In a recent interview on CNN’s GPS with Fareed Zakaria, liberal comedian Bill Maher described the president as “looking beaten down.” After a rigorous healthcare fight, a nasty debate over financial reform, a “shellacking” in the midterm elections, and a blood bath battle over extending the Bush era tax cuts, I would say any politician would be feeling the heat.Â Consider too, that every policy he has tried to pass is met with resistance from Republicans and some moderate Democrats. Now, the congressional scene looks divided. With Republicans controlling a majority in the House next January and the Democrats holding on for dear life in the Senate, the fights will get even nastier.
Finding common ground between these two arch enemies is complicated to say the least.Â Tea Party Republicans and liberal Democrats do not share the same group of friends or the same views on policies. Bridging the divide requires more than a simple Evel Kneivel jump, there must be a wedge. As the president runs ragged to walk across a very thin tightrope between the cliffs of both parties, he misses the topic that could save his presidency from an early demise in 2012: repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), the policy that prevents soldiers from serving openly gay in the military.
Current political tensions and the supposed “will of the people” prevent the president from taking on this issue. Indeed, whenever the topic is brought up those who oppose it quickly make an exit or remind the American people that the economy is in shambles and that they would like congress to fix that catastrophe. The question I ask is: If not now, when?
The Pentagon recently released a study that would look at troop effectiveness if DADT was repealed. Surprisingly, despite the critics complaints, it found that 70% of current U.S. troops believed having a gay or lesbian soldier serve would have “positive, mixed, or no effect” on the ability to do their jobs. Furthermore, 69% of respondents believed they had a gay person serving in their division and 92% believed it was not a problem. These are powerful numbers in my mind.Â In a separate poll by Gallup 70% of Americans favored repealing the ban. This seems like a pretty good “will of the people” argument to me.
Some of the top brass have come out, no pun intended, and supported this policy.Â Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Head of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen both came out in support of repealing this mark of Cain on the armed forces.Â
“We spend a lot of time in the military talking about integrity and honor and values. Telling the truth is a pretty important value in that scale,”Â Gates said in a hearing before congress.
Why should the president take on this issue? First, it will rejuvenate his base. The liberal side of the Democratic Party just took a hit during a tax cut extension debate and the party as a whole was whipped pretty hard during the election. Democrats feel down and out. So, this would give them a topic to rally around. The homosexual community is also a very big patron of the Democratic Party. Lately, they are starting to see Obama as weak for not talking on this topic, or pushing for gay marriage which he opposes.Â
Second, it can encourage bipartisanship. This sounds odd, but if you look beyond captain buzzkill John McCain, everyone can see that other Republicans do support repealing the ban.Â Tea Party darling Scott Brown from Massachusetts is just one example of support. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both senate Republicans from Maine support repealing the policy. Gates is a Republican and Bush appointee supports repeal. Not to mention, this can cause a split in the Republican Party if they do not go along with this repeal. A federal court also ruled the policy unconstitutional, but the ruling has just not been enforced.
Finally, I will make a moral argument for repeal. This policy is disgraceful. Its abhorrence puts a record of shame on the U.S. military for looking backward and old fashioned. It is equivalent to the “Separate, but Equal” doctrine in Plessy v. Ferguson. War and military training forge common unity. Those who are of homosexual orientation do not love every person of the same sex they see. For example, I live on a co-ed floor. I am attracted to women. That does not mean I cannot act in a civil manner or be friends with the women on my floor just because I have an attraction to them. We all live in the same community sharing the same things.Â If that can work, repealing this policy can too.
IÂ am not gay, and I personally know very few people who are, but I can tell you that this policy is a discriminatory one. Generations who look back in history will find it laughable that we even had this policy, just as we look at segregation policies today. Now is the time for the president to act. Repealing this policy is a good political and moral move. As a president who ran on being post-racial, this is the equivalent for this generation. Acting now is the best way for President Obama to get his groove back.
To read more commentary by John Stang check out his blog called “The Independent Internationalist.” Â Also, check out his new radio show by the same name onÂ WRKE 100.3 FM on Wednesdays from 1:30-3:00 p.m. Â His opinions do not reflect those of the Brackety-Ack.