AJC’s Cynthia Tucker reports that Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) told a roundtable of reports this morning that he understood why some gay groups found the new DADT questionnaire offensive, admitting that he had his own doubts about “the content of the survey”:
“I can understand the resentment in the gay community.” Levin pointed out, as many gay activists have, that the survey is unprecedented.
Harry Truman didn’t poll the military when he decided to integrate the Armed Forces in 1948. Nor was there a survey when the Pentagon put women on battle ships in 1978. The Navy recently made a decision to allow women in the close quarters of submarines — again without surveying the male submariners.
“It would be really, really, really unacceptable for people in the military to believe it’s a democracy,” Levin said, adding, “I have my doubts about the content of the survey.”
LGBT groups have condemned the survey’s questions, which ask servicemembers to speculate on the sexuality of their colleagues, as “derogatory and insulting,” leading the Pentagon to strongly defend the survey. Yesterday, Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell told me that the survey was “not designed to be offensive to anyone.” “What it was designed to do was to get us the best sense of how the force feels about this issue so we could make adjustments for implementation,” he said. “The intent here is to get the best understanding of how the force feels so that we can take measures to prepare for implementation. That’s what it’s about.”
TPM’s Christina Bellantoni writes that Levin said that while “It’s a very good idea to get the attitude of the troops on things,” it’s important troops do not think they have “veto power” but rather that they understand they are answering the questions to help implement the repeal of DADT. “A lot depends about how the survey is worded … [the Pentagon must] make sure they understand military leadership made a decision,” he said. “[Military leaders are] asking these questions as a way to help us implement this effectively.”
Yesterday, Morrell insisted that the survey would do just that. The survey “is not in any way intended for us to find potential landmines that would cause us not to proceed with a repeal, but rather is to edify us about the kinds of challenges associated with repeal that would need to be dealt with post-repeal,” he said.
Levin is one of the first lawmakers to publicly criticize the questionnaire.