Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Few Thoughts on the Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal

Well, it has finally happened.  DADT has been repealed after 17 years.  This is a big deal.  It is heartening to know that the Senate, the House, and the President did the right thing.  If DADT wasn't repealed before January 1, chances were slim that Congress would have done anything for the next few years, since the Republicans will control the House come January. 

The media coverage has been fascinating.  Because events in history tend to be simplified, I'd like to pose a few questions and comment a bit about some of what's in the newspapers this morning:

• The vote to repeal was 65-33, with (according to the media) 8 Republican senators siding with the Democrats.  But the story is more complicated than that.  There were, in fact TWO votes on DADT.  The first one was by far the highest hurdle because we needed 60 votes for that to pass.  This was the vote to bring the question to the floor for debate.  That vote was 63-33, with six Republicans siding with Democrats.  If this failed, there would have been no repeal.  The second vote -- the one that actually repealed the policy -- only required 51 votes, a simple majority.  My question: two Republicans voted against bringing the question to the floor but then voted to repeal a few hours later.  What was going on here?  Did these two Republicans, once having been oppositional, suddenly change their minds?  Or were they thinking, "Well, now that it's settled I'd better be on the right side of history"?  I hope history makes it clear that when it counted, they were on the wrong side.

• I've been very critical of Joe Lieberman on this blog, but he was a real leader on the repeal, opposing his buddy John McCain every step of the way.  Hats off to him.

• John McCain is turning into a parody of himself.  Some of his vehement arguments to any repeal DADT simply defied logic.  For example, he claimed that DADT was working and that there was no harm done in the implementation of the policy.  Setting aside the terrible harm done to all gay people in the military, how can he say that the discharge of over 15,000 service people was not harmful to military preparedness?  Keep those videos of him turning red with fury as he addressed the Senate.  They'll be helpful examples of bigotry in the future.

• It was great that DADT was repealed, but we shouldn't forget that another bill, the Dream Act, that would have also made the United States a more prefect and fairer union, failed a few hours later.  This bill would have provided a path to citizenship for people who had no say in their arrival in this country: children.  And the proposed path to citizenship was a challenging path indeed: high school graduation, college education, background checks, a five year wait, and on and on.  Then these young people could have applied for citizenship.  But a minority of senators ruled the day.  It did not get the 60 votes needed to bring the question to the floor of the Senate.

So we stop and say, "Yes! DADT is over!"  But we also take stock of what else needs to be done.  The Dream Act.  The Defense of Marriage repeal.  And so much more.

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