A reader notes something from that astonishing DADT hearing on Tuesday:
Did you notice Admiral Mullen's smackdown of Jeff Sessions, scion of the Old South, which has owned the military for a century? Sessions accused Mullen of "undue command influence", a serious charge--just one step away from "illegal command influence". (At 4:00 in the Youtibe above).
The accusation was so ugly, and so serious, that Gates (rightly) leapt to Mullen's defense, and smacked Sessions hard (5:20), after which Mullen looked straight at Sessions and said:
"Senator Sessions, for me, this is not about 'command influence', this is about leadership, and I take that very seriously."
(Emphasis in the original. I should note that Mullen's language contrasting "command influence" to "leadership" is not merely rhetorical, it is legal, and the outline of Mullen's legal defense:
"While some types of influence are unlawful and prohibited by the Uniform Code of Military Justice… other types of influence are lawful, proper, and in certain circumstances a necessary part of leadership".
Sessions, in other words, told Mullen that the Republican line of attack would be to question his competence and integrity, as well as the legality of his open support for the repeal of DADT; Mullen in turn told Sessions that if the Republicans insisted on war, he was happy to oblige them.
Not only is that an extraordinary personal moment, and an extraordinary moment in the struggle for gay rights, it is an extraordinary moment in American history: we just watched the tide turn. Yes, there is much work left to do, and pain and loss still to come, but the tide has turned on gay rights--and you won. The war is over. Everything the Republican/conservative/
Christianist coalition does from here on is nothing more than a rearguard action. They just lost the military; they just lost the gay-bashing card.
They have been routed--and at the most unexpected moment. And this has enormous implications for national politics going forward.
I have noticed - with great relief - the lack of furious blowback so far. But I am not as confident as my reader, as I have learned not to under-estimate the passionate intensity of reaction in America. But Tuesday was a deeply moving and powerful moment for many of us. It happened because of one man's skill - Obama - and one man's integrity - Mullen.
Mullen just earned himself a place in history.