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February 02, 2010

The GOP vs. the Military
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Last year when President Obama was methodically deciding on the best strategic course of action in Afghanistan, the media and GOP painted it as an Obama vs. the military dynamic. This false assertion hid the fact that the GOP spent nearly all of 2009 playing politics with national security, and was pretty consistent in not supporting the men and women of the military: two filibuster attempts on Defense spending bills; attempts to block funding for military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan; and senatorial holds on spending for Veteran's benefits. In 2010, this pattern of the Republican Party vs. the military continues:

...Obama has spent a year following the guidance of military leaders, and Republicans have spent a year breaking with the judgment of the military establishment.

It's a fascinating dynamic. On everything from civilian trials to Gitmo to torture, we have two distinct groups -- GOP leaders, the Cheneys, Limbaugh, and conservative activists on one side; President Obama, Gen. Petraeus, Secretary Gates, Colin Powell, Adm. Mullen, Adm. Blair, and Gen. Jones on the other....McConnell and his Republicans cohorts are reluctant to admit it, and political insiders have been slow to acknowledge it, but what we're witnessing is exceedingly rare -- the Republican establishment openly rejecting the judgment of the military establishment.On terror trials and detainee policy, it's consistently been the GOP vs. the military.

In fact, Mitch McConnell's rationale for this opposition boils down to "I simply disagree and so do the American people." Well today's announcement for a review and eventual repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, we find another instance where the majority of the GOP will stand in opposition to the military.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen:  “No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens...[It is my personal and professional belief that] “allowing homosexuals to serve openly would be the right thing to do.”

General John Shalikashvili, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, released a statement yesterday through the office of Senator Gillibrand saying: “Don't ask, don't tell" was seen as a useful measure that allowed time to pass while our culture continued to evolve. The question before us now is whether enough time has gone by to give this policy serious reconsideration. I believe that it has.”  

Colin Powell former Chairman JCOS and former Republican Secretary of State has said that the policy should be reviewed. 

51 Retired Generals and Admirals and former Army Secretary: Repeal don’t ask, don’t tell. In a letter to Congress, 52 military leaders recommended that Congress repeal DADT: “We respectfully urge Congress to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Those of us signing this letter have dedicated our lives to defending the rights of our citizens to believe whatever they wish.”

But it's not just current and former military leaders who want to see DADT rolled back, it's also the American people as well as the rank and file in the military who stand in opposition to archaic attitudes of the GOP:

  • Majorities of weekly churchgoers (60 percent), conservatives (58 percent), and Republicans (58 percent) now favor repeal (Gallup, 2009).
  • Seventy-five percent of Americans support gays serving openly - up from just 44 percent in 1993 (ABC News/Washington Post, 2008).
  • 73 percent of military personnel are comfortable with lesbians and gays
  • The younger generations, those who fight America's 21st century wars, largely don't care about whether someone is gay or not-and they do not link job performance with sexual orientation.
  • One in four U.S. troops who served in Afghanistan or Iraq knows a member of their unit who is gay

If Sen. McConnell were to make the same rationale for opposing the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell as he made for opposing civilian terror trials, it would read a bit shorter: "I simply disagree and so do the American people." And "I simply disagree" is exactly where the GOP stands, without any policy rationale, on this and nearly every other issue area, even when the men, women and military leaders who defend our nation stand in opposition.


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There are obvious cultural affinities between the military and the Republicans' traditional image as the party of manly discipline, as opposed to the Democrats' traditional image as the party of maternal indulgence. The military is a naturally conservative constituency, and it's one that votes...

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