The drive in Congress to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy appears all but lost for the foreseeable future, with action unlikely this year and even less likely once Republicans take charge of the House in January. President Barack Obama has repeatedly said he wants to overturn the policy, which bans gays from serving openly in the armed forces. Advocates on both sides believed the issue had a chance of coming up in this month's post-election session of Congress.Now that looks unlikely. Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and John McCain of Arizona, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, are in talks on stripping the proposed repeal and other controversial provisions from a broader defense bill, leaving the repeal with no legislative vehicle to carry it. With a repeal attached, and amid Republican complaints over the terms of the debate, the defense bill had failed to win the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural hurdle in the Senate in September. A spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, who opposes the repeal, confirmed he is in talks with Mr. Levin on how to proceed on the defense bill but didn't provide details.
That Democrats would cave on this now shows how far the party of Harry Truman has fallen. In December the Defense Department is reportedly set to release a study showing that, like the American people, most servicemembers aren't opposed to gays and lesbians openly serving. That's in contrast to the vast opposition of most servicemembers to racial integration in the 1940s; if Truman had insisted on staying his hand until a political climate as favorable as this one had come along, integrating the military might not have happened until decades later. Truman ended segregation in the military because it was the right thing to do, despite the fact that it was unpopular. Ending DADT happens to be both popular and the right thing to do, and Democrats today still can't get it done.