DADT Repeal Reax

by Patrick Appel

Jim Burroway:

As far as I can tell, this is the very first piece of pro-gay legislation that is not attached to any other piece of legislation making its way through both chambers of the U.S. Congress on its way to the President’s desk. Please correct me if I’m overlooking something, but I cannot think of any other federal pro-LGBT legislative accomplishment that has been achieved through a straight up-or-down vote as a stand-along bill.

Dahlia Lithwick smacks Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) for claiming, without a scrap of evidence, that DADT repeal "could cost lives":

What Kyl seems prepared to ignore is that also as a result of this long overdue piece of legislation, people may live. If we’ve learned anything else from Dan Savage’s astonishing It Gets Better project, it’s that there are indeed life-and-death consequences to telling gay teenagers that they are second class, or shameful, or disgusting. And a military policy that legally enshrined such humiliation -- a policy that allowed soldiers to die for their country so long as they lived in shame or silence -- was nothing if not government-sanctioned intolerance. As Jason Linkins explains, one of the reasons President Clinton first sought to end discrimination against gays serving openly in the military was because of the violent abuse (and even murder) they suffered at the hands of other servicemen. The lives of young gay Americans who may now feel pride in living openly may not count in Kyl’s vague calculus of lives lost, but they should.

Nate Silver reads the roll call:

There are, in the lame duck session, 11 Republican senators from states that President Obama carried in 2008. Of these, 7 voted with the Democrats to repeal the policy, while 3 voted against it. (One other the retiring Republican Judd Gregg of New Hampshire did not vote at all.)

By contrast, right there are now 31 Republican senators from states that Senator John McCain won in 2008. Just one of these Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted to repeal the ban on gay servicemembers. Another 28 voted against it, and two did not vote.

Jason Kuznicki criticizes the timing:

One thing that history won’t remember, but that will certainly be true, is that the Democrats chose the single moment in all the possible permutations of the election cycle when it would cost them the very least when an election has just been held, when it costs the least in their own members’ cushy seats, when many of them are leaving anyway, and when they can spend the next two years complaining about an agenda not of their own making. Still, well done.  

David Link, on the other hand, applauds Obama for taking the path of least resistance:

When Clinton promised he would resolve the problem of gays in the military with the stroke of a pen, he gave Sam Nunn an engraved invitation to visit those infamous submarine bunks, and paved the way for Republicans to invoke the most fearsome set of showers since World War II.

This is the kind of political problem that can best be solved more indirectly.   There was no doubt about the public support for repeal, and while there was concern about how the troops would view it, that turned out to be based on the same wishful thinking by the right as everything else in the area of gay equality.  But even in the face of genuine popular support, the equally genuine, gut-level ugliness of the minority also has to be negotiated.

That is Obama’s real triumph, and he proved to be quite right about how you approach the problem.


I'm thrilled about the repeal of DADT and didn't think it would happen. It was skillfully done. And on a grander scale, I'm surprised at how well he's managed the press, which I didn't believe was possible. For the most part I think he's really figured out how to keep them happy and that's no mean feat. Remember, Clinton offended them even when he was passing GOP policies, so it's as much a matter of style as substance. I think they've skillfully managed to keep them where they want them and that's very helpful in navigating public opinion in hard times.

Adam Bink:

Reading around mainstream traditional media coverage this morning, I notice a lot of emphasis on the discrimination/second-class citizens/Obama fulfilling a promise to a core constituency, the gays. Let’s not forget that ending this policy will start to strengthen our military the way it has strengthened armed services in other countries. 14,000 discharged. We have to recruit former convicted felons, people who perhaps aren’t as sharp educationally speaking as those who were discharged. We’ve wasted billions on discharge investigations and court-martials. While people like McCain were grandstanding on and on about unit cohesion, disrupting a unit by kicking out a member over an e-mail from his boyfriend back home sure sounds like disrupting cohesion to me. Sure, discrimination must be ended, but there are two aspects of why this is good for America.


Among the consequences: this removes the last stated objection to the return of ROTC programs to on-campus operations at Harvard and some other elite universities. I've discussed the background extensively, starting here and here. ROTC left these campuses four decades ago because of bitter disagreements over the Vietnam war. That's long in the past; since the early 1990s, the main argument against ROTC's return has been the military's exclusion of openly gay members. 

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