17 April 2009

Same-sex Marriage and Don't Ask, Don't Tell (All in a Day)

TPM posts divergent pieces today on equality for gays. While Steve Schmidt prepares to drag the GOP kicking and screaming toward acceptance of gay marriage, Robert Gates throws cold water on high hopes regarding the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy under the Obama administration.

Schmidt earned all my scorn as the architect of John McCain's 2008 campaign of bile. But this move makes me wonder if Schmidt learned something during the campaign; namely, that the big tent can't help Republicans if it's empty. Steve Benen asks how prominent Repubs will treat Schmidt for his breach with party etiquette. True, it may not be pretty. But Schmidt is on the right side of this one and, I believe, is reading the social change tea leaves correctly. He may get lambasted today, but if the GOP has any hope for a reemergence in the foreseeable future then they'll need guys like Schmidt, high-profile operatives who can move the party forward around some bigger truths. We'll see, of course, whether Schmidt truly is that guy. But I give him props for demonstrating reason at a time when, to be blunt, the Republican establishment seems to delight in shunning that particular quality.

DADT is a little harder to get my head around. It'd be one thing if administration figures framed the debate as "We have to be deliberate, we have to be smart, and our policy has to be sound." There's been some of that floating in the ether since March, when Gates made his "push that one down the road" comments on FOX. But TPM points out that Gates now goes so far as to invoke the conditional. "If we do it, it's very important that we do it right, and very carefully." My question is why does Gates invoke the conditional?

Obama and Gates may have different politics, but I think they're both smart, both thoughtful, and both very intentional. Also, I believe they both want what's good for the country. So why the hedging? Gates is Obama's guy on DADT policy, and yet he can't just come out and say "We're working on this, we're going to make this happen." Why? The NYT piece TPM refers to gives us Gates invoking Harry Truman: Truman signed the order to integrate the military in 1948, and still it took five years before it happened. Gates: “I’m not saying that’s a model for this, but I’m saying that I believe that this is something that needs to be done very, very carefully.’’

More Gates:

“To get people’s real feelings about it, you have to have almost a one-on-one private conversation,’’ Mr. Gates said. “I think it’s very difficult for people to speak in front of their peers about this issue.’’
Man, I just don't get it. Sure it's politically tricky. The idea of gays in the military always has been. But Gates sounds like he's giving cover here. Just as the GOP has to come around to same-sex marriage (if the party wants to survive), the military also has to quit discharging capable, talented, and effective soldiers who want to serve. This is not rocket science. So what's all this "if" crap?