John McCain and DADT
Despite the Defense Department releasing its study showing that the effects of allowing gays to serve openly would be minimal, Senator John McCain isn’t convinced.
In 2006, he said on MSNBC that “the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it.” Now that Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, supports the Pentagon’s move toward junking DADT—and even McCain’s wife, Cindy, has appeared in a gay rights group’s video opposing the policy—the senator is blocking Obama’s plan.
“I understand that’s his commitment to the gay and lesbian community,” McCain says. But while a Pentagon study released Tuesday found more than two-thirds support for the change among service members and said disruptions would be minimal, McCain wants a broader study that would focus on combat readiness.
His explanation: “The Marine commandant is opposed to [dropping] Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I know for a fact the other three service chiefs have serious reservations.”
As for their superiors, McCain casually mentions the commander in chief and defense secretary, “neither of which I view as a military leader.”
The message: John McCain may have lost his chance to command the U.S. military, but he’s still practiced in the art of trench warfare.
Jonathan Chait retorts, “Uh, isn’t the message that John McCain does not respect civilian control of the military?”
Uh, no. For one thing, the Senate’s role in legislating military policy is very much part of civilian control. And one can simultaneously respect the fact that the president and SECDEF are atop the military hierarchy and still value the inputs of professional military men. While the chairman of the joint chiefs — who supports changing the policy — is the statutory military advisor to the president, McCain is certainly entitled to consider the opinions of the Marine commandant, other service chiefs, and commanders in the field. Or his own gut, the attitudes of his constituents, and all manner of other things.
Maybe McCain is just playing politics here. Maybe he honestly objects to changing the policy. Either way, that’s his prerogative as a United States Senator.
It just so happens that McCain and the Commandant are wrong. They’re old men whose views on the issue reflect another time and barracks culture. As a middle aged man who was very much a part of that culture, I sympathize. But every bit of evidence we have now points to the fact that today’s soldiers don’t care if the guy next to them is gay.
The old arguments against gays being allowed to serve were: 1) they could be blackmailed with being outed and thus posed a security threat and 2) it would undermine unit morale and cohesion. The first would be obviated by allowing them to serve openly, especially since the stigma associated with homosexuality is fast evaporating. And the second has been obviated by the passage of time and busting of myths about the “homosexual lifestyle.” The Pentagon’s study demonstrates that.