Connecticut Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, the formerly-Democratic Senator many progressive Democrats love to hate, reportedly will be the prime sponsor of a bill that will repeal the controversial Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy that bans admitted gays from serving in the military.
Over the weekend at CPAC, former senator Rick Santorum accused military leaders of misleading America over what was best for America when they came out in favor of repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” the unpopular policy banning gays from serving openly in the military. “Political correctness is reigning in the military right now,” he said. “Some people say: whatever the generals say! I’m not too sure that we haven’t so indoctrinated the officer corps in this country that they can actually see straight to make the right decision.” In case Santorum’s complete lack of personal experience with the military wasn’t enough to make you question this view, a study came out today revealing that quick adoption of openly serving gays in foreign armed forces had no bad repercussions….
…..This news, combined with polls that increasingly show the majority of Americans back a DADT repeal, should make it all the less surprising that far-right Democrat (of sorts) Joe Lieberman plans to become the chief sponsor of such a bill in the Senate. All Americans should be granted “an equal opportunity to do whatever job their talents and sense of purpose and motivations lead them to want to do — including military service,” he told columnist Jamie Kirchick in the Daily News. “When you artificially limit the pool of people who can enlist, then you are diminishing military effectiveness.” Lieberman’s role as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and member of the Armed Services Committee will likely lend weight to his endorsement with Republicans, who have warmed to him as Democrats have simultaneously cooled. It will also put liberal Democrats in the position of having to back a measure fronted by a senator they increasingly distrust and even despise.
It’ll be particularly interesting to see (a) the timing of this attempted repeal (after or before the mid-terms?) and (b)how Arizona Senator John McCain votes on it. McCain had long indicated he wanted this repeal but now, locked in a tougher-than-usual race with a conservative talk show host, he has been moving to the right and came under withering criticism in recent weeks for seemingly doing an about face on this issue. When the votes are cast on this, will we see the Old McCain, the New McCain (or the New Old McCain?).
SOME MORE COMMENTARY ON THIS STORY:
Supporters of the repeal gained momentum this month when Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, both testified in support of changing the policy.
Mullen and Gates asked for a year to study exactly how to enact a repeal, but Democrats have pledged to move forward regardless.
“It’s not a question on the review to see if we’re going to do it,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said earlier this month. “It’s just a question of how we can protect people as we go forward with the repeal.”
Lieberman, a military hawk who has sided increasingly with Republicans on defense-related issues, could help garner the support of moderate Republicans.
Just when you thought Joe Lieberman couldn’t frustrate and perplex liberals any further, he is going off to become chief sponsor of the most significant piece of socially progressive legislation that Congress will deal with this year.
I’m still not sure why “frustrating and perplexing liberals” is such an accomplishment, but personally I’d be glad to see more “frustrating” and “perplexing” behavior along these lines.
We’d been hearing for months that Senator Lieberman, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, would be the prime sponsor of the Senate bill to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Today, the NY Daily News reports that Lieberman is going to introduce the legislation. Given the Senate’s gridlock, the best hope for success is for the Senate Armed Services Committee to include the repeal language in the must-pass Department of Defense authorization bill. The President has a role in this process because the Pentagon sends its policy recommendations to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. It would be a very clear indication that the White House wants the repeal included in the Defense authorization bill if Obama makes that DADT repeal recommendation.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen poll after poll after poll showing strong support for allowing gays to serve in the military. Even the Cheneys support repeal. This has become one of those issues that transcends politics for the American people. It’s a no-brainer. The President has said that he wants the law repealed. He can help make it happen this year. We’ve reached a point where failure to do so will reflect poorly on the President. The political risk comes from not delivering.
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Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.