THE VELVET GLOVES HAVE COME OFF. PRINCESS BRAT'S WALKER, MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, DECLARED THAT CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O HAS BROKEN CAMPAIGN PROMISES.
BLOOMBERG LAUGHED OF BARRY O, "NOW HE'S PISSED OFF THE SUPPORTERS AND THE OPPONENTS. YOU GO FOR IT. IF YOU'RE GOING TO STAND UP FOR THE MOSQUE FRIDAY NIGHT, YOU DON'T WALK AWAY FROM IT SATURDAY MORNING."
REACHED FOR COMMENT, BARRY O SNAPPED, "JUST BECAUSE MICHAEL BLOOMFIELD IS FROM CHICAGO DOESN'T MEAN I KNOW HIM. I WAS NEVER A FAN OF ELECTRIC FLAG OR THE BUTTEFIELD BLUES BAND. IF YOU ASK ME, THIS MICHAEL BLOOMFIELD NEEDS TO MIND HIS OWN DAMN BUSINESS. BUT IT'S FRIDAY, ASK ME AGAIN ON SATURDAY, I MAY CHANGE MY MIND."
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
"I don't want to lie but you won't let me tell the truth." This morning, Senator Ben Nelson framed the issue of serving in the military while gay under Don't Ask, Don't Tell as harmful to core values. The Senate Armed Services Comittee was hearing from a number of witnesses. Chair Carl Levin explained at the top, "The committee meets this morning to receive testimony on the Dept of Defense's comprehensive review of the issues associated with the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The Committee was reviewing the year-long study -- a study that prevented any action from being taken for a year -- and taking testiomony from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Adm Mike Mullen the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, DoD's Jeh Johnson (Pentagon attorney) and Gen Carter Ham.
There are a number of 'conventional wisdoms' the press has run with for two weeks now which are incorrect. For example, claims that the vote make up is the same in the Senate as it was before the mid-term elections? Wrong. Joe Lieberman's been telling the press that there are over 60 votes and Carl Levin's been saying he's not sure if he has 60 votes. Last time, no Republicans would get behind the Defense Authorization -- Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been folded into the Defense Authorization. Some might have, some were close to doing so. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled some procedural nonsense and Republicans closed ranks. Senator John McCain is currently making noises about filibustering. If he does, Democrats are in a weaker position because the Senate has changed.
Senator Roland Burris. The Barack Political Machine trashed him and treated him so rudely that it's one for the history books. Roland Burris was one of the Senate's strongest voices in support of overturning Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Burris wasn't good enough for the Barack Obama Political Machine which just knew that another questionable banker who played hoops with Barack (Alexi Giannoulias) could win a US Senate seat. He couldn't. He didn't. Republican Mark Kirk won the seat. And the Barack Obama political machine so demonized Roland Burris -- and they were so sure Barack's pet would win the race -- that they demanded Burris step down as soon as a new senator was elected. (Burris wasn't elected, he was appointed by the state's then-governor -- appointed to fill out the remainder of Barack's term.)
Mark Kirk was not pushed on this issue in the campaign. His position -- and he's now sworn in and a member of the Senate -- is that he's listening to the arguments (and has read the review) while he considers what action to take. We can guess what he'll do (a freshman senator most likely does what the party wants) but we don't know. We do know what Roland Burris would have done. If McCain should filibuster, Senator Burris vote would have been very helpful.
Let's deal with another issue. We are, where the past Iraq snapshots said we'd be (go back and look). We are not where HRC or the liars and apologists said we'd be. That we're here now is not due to any psychic ability on my part, it's due to being realistic, paying attention and refusing to engage in hero worship. As we have noted since 2009, this repeal was not a serious effort. In the lame duck session, there's now the impression of a scramble which may or may not be sincere. ("Put us back in charge in 2012 and we'll repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell!" might be the Democratic cry of the next election cycle.) Since those who 'know so much' turned out to be so wrong, let's try one more time to talk about what's being proposed because that's very different from what's been hyped and lied about repeatedly.
If the Defense Authorization passes with the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in it, that doesn't mean 'Open service! Yea! Equality!' What the administration is doing is turning the issue over to the military. That's a huge problem and a huge cop out. What's being done is not Congress attempting to pass a law to end discrimination. They would just be knocking Don't Ask, Don't Tell off the books. That would return us to where we were before. No, that's not enough. Where we were before was nervous military brass in the 1970s seeing LGBT advances -- including within the military -- and the nervous brass becoming more strident to the point that they had a policy against gays serving. That's what led to Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Bill Clinton wanted gays and lesbians to be able to serve openly. He promised that in his 1992 presidential campaign. He was elected and faced huge obstacles -- Colin Powell, Sam Nunn, Republicans in Congress, etc. Most of all he faced a press in the midst of a sexual panic -- filled with leering stories, filled with sexist and homophobic 'reports.' And open service, equality, was not going to happen. The most that could be put forward was Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It was supposed to guarantee that no more sexual witch hunts would be launched by the military. That didn't happen.
All Barack's done -- besides drag his feet -- is advocate (weakly and meekly) for Don't Ask, Don't Tell to be taken off the books. That returns us to where we were before Bill Clinton was president. And without a real measure of equality from Congress or a Supreme Court verdict, there's really nothing to cheer.
The refusal to grasp that has led to a lot of wasted time and a lot of confusion. Why did Barack fight the courts repeatedly when they ruled repeatedly in favor of equality in the services? Because that's not what he and his cronies pushed for. They only pushed for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. There's a world of difference between Congress passing laws that support equality and Congress shirking their responsibilities by tossing aside a law and saying, "It's up to the military to set the policy."
Patrick Murphy had good intentions and worked very hard but he never knew what he was doing. We called him out only when necessary -- such as when he was stating that Ted Kennedy was going to be leading on the issue in the Senate. Patrick Murphy wasn't lying. He was told that was what was going to happen. But by that time, as we noted in real time, Ted wasn't even showing up for his duties and, as we pointed out, Ted was dying. A real effort would have required pairing Patrick Murphy with someone who could steer him through the legislative waters. That wasn't done. He deserves applause for forcing the issue. It's a real shame that House leadership -- including Nancy Pelosi -- knew all along that what was being pushed wasn't enough.
If Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal dies in the lame duck session (as some fear it may), the next move is not propose the same measure. The next move would be to allow the Court to decide or to put forward a law outlawing discrimination. Just taking Don't Ask, Don't Tell off the books really isn't enough. And if you're one of the people who only realized -- after the mid-terms -- that maybe, just maybe, you got hyped and lied to, make up for it by being prepared for the next effort. If a new effort is needed, it needs to be launched on the grounds of equality. No more "Our military is stretched so let some gay guys serve!" That might have seemed brave to some, but it was insulting and we called it out. You fight for equality.
That is an American concept and one that doesn't require a speaking tour. (Those late to the party, Dems couldn't do anything until they launched a speaking tour! That was a cop out as well and as more and more people called that s**t out, you may have noticed, the speaking tour was no more.) Every American understands what equality means. And by starting from a strong stance (equality) as opposed to a begging, whining stance (Patrick Murphy's position and that of, yes, Servicemembers United). You argue for equality and you get equality on the books. Otherwise, LGBT rights become like family planning discussions -- dependent upon a president who supports them because otherwise a global gag order gets imposed. You either put equality on the books (and the Court can put it on the book as well by properly interpreting already existing laws) or what should be rights become whims allowed or denied depending upon who sits in the Oval Office.
The big question as present is whether McCain will filibuster? If today's performance is any indication, the answer is: Yes, if he has to. The witnesses had just finished their opening statements when Levin was noting how many tasks they had today and how many senators wanted to ask questions, so he proposed a round of five minute questions. Immediately, John McCain began insisting, "I object! I object." He said that wasn't enough time. And McCain's been around long enough to know that after every senator had their first round of questions -- and were visible for the cameras -- many would leave (and most did -- later on Scott Brown would get to go well over a time limit -- and without objection from McCain who was present -- due to the fact that so few Committee members were still present for the hearing). Chair Levin slowly went over the basics and added that Gates had to leave early. Even after that, McCain was the personifcation of obstruction.
Ranking Member John McCain: My only response, Mr. Chairman, is that this is obviously a transcendentally important issue and to allow our members five minutes with the Secretary of Defense is simply not adequate to have us have the much needed information that the Secretary of Defense can provide. So all I can do is say you're not giving the members suffiicient time to ask questions which is maybe not the intent but certainly not the effect So maybe we could in the lame duck seession that we're in have another hearing as soon as possible so that all members to get the information that they need to make a very important decision.
At which point, Gates offered to attempt some "rearranging" of his schedule and stay until noon. Even that was not pleasing to McCain. And yet, when he got to his first round of questioning, he found time to grandstand and lecture on WikiLeaks which has nothing to do with Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
As a general rule, Republican Committee Members focused on could it be implemented with an implied should it be? Democrats either played for the camera (Claire McCaskill used her time not to help the LGBT issue but to help herself and give herself footage to push I'm-bi-partisan! mainly by praising Gates and noting she might have had a knee-jerk reaction against him if she'd been in the Senate when he was nominated and blah, blah, blah but Gates calls them as he sees them blah blah and Gates was able to serve two presidents and two parties and still call them the way he saw them. Uh, Claire, no member of a presidential cabinet serves a party. You might want to check your Constitution. As though it was not achievable. After she'd finished her lengthy testament to the greatness of self (Claire needs the stock footage, voters are angry and she's up for re-election in 2012), Claire was pretty much done with the Committee. Democrats either played for the camera (like Claire) or they emphasized some portion of the report. Senator Kay Hagan was a noteable exception.
McCain was openly hostile to Robert Gates -- as he has been since this issue was first raised by the Committee last February. He asked Gates about the fact that combat members of the services were more likely to have objections to serving with openly gay service members. Gates noted that this group was younger and this led to a lecture from McCain, "We send these young people into combat we think they're mature enough to make a decsion on who they want to serve with and the impact on their battle effectiveness, Mr. Secretary." Uh, actually, John McCain, they don't get to decide who they want to serve with. They go where they're assigned.
And the refusal to tackle this issue in terms of equality was a huge mistake. Senator Kay Hagan did tackle it from that standpoint. She has before. Generally speaking, hearings on this issue in the 11th Congress, on this Committee, have found her and ex-Senator Roland Burris stressing this aspect. McCain wants to cast it -- as did Senator Saxby Chambliss -- as some sort of 'extra rights for gays'. Though the public overwhelming supports allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly, when charged discussions take place, polls can change. And when Democrats forget to use the building blocks of democracy -- for example, making your argument from the foundation of equality -- they repeatedly find themselves suddenly standing on shifting sand.
"It's just wrong!" independent Senator Joe Lieberman said of the discrimination going on currently. Democrats could have used a lot more people speaking like Lieberman. They had Hagan who made a point to ask about the integration of the troops -- racial integration -- under President Harry Truman. After Hagan, the strongest Democrat on the Committee -- in terms of statements made during the hearing -- was Ben Nelson who wanted to talk about the ethics of asking people to serve and asking them to hide who they are. This is the argument that goes to equality and democracy. It's a winning argument. Getting lost in the report -- lost in the weeds -- wins nothing.
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