Last week, as I watched the presidential debate in Iowa, I listened closely for a question or an answer that referenced the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” (DADT) signed into law by President Obama last December and now scheduled to be final on September 20, 2011. After all, it was just a few weeks ago in New Hampshire that every candidate participating in the previous debate — with the notable exception of Congressman Ron Paul, who voted for repeal — voiced support for the discredited and discriminatory law and left the door wide open for reinstating it should they be elected president.
So, I was heartened as the debate came to a close and the issue had not been raised. I thought, “Finally. These candidates realize that this debate is over. Our nation’s military leaders, Congress, and the president have spoken. They, like most Americans, believe that all qualified Americans should be able to serve the country they love. We’ve moved on.”
Then on Saturday, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, in an interview with CNN, reiterated her opposition to repeal and went farther than she previously had, stating she “probably would”reinstate DADT if elected. Immediately, I began receiving emails asking the question, “Could she do such a thing?” Indeed, the answer is yes, and today, the New York Times explained exactly how she — or any would-be president who opposes LGB service in our military — could.
But the better and more important question is, why would she? Is it because she wants to appeal to a small base of supporters who do not represent the vast majority of the American people? Is it because she does not respect the recommendations of our nation’s senior military leaders, including two Secretaries of Defense, one of whom is the recently retired Republican-appointed Robert Gates who served under a number of presidents? Is it because she doesn’t understand that this is not the way we conduct military policymaking in the United States?
Here are the facts.
In virtually any poll, the American people overwhelmingly support the open and honest service of qualified gay and lesbian patriots in our military. They know, as conservative Republican Barry Goldwater so eloquently said, that you don’t have to be straight to shoot straight.
Indeed, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year, our nation’s service chiefs reflected this view as they testified to Congress that there were no significant challenges during the ongoing training and preparation for implementation. The president, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, further reinforced this finding when they issued their certification to Congress last month, sending a clear and final message that our military is ready for repeal. And in this country, we don’t revisit major personnel policy decisions for our military based on which party wins an election every four years.
In a few weeks, DADT will be history. Now is not the time for Congresswoman Bachmann or other candidates to be second-guessing our military leaders, attempting to create uncertainty or unrest in the ranks, and shamelessly using our troops in order to score a few political points.
This is the time to rally around our troops, support the sacrifice and service of all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation, and move on. Certainly, we have more real and relevant battles to fight than to revisit one that has already been settled.