Marc Ambinder jokes that if the Defense Department issues one more directive urging servicemembers to register their opinions about lifting the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy, it would be “on track to record more gay podcasts than Dan Savage.” Indeed, since Secretary of Defense Robert Gates formed a study group to review how best to lift the ban against gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, the service chiefs have repeatedly urged members to file anonymous comments about the regulation change.
Yesterday, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead — who had sent a letter to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) protesting the so-called Murphy compromise — recorded a podcast practically begging Navy members to opine on the change. That gays would cause some awful disruption is, after all, a certainty:
ROUGHEAD: I want to make sure that our sailors in the fleet and their families understand that it is as important as ever for me to hear from them. I encourage you to participate in the Department of Defense review of the subject. Every sailor needs to speak for themselves and military family members need to be heard too. Be honest and speak your own personal beliefs and opinions. …You may also voice your opinions anonymously. …As the process continues our current policies and practices all remain in affect. …
Roughead may be trying to use public opinion — anonymous comments often invite homophobic rants — to invalidate Obama’s decision to overturn the ban, but his insistence on submitting the rights of a minority to an opinion poll triggers some rather uncomfortable historic parallels. As Rep. Susan Davis has explained, had the military adopted the practice in the past, the military would have avoided integrated women or African Americans into the forces. “We’ve had to do a number of things in the military in terms of, you know integrating women, and certainly integrating — racial integration. And I think while it’s good to know about how people care about these things, I think it’s also important that we recognize the validity of the policy itself and I think that’s what the Congress really needs to focus on,” she said. In 1948, for instance, when President Harry Truman desegregated the military, “one month before Truman’s Executive Order, “a Gallup poll showed that 63% of American adults opposed the separation of Blacks and Whites in the military; only 26% supported integration.”
Meanwhile, in what could signify a growing rift among the Chiefs, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm Mike Mullen suggested to a group of soldiers at Fort Bragg that the services will adjust to the presence of openly gay troops. Asked about potential problems of sexual assault, hate crimes, and fraternization, Mullen said that these are disciplinary problems. “We are a disciplined force. We have standards,” Mullen said. Keeping those standards, he said, “is our charge, no matter what happens” regarding the policy on gays.