A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


A federal judge has blocked the Obama administration from enforcing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding the service of gay men and women in the military.

I stopped and re-read that sentence, and threw up a little in my mouth. The mere fact that I could write "Obama" and "enforcing Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would almost make me question my sanity-- until I start recounting the countless other ways this administration has failed to have the cojones to stand up for what is right in some crazy quest to somehow gain bipartisan support for ANYTHING from a party implacably committed to that same administration's failure.

(And let's not even get into the decision announced today that an administration run by a former law school professor is appealing on behalf of the Defense of Marriage Act when marriage has traditionally been under the purview of the states.)

I'm sorry Mr. President, and this is coming from a friend -- albeit a disappointed one. Guess what? They're never going to love you. They're never going to even LIKE you. There's a goodly percentage of them who are pretty certain to always despise you for your name and for your racial background, besides whatever you might do. They're never going to be convinced that you are anything but a black radical Muslim sleeper agent born in Kenya. Here's your chance to BE bipartisan and steal a page from the other guy's playbook by standing up for a truly conservative, libertarian principle: keeping government out of one's private life.

So here's the story:
A federal judge has issued a worldwide injunction stopping enforcement of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, ending the military's 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips' landmark ruling Tuesday was widely cheered by gay rights organizations that credited her with getting accomplished what President Obama and Washington politics could not.

U.S. Department of Justice attorneys have 60 days to appeal. Legal experts say the department is under no legal obligation to do so and could let Phillips' ruling stand.

Phillips declared the law unconstitutional after a two-week trial in federal court in Riverside. The case was brought about by the pro-gay Log Cabin Republicans.

The fact that it took a group of Republicans (albeit far from typical ones) to call the administration's bluff just makes this all the more incredible.

This policy has been a failure since its inception. It has robbed our armed forces of loyal and dedicated patriots willing to put their lives on the line for their country in a way that few of their critics have done. We have lost translators and bomb-sniffing dog handlers and a host of other critical specialists-- all based upon rumor and innuendo and a host of dire, insane "what-ifs" that would make Glenn Beck proud.

Here's a chance for President Obama to show some backbone, and actually deliver on something he has pledged to do. And this judge has now made it easy for him.

So let me be direct: Man up, President Obama. It's time to do the right thing because it is right. It is not the time to take surveys or ask permission: you are the commander-in-chief.

Here's something to make it easier for you, too: I'll help you find just the right wording for an executive order. See if this sounds right:

"Establishing the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity In the Armed Forces.

WHEREAS it is essential that there be maintained in the armed services of the United States the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country's defense:

NOW THEREFORE, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, by the Constitution and the statutes of the United States, and as Commander in Chief of the armed services, it is hereby ordered as follows:

1. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale.

2. There shall be created in the National Military Establishment an advisory committee to be known as the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, which shall be composed of seven members to be designated by the President.

3. The Committee is authorized on behalf of the President to examine into the rules, procedures and practices of the Armed Services in order to determine in what respect such rules, procedures and practices may be altered or improved with a view to carrying out the policy of this order. The Committee shall confer and advise the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of the Air Force, and shall make such recommendations to the President and to said Secretaries as in the judgment of the Committee will effectuate the policy hereof.

4. All executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government are authorized and directed to cooperate with the Committee in its work, and to furnish the Committee such information or the services of such persons as the Committee may require in the performance of its duties.

5. When requested by the Committee to do so, persons in the armed services or in any of the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government shall testify before the Committee and shall make available for use of the Committee such documents and other information as the Committee may require.

6. The Committee shall continue to exist until such time as the President shall terminate its existence by Executive order."

Sound good? Simple, straightforward, and, if you are a History Geek, familiar.

Well, guess what? Except for the addition of the words "sexual orientation," this is exactly the text of Executive Order 9981, which was signed by President Harry S Truman on July 26, 1948, in order to desegregate the military. The same Harry Truman who fired one of the most popular generals in the US Army because he was insubordinate, in order to make clear that civilians run our military, and not the other way around.

Just ask yourself, Mr. Obama: What Would Truman Do?

What WOULD Truman Do???

President Truman wouldn't wait to see what the Senate says. President Truman wouldn't wait to see what the survey says like some farcical version of "Family Feud." And yes, he took his licks for it. But in the end, he has been adjudged one of the greatest presidents in the history of our great country.

It's not just a Democratic thing to do. Even Barry Goldwater, the Father of Modern Conservatism, eventually decided that homophobia and discrimination against gays, including in the military,* was wrong by 1994. That should help with your longing for bipartisanship.

So, helped by the cover of a court order, go ahead and issue that Presidential Order. It'll make you look presidential. And BE presidential. But perhaps you claim that Congress has somehow made it impossible to issue a presidential order-- a claim I find to be difficult to believe. But okay-- if that's the case, stop claiming that enforcing this order will cause "irreparable harm" to our military readiness if in the same breath you claim that you will end this policy "on your watch." Don't appeal the court order ending something you say is wrong. Your administration has done this over and over, and it just makes you appear to be a hypocrite.

* -- From a 1994 interview with the Washington Post: "So how did this super-patriot, former fighter pilot and retired Air Force general get involved in gay rights?

'The first time this came up was with the question, should there be gays in the military?" Goldwater says. "Having spent 37 years of my life in the military as a reservist, and never having met a gay in all of that time, and never having even talked about it in all those years, I just thought, why the hell shouldn't they serve? They're American citizens. As long as they're not doing things that are harmful to anyone else. ... So I came out for it.'"



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