Repeal of DADT may call out ' the foot soldiers of Bush'
Reigniting the Culture Wars?
Some political analysts see pushing for the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' as throwing a match on a powder keg; sparking a backlash such as the one in the 2004 elections, when the 'foot soldiers of Bush' banned gay marriage in 11 states.
Even though a story such as that of Gay Army Lieutenant Dan Choi who was dismissed from the military after coming out last spring, and his moving testimony, taken together with the fact that the UK has openly recruited gays in their armed forces since 2000, with no loss of morale, seem to all but close the discussion, it is apparent that in America , with so many issues - gays in the military, universal health care, gay marriage, abortion - we are not the same as Europe or Canada. There is no easy transition for us.
Although Gay rights advocates cheered on Tuesday as the nation's top military leaders called for an end to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military, reflective political analysts are sounding the warning note, that this could spark a considerable backlash.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates informed the Senate Armed Forces Committee that over the next eleven months a careful analysis of how to repeal the 1993 law would be explored.
Then a transition plan would be proposed to Congress.
In the meantime, Gates spoke of being more humane and fair in the enforcement of the law as it exists. But Gates, together with chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the testified that they personally supported President Obama's call for the repeal of the DADT policy.
In in the midst of all this, it has been forgotten, as one conservative put it, that this is "a great way to jump start the social conservative movement". Indeed, already Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, has begun circulating his petition to prevent the "sexualization of our armed forces".
Furthermore, Perkins said this was a shock more potent even than the healthcare debate, a sign that social conservatives are not being counted in the White House, and that this is a wake up call of supreme force.
In fact, one analyst predicts this will mobilize forces as great as the Tea Party movement which came out against healthcare reform. Only now, the issue will be cultural values.
The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change," Gates told the panel, "but how we best prepare for it."
Lt. Dan Choi, who faces discharge for publicly announcing that he's gay, praised the military brass for backing an end to the policy.
"When somebody makes a decision to join the military, they don't join the military because they're gay or they're straight or to be more straight or to be more gay," Choi said in an interview on CBS TV. "They do it because they believe in the values of our country, that it's worth protecting, and that's the reason why I joined."
While public opinion polls have shown growing support for allowing gays to serve openly, the political blowback began before Gates' testimony Tuesday.
The conservative Family Research Council, whose president, Tony Perkins, visited the White House 14 times during the first five years of the Bush administration, began circulating a petition - titled "Prevent the Sexualization of our Armed Forces" - over the weekend to keep the ban.
Allowing gays to serve openly, it said, would pose an "unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion."
Perkins told The Chronicle Tuesday that if the health care reform debate was "an ammonia capsule" to energizing social conservatives, "this is like a slap upside the head." He said the message to social conservatives from the Senate hearing is: "This is further evidence that this administration is not listening to your values."
Social conservatives - linked by networks connecting national conservative groups like Perkins' to conservative evangelical Christian congregations nationwide - were the foot soldiers of the Bush administration. In 2004, they supported ballot measures in 11 states that banned same-sex marriage and also voted for Bush.
If the Obama administration's embrace of larger government inspired fiscal conservatives to mobilize through the Tea Party movement, Tuesday's move "will jump-start the socially conservative networks," said Mike Franc, who analyzes Congress for the conservative Heritage Foundation.