the nonsense, nothing will.

yup. and i've already seen comments to the effect that such a display of hard core Republican intransigence will be Obama's fault. apparently Republicans being bigoted idiots is just a sign of Obama and Democrats not caring about the gay community and not being willing to advance this cause. becaus, really, what we've learned so far is that everything is Obama's fault. unless it's a good thing. then it's not as good as it could have been and because it's not as good as it could have been, that's Obama's fault.

Posted by: els on November 30, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

I agree there will be no Republicans swayed by this report. The report itself was never anything more than a fig leaf to grudgingly justify humanity and decency. But if it doesn't rally the base, why bother? Republicans don't do decency unless it's the kind that allows billionaires to keep more of their money. Or bigots to feel better about themselves.

Posted by: walt on November 30, 2010 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

In a sane world, Voinivich and Bennett, who are both leaving, would vote yes.

But we aren't in a sane world.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on November 30, 2010 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Those resisting DADT repeal need to be placed right next to the earlier bigots in Congress that resisted integration in the military. History will not judge McCain and his ilk kindly.

Posted by: bdop4 on November 30, 2010 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter ReThuglicans: No repeal until 110% of the troops agree.

Posted by: Mouse Brain on November 30, 2010 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know much about the military, but I'm wondering why it matters what service members think. Aren't they trained to accept whatever orders their superiors issue?

Posted by: Steve Simitzis on November 30, 2010 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK



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