Alex Blaze

With friends like these, who needs Republicans

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 18, 2008 9:06 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Don't Ask Don't Tell, Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Edwards, Nevada, Solomon Amendment

At the Nevada debate this past Tuesday, all three top Democrats expressed support for extending the Solomon Amendment, a law created and expanded to keep recruiters on campuses that have sexual orientation inclusive anti-discrimination policies.

Not that it's all that surprising - no one should really expect a presidential candidate to say that she's going to undermine military recruitment efforts. And the rhetoric around DADT repeal has generally focused on the military end of the deal - the military is losing necessary linguists, the military is wasting money by replacing qualified soldier, military cohesion wouldn't be hurt by gays in the military. And, oh, yeah, it would make the lives of those gays and lesbians in the military better too.

(Not saying that the Solomon Amendment is good, but I am saying that the rhetoric those who oppose DADT use to advocate repeal supports the Solomon Amendment. If we're not getting enough qualified people in the military, so then why should we further hamstring recruiting efforts?)

But what is rather annoying is the way the question was framed as a class issue instead of a gay one:

Senator Clinton, I’ll start with you. The volunteer Army, many believe, disproportionate in terms of poor and minority who participate in our armed forces.

There’s a federal statute on the books which says that, if a college or university does not provide space for military recruiters or provide a ROTC program for its students, it can lose its federal funding.

Will you vigorously enforce that statute?

Ugh. First, let's start with the idea that the Solomon Amendment will do anything to change the disproportionate number of poor people who enlist. It's only a few schools that are protesting, those students have many other options besides joining the military (something military recruiters know and part of why they prefer to recruit in poorer neighborhoods), and if those students really do want to join, nothing's stopping them.

Oh, and people who graduate from college (especially the schools that tried to buck the Solomon Amendment) become officers and end up in the rich/powerful part of the military's internal hierarchy.

But, more importantly, this portrays the schools that are trying to reject military recruiters as doing it for no reason other than to protect those impressionable, blue-blooded kids who go there from military service, when in fact the biggest opposition to the amendment and the only Supreme Court challenge to the law was based on DADT.

This is something that I suspect Obama, Clinton, and Edwards all know. They all said that they'd enforce the amendment.

And we were the elephant in the room during their answers. Clinton responded with GI Bill, Support the Troops, and national service program; Obama spoke too many rural people in the military, expanding the military, and a national service program; Edwards talked about supporting the troops, helping with post-military employment, and veterans' health care. Then Obama rebutted with Walter Reed.

Of course, none of them is going to talk about the gays if they don't have to. And Tim Russert framed the question in such a way that they weren't forced to.

But it would have been nice to hear what the candidates had to say on that aspect of the amendment, to get them on record saying that they'd do something about it (or not), especially since it's been ignored this season (I notice our HRC friends didn't talk about it at their forum).

It'd be one thing if this were an isolated instance, but taken into account with Obama and that homophobic preacher, his lame responses, Edwards not allowing press to come with him on his visit to the LA GLCC, the mainstream Democratic Party blaming us for Kerry's loss in 2004, this answer shows that any queer out there supporting one of these three candidates in the primaries based on LGBT issues is going to be sorely disappointed.

GLBT people, honestly, have lost their ability to want, to want deeply and to want expansively. We've created these lists of "our" issues that most Americans support (besides marriage), short and not really all that controversial.

And while the CW is that rank-and-file Radical Homosexual Activists are a liability to the Democratic Party, it's getting harder and harder to see exactly how anything they're asking for would really put that party in danger as the public gets comfortable with with us having more and as we get comfortable with asking for less.

And yet, we get a gay question asked at a presidential debate and the candidates all dancing around the gay issue. I guess not that much actually has changed.


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There's much more to Russert's question - and the candidates' responses - than is posted here.

First, the Solomon Amendment has a long history that goes beyond "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." While it's true that, yes, the military's gay ban has been the primary force behind Solomon in recent years, the Amendment was also a result of the Vietnam War, for example, when pacifism was widespread on campuses and universities attemped to block recruiters as part of an anti-war statement. Indeed, colleges have attempted, throughout recent history, to keep recruiters off-campus because of anti-war sentiment, the military's treatment of women AND because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," among other reasons.

When you look at the historical context of the Amendment, Russert's question of "class" isn't as far off the mark as this post makes it seem.

Nor are the candidates' responses. Here's why:

All 3 of the candidates in the Nevada debate - Clinton, Edwards and Obama - support repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." So, if you work on the premise that Solomon is based primarily (in today's climate) on the gay ban, then if the next commander-in-chief is successful in repealing the law, the underlying controversy becomes a moot point.

The truth is that there are many LGBT college students who would be interested in military careers. And they should be able to take advantage of military job opportunities, regardless of their sexual orientation. By repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," we accomplish several important things:

1. LGBT Americans can serve openly in the armed forces;

2. The military will be in compliance with the non-discrimination policies of colleges & universities (the main protest of the anti-Solomon movement correctly being that schools should not have to abandon their non-discrimination policies solely for the military);

and

3. The current Solomon controversy is resolved.

We should support colleges & universities that want to uphold their non-discrimination policies. And we should also support a military where America's best and brightest - regardless of sexual orientation - have an opportunity to serve.

The easiest way to accomplish those objectives - and render Solomon a non-issue - is to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- a position all 3 Democratic candidates fully support.

(For more on the topic, see this excellent New York Times article on Solomon and the gay ban.)

Michael Bedwell | January 18, 2008 2:38 PM

As often as I've been accused of "seeing a homophobe under every bed," I am led to disagree with your conclusions from mind reading the Dem 3 in this instance, though the ultimate interpretation is not necessarily better.

I believe that it wasn't that they were purposely ignoring the gay connection but are genuinely unaware of it. Many of us easily forget how many complex issues are involved in running a nation of our size, and, it follows, how candidates'/office holders' knowledge and "command," in at least an intellectual discussion sense, of them is dependent upon those around them.

We have repeatedly seen how often even candidates most would agree are well-intentioned [Bill Richardson comes to mind] have "stepped in it" over various gay issues [and others, in fact] because they haven't been adequately prepped by those who do know. And sometimes they say the right things from a gay equality standpoint but are wrong in practical terms. Only the most cynical would insist that John Edwards isn't sincere about wanting to fully open the military to out gays, yet he stumbled during the LOGO forum when he said he thought a President could unilaterally end DADT [an act of Congress, it will apparently need Congress to redress], and forgot that Colin Powell, as Bill Clinton's Chairman of the Joint Chief's of Staff was the viper in that Adminstration's nest, allegedly threatening to resign if all limits to gay service were eliminated. Edward's procedural error was all the more surprising given that his highest profile out gay supporter is David Mixner who became bitterly estranged from his old friends, the Clintons, after Bill lost the battle to Powell, et al.

In a campaign in which a wider array of gay-related issues have repeatedly been discussed than ever before, one must fault the candidates for not demanding of their advisors better, deeper information, though their resulting choices might not always be those common sense would expect. For example, Obama can be forgiven not knowing of the homohating baggage Donnie McClurkin would bring with him, but once informed AT LENGTH, and begged by a variety of gay advocates, many of them black, to disinvite McClurkin, he refused, smilefucking us all the way. Similarly, his grandstanding on a functionally meaningless repeal of Section 2 of DOMA while still supporting "state's rights" is all on him.

But returning to the original issue, relatively shallow knowledge of our issues can be seen, in part, as being indicative of less passion for them than we'd like [and deserve], but that does not change the fact that their opponents have collectively, actively dismissed and/or demonized us entirely.

Quick subpoint: thought the Solomon Amendment relates only to "higher education," an emotionally bloody battle continues in San Francisco over a movement to eliminate Junior ROTC from the public school system, in part because of DADT. And, at that level, a very real conflict exists between the moral positions of some and the career opportunities of minorities and the poor.

It's not at all surprising to me, especially given the closeness to Super-Duper Tuesday, that the Big Three are avoiding mention of all things LGBT. In fact, Obama is the only one of the three I'm aware of who has addessed LGBT issues at all without being directly questioned.

It also doesn't surprise me that none of them are willing to advocate repeal of the Solomon Amendment. All are well aware that our military is in desperate need of new blood, and none of them are willing to risk being cast as supporting the repeal of a law that is seen as helping to strengthen our military.

Oooooh... Thanks for responding, Steve.

A few more questions for you:

1. If one of these three makes it to the White House and is unsuccessful at repealing DADT, what should they do regarding Solomon?

2. Is there any likely reason that a president wouldn't enforce Solomon other than DADT?

3. Do you think it's a good idea to punish schools by stripping them of federal funding if they don't allow recruiters on campus for any reason?

You know im all in favor of any one who is medicaly and mentaly fit being allowed to join the military.

But the big 3 still are not realy comfy around the GLBT issues they love to talk around them but not directly at them at least with the Republicans you know where you stand from the momment you ask them about GLBT issues.Which usaly is a big old blank stare and next question please response.BTW this is real fun when its coming from another Republican asking abut these issues!To see the look of horror on there faces.
Pity im in a backwater and cant ask anyone but local candidates about the issues ah the joy of being in a Mega Tuesday state.

Bill Perdue | January 18, 2008 5:08 PM

DADT is an expression of the bigotry embedded in the politics of the ruling parties and the military brass and has to be opposed on that basis alone. It designates us an inferior class of citizens, emboldens the dangerous homobigotry of the military brass and encourages discrimination and violence. DADT is a Democratic Party initiative supported by Republicans. The Democrats have controlled Congress since 2006 and they don’t have the votes in their own party to repeal it.

The ruling parties are currently perusing a military and diplomatic policy that encompasses imperial wars to acquire the resources of other nations. Using a propaganda model earlier utilized by the Nazi’s to justify their attacks on Czechoslovakia, Poland, the USSR etc. the Bush Administration lied about Hussein’s regime to make a grab for Iraqi oil. The US Senate has demanded that Iraq surrender its petroleum resources to US companies and divide themselves into three national entities to make it easier for the US to establish control.

They plan on being in the region indefinitely and are building an enormous infrastructure of state of the art military bases and a 36 building embassy in Baghdad. Bush and Clinton want to expand the war into Iran using nukes. Obama wants to attack Pakistan, a particularly demented idea since they DO have nukes and can bite back. 650,000 plus Iraqis have murdered as a result of Bush’s invasion and as of Friday, January 18, 2008 3,926 GI’s have been killed and 28,770 have been wounded, 12,918 of them seriously.

Opposition to DADT should be limited to repealing it. We should NOT encourage GLBT folk to enter the military or make a career of it and we should oppose their wars of resource piracy. If they broaden the war we should oppose reintroduction of the draft. We should support the idea of the total and immediate withdrawal of US forces from the Middle East. We should look for allies among the civilian antiwar movement and US military personnel opposed to the war.

Steve Ralls Steve Ralls | January 18, 2008 7:14 PM

Alex,

SLDN did file an amicus brief in support of the FAIR Coalition when they appealed the Solomon Amendment to the Supreme Court. Certainly, the military should't get a 'pass' on complying with non-discrimination policies at schools. No other employer that discriminates against LGBT people would be allowed to recruit, and universities should be allowed to enforce their policy.

Solomon, however, would be even more difficult to get rid of than "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The high court has ruled, in a 9-0 decision, that the law is constitutional. And whenever Congress has taken a vote on Solomon (and they do so quite often, for some reason), the House can barely muster 60 votes against it. For all intents and purposes, Solomon is settled law, and is here to stay. Which is why focusing on repeal of the military's ban (with 140 co-sponsors and counting in favor) makes more sense.

To answer your questions:

1. If a Democratic president doesn't have the votes in Congress to repeal DA, DT, they'll surely not have the votes to get rid of Solomon. The commander-in-chief cannot simply 'ignore' Congressional law (present administration exempted, perhaps), and they would likely cause a political firestorm if they refused to implement Solomon. The next president's energies would be far better spent building consensus in Congress around getting rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," than in trying to defeat Solomon.

2. As mentioned above, it's unlikely that a new administration - Democratic or Republican - would try to circumvent Solomon. There's no doubt that DA, DT is the current underlying reason for the Solomon discussion. But given the solid block of support in Congress, again, its not likely to go anywhere anytime soon.

3. Under current law, schools have to make their own decisions about whether to risk losing funding. Vermont Law School, for example, voluntarily gives up its federal funding rather than allow recruiters on campus. They, however, receive a relatively small amount of funding compared, to, say, Harvard, which receives extraordinary federal funding for their medical school, among others. (A university that doesn't allow recruiters loses funding for ALL of its schools, not just the particular campus where recruiters are not allowed.) No school should be faced with the decision to abandon their non-discrimination policy or allow recruiters, but present law doesn't give them much of a choice.

I'm certainly not arguing that Solomon is a GOOD law, but it's pretty iron-clad in terms of support. That's why I continually "beat the drum" about focusing on DA, DT instead. That's where we'll be far more successful, and that's where we'll put the underlying controversy about Solomon to rest at last. :-)

Here are the arguments made for returning ROTC to Columbia University during the 2002-2005 student/alumni/faculty ROTC campaign: http://www.advocatesforrotc.org/columbia/case/index.html

My letter explaining my position as a leader of the movement:
http://www.advocatesforrotc.org/columbia/chen.html

Certainly, advocating for military recruitment in colleges is not an anti-gay position - you can be, as I am, pro-military and anti-DADT. At the same time, a program with an unequal admission standard is not automatically incompatible with universities, eg, Columbia hosts religious groups, gender-divided sports teams, fraternities and sororities, and even a famous womens college.

A university undermines its ability to advocate against exclusion and discrimination in another organization by itself practicing and endorsing exclusion and discrimination of that organization and the community of people therein.

As a leader of a campus ROTC movement, I support full access to universities by military recruiters, especially officer programs. And, I support the end of laws and policies that deter openly gay Americans from the honor of military service.

Eric, please explain to us how honor is accrued by the wholesale, wanton murder of 650,000 Iraqis’ in a war whose only purpose is to steal their oil. Explain the honor of serving with Blackwaters’ * mercenary gangsters, of ‘shock and awe’ air and missile attacks against civilians, or the honor of being in a military that trains and arms the religious jihadists who campaign to kill Iraqi gays and lesbians.

Explain the honor of killing over a million Vietnamese in an unprovoked war of aggression and the honor of numberless My Lai’s.

It was an honor to fight in the Continental Army for Independence and in the Union Army to save the Republic and crush slavery. Iraq is different. It’s a shameful and unprovoked war of aggression to steal oil. It should be settled by International War Crimes Tribunal.

In Iraq GI’s are getting more than angry about the mauling they’re taking and the deaths and causalities they suffer to make the world safe for Texaco. Instead of the Army’s dishonorable ‘search and destroy’ operations they pursue an honorable ‘search and avoid’ tactic. They’re awareness is like that of GI’s in the Vietnam war when they’d lost all faith in the ‘mission’ and began avoiding combat. It’s a widespread, silent mood of insubordination and defiance that the brass prefers to ignore.

I’m afraid. Eric, that the ‘honor’ you speak of is not so different from the ‘honor’ or the WWII Wehrmacht. This is to say Eric, that there’s no honor at all. Just murder.

* In January 2008 Marshall Adame, a Democrat running for Congress in North Carolina's 3rd District, took part in a live question-and-answer forum where he was asked a question about Blackwater. Adame who had served as a State Department official in Iraq recounted; "I saw them shoot people, I saw them crash into cars while I was their passenger. There was absolutely no reason, no provocation whatsoever." He then stated "There is no place in the American force structure, or in American culture for mercenaries, they are guns for hire; No more, no less." (Wikipedia)

http://www.alternet.org/asoldierspeaks/69915/

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=39788