Playboy Gets One Right: Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell is Dangerous

Ana Marie Cox (AMC) has just written her first article for Playboy, and in the process, has provided the magazine with a large measure of redemption.  The piece is compelling and timely, especially given the Supreme Court’s denial of cert to a challenge to DADT.

In the piece, Ana Marie frames the issue of the military’s “Don’t ask/Don’t tell” (DADT) policy as both a civil rights issue, and a much more immediate national security issue.  For good measure, she posits that repealing DADT is just good politics:

But one of the key components of recent Democratic victories has been candidates’ refusal to cede military issues to the traditionally hawkish GOP. Repealing DADT should be a part of reclaiming national security as a bipartisan issue. Honestly, would there be a more “efficient use of gays in the Army” than having them hunt down Islamic extremists, arguably the only group more uncomfortable with the idea of homosexuality than social conservatives?

That’s probably my favorite passage in the piece, though I encourage reading the whole thing.

There are also a few points that I would add.

This blog has a fairly large conservative readership, for a liberal blog, and an exceedingly reasonable one.  According to a new poll, conservative opinion is shifting on this issue.

Something I hear a lot from the right is that if these soldiers really love their country, they’ll serve in silence.  While I dispute that notion from a civil rights standpoint, I will address it anyway.

Many of these soldiers aren’t busting through their commanding officer’s wall like the Kool Aid guy, yelling “Oh, Yeah!” in their best Wolfman Jack, and proclaiming their gayness.  You don’t have to out yourself in order to be discharged.

Bleu Copas is a good example.  His discharge was the result of an anonymous email, which led to this bizarre, almost comical interrogation:

On December 2, military investigators formally interviewed Copas and asked him if he had any close friends who were gay, if he was involved in a community theater, and whether or not he understood the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Copas said yes to all their questions until they asked him, “Have you ever engaged in homosexual activity or conduct?” At that point he asked for a lawyer, and the interrogation ceased

If he was involved in a community theater?  Is that the DADT version of “Who won the 1952 World Series?”

So, even a soldier willing to serve in silence must fear the email of Damocles that could end his career, and cause his absence on the day he was supposed to save lives.

One area where I differ slightly with AMC is in the Obama Administration’s behind-the-scenes posture on DADT.

White House aides I’ve spoken to seem personally frustrated with the administration’s slowdown on the issue, and emphasize that the president has not changed his mind. “He brought it up today,” one senior staffer told me recently, as though it were a pesky but distant concern. That, too, is Washingtonese. Rough translation: “We’ll get it done when we get it done; don’t bother me.”

I don’t read it that way.  I think the President, right or wrong, is taking the FDR “Make me” stance, only this time, it’s not activist pressure that will resolve this issue urgently.  It’s pressure from the mainstream media, and from decent people of both parties, who need to agree that DADT makes us less safe, and it is costing lives now.

Both times I asked Gibbs about DADT, I specifically asked if the policy is a national security risk that makes us less safe.  Gibbs offered tacit agreement on both occasions.  I also asked, both times, why the President wouldn’t issue an executive order to place a moratorium on the discharges.  In each case, Gibbs never said, “Because he can’t.”

Legislatively, the DADT rock is too heavy, and the hill too high, to overturn it, at least not within a useful timeframe.  The White House has signalled an ability to end the discharges.  It is, unfortunately, up to the people and the press to give them the will.

1 Comment

  1. […] people.  I’m not so sure about that.  Increasingly, conservatives have shown that they are coming around on key gay issues.  Dick Cheney’s recent show of support for marriage equality is a great indication of […]

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