Karl Frisch, 12/1/2010 [Archive]

They Were Asked and They Told, But Will McCain Listen?

They Were Asked and They Told, But Will McCain Listen?

Nine months after nearly 400,000 service members and over 150,000 spouses of active and reserve component service members were surveyed by the Pentagon for their views on a potential repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' the results are in.

In what's been called 'one of the largest surveys in the history of the U.S. military,' more than 70 percent of the 115,052 service members who completed the survey said the impact of repealing the policy that bans openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the armed forces would be positive, mixed or nonexistent.

Of course, such decisive findings will likely mean nothing to those opposed to lifting the ban, including obstructionist-in-chief John McCain, who is now serving out his twilight years as the nation's elder, bitter, not quite statesman.

To be fair, while McCain says the policy 'is working,' he really doesn't understand how the policy works or his past positions on the issue.

See, ever since the Arizona Senator lost the presidential race to Barack Obama, he's been merely a shell of what he once was.

Remember McCain the media's 'maverick?' He died during the 2008 Republican primaries as the former Vietnam prisoner of war became captive to the fringe within his own party to secure its nomination.

Gone are the days when McCain would occasionally cross party lines to work with Democrats on widely popular issues like campaign finance reform. That guy was buried for good during his contentious primary campaign for reelection this year when he was forced even further to the right by his tea party rival and ultimately disavowed his work on issues like comprehensive immigration reform.

In June of 2009, McCain seemed open to the idea of repeal when and if military leaders said it was time -- a position he'd long articulated. He said, 'My opinion is shaped by the view of the leaders of the military... I am especially guided, to a large degree, by their views.'

What happened when military leaders like Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen told McCain that it was, in fact, time for such action? He reacted angrily saying it was Congress that should be consulted on such matters. How's that for being 'especially guided' by military leaders?

McCain went on to add new conditions that he claimed could very well change his mind on the subject -- the completion of the Pentagon's survey of service members -- but now that the study has been released and finds our men and women in uniform having little trouble with the concept of serving alongside their openly gay brethren, McCain is pushing the goal posts even further.

Arizona's seasoned Senator isn't even all that familiar with how the policy he claims 'works' so well actually, you know, works.

He told a room full of reporters in September, "Regulations are, we do not go out and seek to find out if someone's sexual orientation. We do not!" He repeated this point again and again as journalists attempted to offer him examples of troops who met that very fate.

McCain should've been familiar with at least one such example. As ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee he heard testimony from Michael Almy, a 13-year Air Force veteran who was discharged after emails to his same-sex partner were discovered.

The plain truth is that 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' doesn't work.

Nearly 15,000 service members have been discharged because of the ban, including decorated officers and those in 'critical occupations' costing taxpayers an estimated $555.2 million through fiscal year 2008. Lifting the ban would likely result in retaining more than 4,000 men and women who would've left otherwise each year.

Lifting the ban wouldn't undermine retention, morale, or unit cohesion -- many of our own allies (at least 25 countries) allow open military service not to mention the findings of the new Pentagon survey. Perhaps that's why more than 100 retired U.S. generals and admirals along with a hefty majority of Americans support lifting the ban.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is either uniformed or deliberately trying to deceive you for his or her own political agenda. That includes Senator McCain.

This late in life, politics may have gotten in the way of McCain serving his country with dignity and respect but that doesn't mean he should stand in the way of gay men and lesbians offering such service openly and honestly in our armed forces.


Copyright©2010 KarlFrisch.com.

Karl Frisch is a progressive political communications consultant based in Washington, DC. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com.

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This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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