Good news for members of the armed services discharged under the now-repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell policy of the past. Via The Hill:
In a landmark settlement, the Pentagon has agreed to give full back pay to U.S. service members who were discharged due to their sexual orientation under the military's “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The payouts will be granted to service members dismissed from the military under the now-repealed policy on or after November 2004.
“This means so much to those of us who dedicated ourselves to the military, only to be forced out against our will for being who we are,” former Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Collins said in a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit.
Liberals, as the tired conservative slander goes, hate America. This, of course, is nonsense. Liberals simply want to deliver on the national promise of a more perfect union, to shorten the distance, as Bruce Springsteen aptly put it, "between American ideals and American reality."
But if the past three Republican presidential debates are any indicator, it would appear that conservatives hate Americans. Or more precisely, some Americans. As audiences of the faithful booed an active duty U.S. soldier because he is gay and cheered the deaths of executed prisoners and the uninsured alike, the GOP White House hopefuls on stage remained silent. All because, it seems, they had to. Sadly, that complicity is apparently now a requirement to lead a Republican Party in which demonizing gays, minorities, immigrants and Muslims - that is, hating Americans - is increasingly a centerpiece of its politics.
Reading the reactions of thoughtful commentators after the stage emptied, talking with conservative policy types and GOP political operatives later last evening and this morning, we know we're not alone. Most won't express publicly just how horrified--or at least how demoralized--they are...
The e-mails flooding into our inbox during the evening were less guarded. Early on, we received this missive from a bright young conservative: "I'm watching my first GOP debate...and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!" As the evening went on, the craziness receded, and the demoralized comments we received stressed the mediocrity of the field rather than its wackiness.
But Kristol's discomfort was with his party's messengers, not its message. And for years, that message has been unchanged. On this Republican Animal Farm, some Americans are more equal than others.
That was clear during the 2008 election. Before Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC) said - and then denied saying - "liberals hate real Americans," the sound bite was firmly established as a GOP talking point. A few days before, McCain spokeswoman Nancy Pfotenhauer explained that northern Virginia was not the "real Virginia." GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin amplified on the point during an event in North Carolina:
"We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation."
To be sure, the Republicans' real Americans aren't Muslims. Long before Mitt Romney and Herman Cain first announced they would not appoint Muslim Americans to their cabinet, Republican leaders and their amen corner were calling for their profiling, internment and worse.
I am writing this at 9:05 PM PDT on September 19th. Five minutes earlier, the Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal was effective (Midnight EDT), and there can be no more discrimination in our armed forces against people for their sexual orientation.
It took nearly a year for the President's plan to jell. And it would be another painful year before the winning votes on Capitol Hill. And after that, another seven months would pass before Jeh Johnson would hand-deliver the signed Gates and Mullen certification to the White House for the President's signature and transmitted to Capitol Hill. All in all, not that long for a successful legislative and military operation, but inordinately protracted for advocates and especially long for gay and lesbian service members being discharged every day under DADT and for those serving in silence.
And make no mistake. The President directed his forces with precision, methodically insisting all options be examined and re-examined. He realized almost from the beginning that success would depend upon the military, that he would need Gates and Mullen and his senior commanders and the troops with him to bring about this change. And he also knew that would take time. He was determined not to be rushed. The last time this was rushed without a plan and military support the results had been disastrous. He would not make that mistake.
Indeed. He didn't make that mistake, and today that horrible, discriminatory, brutal policy is gone. There's still work to be done with DOMA and treatment of transgendered individuals. But today represents real, tangible progress.
There are still issues concerning benefits that have nothing to do with the legacy of DADT and everything to do with DOMA, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. For instance, because of DOMA, the surviving same-sex spouse of a service member is out of luck in receiving the same considerations a surviving straight spouse. You better believe there are plans in the works to right this wrong.
Greg Sargent nailed the larger significance of the demise of DADT in a post earlier this afternoon. “It was an extremely hard-fought win — a massive victory for common sense and decency over bigotry and legalized discrimination,” he wrote. “At a difficult moment, it stands as a sorely needed reminder that progress remains possible. Let’s not forget it.”
To those who served in silence: Thank you for your service, your sacrifice, and your patience. Welcome to the light.
At last, the DADT repeal certifications have been received from all branches of the military and President Obama has notified Congress that requirements for repeal have been met. As of September 20th, DADT will be no more.
Today, in accordance with this law, I signed the certification that will end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” once and for all. The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also have certified that the military is ready for the repeal. Sixty days from now, on September 20th, the repeal will be complete and gay men and women will be able to serve their country openly.
[Note: First an appearance from Lawrence O'Donnell's The Last Word on this topic, below my weekly column at AJE.]
What does he want? Revenge. For what? Being born.
This is the way famous gunslinger Doc Holliday answers equally famous lawman and good friend Wyatt Earp’s inquiry - in their depiction in the movie Tombstone - into why their sworn enemy, Johnny Ringo, is such a misanthrope.
Sadly, this description would be equally accurate in explaining the actions of another Arizona transplant filled with endless rage: Senator John McCain.
I first encountered the seething side of McCain when I was writing my 2008 book, The Real McCain, which was critical of him while pointing out a then-controversial fact, one no longer in dispute among those who lionized him back then: Namely, that the Led Zeppelin-groupie relationship he then enjoyed with many in the media was based on a faulty premise.
John McCain was not a maverick (which he has since admitted after long identifying with the title), but a man driven by a need to fight. To fight for his own redemption, to fight with those who dared disagree with him, and most particularly, to fight with anyone who had delivered him a perceived humiliation of any sort. Think Yosemite Sam on a bender, or Vladimir Putin in those half-naked martial arts pictures.
Sure, McCain was also motivated by the very same political expediency which drives too many politicos, as well as coveting an appearance on the Sunday morning talk circuit, the way an ambitious twenty-something blonde does meeting Edward Pattinson, or marrying Hugh Hefner.
But the driving force for McCain has been pure vitriol and spite. When I first pointed out this inconvenient truth in my book -- that many Republicans, including some willing to go on the record, were sure McCain was motivated by demons and not decency -- I was criticized or dismissed in many quarters. Yet, it was obvious to me back then that his battles with fellow Republicans and Democrats had become personal, crusades for the eternally perturbed Abe Simpson stand-in.
I broke two stories in my book that spoke to McCain’s temperament, first that he had physically assaulted a member of his own party after taunting him (Republican Representative Rick Renzi), and second, that he had called his wife a very not-safe-for-work term of non-endearment. In perhaps an emblematic McCain moment, during a policy meeting with a fellow Republican, McCain “called the guy a ‘sh—head.’ The senator demanded an apology. McCain stood up and said, ‘I apologize, but you’re still a sh—head.’”
There’s a reason the dude was nicknamed “McNasty” in high school.
So when others still saw McCain’s breaking from President Bush on taxes, healthcare, the environment and gun control in the early 2000s as a sign of “independence,” I tried to point out what I had learned: He was just doing it because he hated Bush for beating him in the primaries. And when others saw his loss to then-Senator Barack Obama and thought he’d work with Obama to display his maverickyness once Obama was sworn in, I warned that in all likelihood we’d see McCain once again do his best Judge Elihu Smails impression.
But even I couldn’t have expected how truly ridiculous he’s become. As Deputy Political Director Michael McMurray of NBC News pointed out in a tweet just before Christmas, outside of Afghanistan, “the AZ senator didn't support any major Obama WH policy in '09-'10.” In fact, it has been much worse than that.
You can tell that all these reporters for right-wing propaganda organs like the Media Research Center spend waaaay too much time watching Fox News and their army of would-be ambush journalists. Because they often try to imitate their betters only to discover that it can seriously backfire on them.
Especially when the intended victim is a seriously smart person like Barney Frank.
Apparently feeling confident (and sufficiently homophobic), CNS decided to target Rep. Barney Frank with a question about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – specifically, whether he thought gay and straight soldiers should shower together. This was based on a statement calling for a ban on separate showers from the Pentagon’s report on the impact of repealing DADT that CNS had previously singled out.
Frank saw this coming from a mile away. As CNS reporter Nicholas Ballasy slowly got out the words “shower with homosexuals,” Frank let out an exaggerated gasp and responded, “What do you think happens in gyms all over America?” After calling it a “silly issue,” Frank added, “What do you think goes wrong with people showering with homosexuals? Do you think it’s the spray makes it catching? ... We don’t get ourselves dry-cleaned.”
Frank then turned the tables on his interviewer by quizzing Ballasy: “I know you’re looking for some way to kind of discredit the policy. Do you think that gyms should have separate showers for gay and straight people? I’m asking you the question because that’s the logic of what you’re telling me. You seem to think that there’s something extraordinary about gay men showering together. Do you think gyms should have separate showers for gay people and straight people?” Ballasy wouldn’t answer, insisting that he was “just quoting the recommendation.” Frank responded: “Don’t be disingenuous. You’re quoting those you think may cause us some problems. You’re entitled to do that, but you shouldn’t hide behind your views.” Frank again asked the question of Ballasy, who again wouldn’t answer, trying to change the subject: “So that’s the question you would pose to people who have an issue with that part of the report, the recommendation?” Frank made his point one more time, and that’s where the CNS ends the video.
As is often the case with Barney Frank, it is a delightfully thorough humiliation.
I dunno about you, but my initial instinctive sense of John McCain, even when he was giving George W. Bush heartburn on the campaign trail back in 2000, was that he really was a world-class phony. That whole "maverick" schtick was so transparently a cover for opportunism that he always had me counting my spoons, if you know what I mean.
This past week, he put his utter phoniness -- and the really vicious streak that it has always hid -- out there for the whole world to see, leading the Republican charge against Don't Ask Don't Tell in a truly ugly fashion. But every bit as phony, and significant, was his vocal opposition to the DREAM Act -- a bill he had once vocally championed in the Senate and on the campaign trail. Because of McCain, only a tiny handful of Republicans were willing to vote for what had once been a consummately Republican immigration bill.
If John McCain gets any more hostile toward his Senate colleagues, they might consider having him go through the metal detector before he enters the Capitol.
Saturday's debate on the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was only half an hour old when the Arizona Republican burst onto the floor from the cloakroom, hiked up his pants and stalked over to his friend Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Ignoring Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who had the floor, McCain hectored the men noisily for a few moments, waving his arms for emphasis.
When McCain finally stormed off, Durbin shook his head in exasperation and Lieberman smiled. A minute later, McCain returned -- he had apparently remembered another element of his grievance -- and resumed his harangue.
When we look back at the apartheid-loving segregationists of the 1950s and 1960s, most decent people see racists and misguided monsters. Yesterday, it seemed as if McCain decided, perhaps deliberately, that he wanted to be that guy for the 21st century. Why? I obviously can't read the conservative senator's mind, but it seemed to have something to with (a) his intense disgust for President Obama and anything he wants; and (b) his revulsion towards gay people.
... This isn't another "Whatever happened to the old McCain?" piece, which we've all seen too many times in recent years. Rather, this is to suggest McCain has done more than make the transition from "maverick" to petulant right-winger. Yesterday, the man waving his arms on the Senate floor was a misanthropic hack who's abandoned basic decency, and trashed any hopes he might have had about a respectable legacy.
Indeed, McCain has now secured a kind of legacy for himself.
Fifty years from now, Americans will look back on McCain as that kind of politician too -- not just for his vile efforts to defend DADT, but for his utter betrayal of his onetime supporters among the Latino community by coming out against the DREAM Act.
As you can see from the video atop this post, even on the campaign trail, McCain flip-flopped all over the place, telling some right-wing bloggers in 2007 that he now opposed the DREAM -- even though he had cosponsored versions of it in 2003, 2005, and 2007. In 2008, before a crowd of Latinos, he said he supported the act. Later, on the campaign trail, he had an Arizona backyard barbecue with some DREAM Act proponents, and as you can see he was very warm about helping them. He expressed similar sentiments on the campaign trail in Florida in 2008, when he met with several DREAM Act students, including Gaby Pacheco.
U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe said Wednesday she would support the repeal of the military policy that prevents gays from serving openly. The announcement came as the U.S. House of Representatives voted on repealing the policy, known as 'don't ask, don't tell.'
“After careful analysis of the comprehensive report compiled by the Department of Defense and thorough consideration of the testimony provided by the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the service chiefs, I support repeal of the 'don’t ask, don’t tell' law,” Snowe said in a statement. U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., revived repeal efforts by sponsoring a stand-alone bill minutes after a Senate vote on a larger bill that contained the provision failed last week.
There's great momentum finally behind repealing DADT in Congress after the HOUSE just passed Murphy's standalone bill that seems pretty real. If Snowe and Collins do carry out their plans then it could actually get done.
Snowe was among several theoretical supporters of repeal who said she voted against cloture because of procedural issues: Sens. Scott Brown (R-MA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) objected to the time allotted to debate the underlying bill; and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said that the timing for repeal was, in his view, not quite right.
The time to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has come. Already, two dozen other nations, including Israel and Great Britain, allow their troops to serve openly with no detriment to unit cohesion. As an Army veteran of the Iraq War, I’m insulted by those who claim that our troops are somehow less professional or mission-capable than the troops of these foreign nations. I’m proud to stand with the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the majority of servicemembers and the American public who all support repeal of this discriminatory policy that harms our national security and military readiness.
Leader Hoyer joined the bill as the lead co-sponsor...read on
In the wake of the death of the legislation that would have put an end to Don't Ask Don't Tell in the military, Sen Joe Lieberman, D - CT., and Susan Collins, R - ME., are putting together a stand-alone measure to address the discriminating military policy, and majority leader Sen. Harry Reif, D - NV., has promised to get it to the floor for a vote during this session of Congress.
Lieberman tweeted moments ago, "Senator Reid told me he will bring our free-standing DADT repeal up for a vote before end of session. ... he will 'Rule 14' the free-standing DADT repeal so it skips cmte (committee) and can come directly to the Senate floor."
That’s little changed from polls over the two years, but represents the highest level of support in a Post-ABC poll. The support also cuts across partisan and ideological lines, with majorities of Democrats, Republicans, independents, liberals, con
servatives and white evangelical Protestants in favor of homosexuals’ serving openly.
The bill as a whole contains numerous other military priorities that the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman are all hoping Congress will pass before the end of the year. They include:
-Expanding the number of DoD mental health providers. There is a chronic shortage of mental health providers in the military. With rates of mental health injuries and suicide rising higher every month, the DoD is in desperate need of providers to help service members identify and combat invisible wounds. (Senate §703)
-Eradicating Military Sexual Trauma. NDAA contains 29 recommendations of the Joint Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military, including modernizing the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the creation of a sexual assault reporting hot line. (House §1601-1664)
-DoD/VA record sharing. NDAA would change HIPAA to allow records to migrate between the DoD and the VA. (Senate §715, House §532)
-Military pay raise and bonuses. NDAA provides a 1.9% pay increase for all service members and the extension of a host of recruitment and retention bonuses set to expire. (House §601)
-Improving military health. Authorizes $30.9 billion for the Defense Health Program and TRICARE coverage for eligible dependents up to age 26. [Added by me]
What’s happening here is that the very same Republicans who were blasting Democrats for voting against military funding to protest the Iraq war are now using their objection to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell — which the majority of the military actually supports — to obstruct and delay the above benefits and pay increases. In fact, they’re even prioritizing extending tax cuts for the richest Americans to the provisions in the defense bill. And, they’re somehow getting away with it all.
Now I know it doesn't surprise any C&L viewer that Republicans would cynically ignore what's best for our national defense in order to impose their own socially conservative views on the majority of Americans. But it's important to let the greater public know that the Republicans really don't care about national security as much as they say they do. And yes, this defense budget is bloated and needs to be trimmed, ideally by pulling our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2011, but highjacking the appropriations process is only going to make it harder to do that. But then again, the Repubs will be happy if our troops continue to die in the Middle East for the next five, ten, twenty years, just as long as there are no iccky gays in the military.