Don't ask, don't tell, just pander
By Michael M. Bates
Somewhere, Walter Jenkins is smiling.
Mr. Jenkins was at the center of a 1964 White House scandal. A close personal advisor to President Lyndon Johnson for 25 years, he was arrested in the men's room of a Washington YMCA for what in those innocent days was termed disorderly conduct. This wasn't Mr. Jenkins' first encounter with the law. On a previous arrest, he'd been charged as a "pervert."
LBJ didn't want Republicans exploiting the incident. An October 28 United Press International article reported Mr. Johnson claimed former President Eisenhower had "the same type of problems" with one of his aids. The story continued:
"In his comment on the problem, the President said: ‘The only difference is we Democrats felt sorry for him and felt it was a case of sickness or disease. . .'"
Sickness or disease? With thinking like that, LBJ wouldn't have gone over too well at a recent Democratic forum, the first one ever, dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues. LGBT is the politically correct shorthand for this special interest group.
Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel were there. Candidates Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd couldn't make it because of previous commitments to yet other special interests. Biden was busy at a Mississippi Congressional Black Caucus event while Dodd was speechifying before the New Hampshire affiliate of the National Education Association.
Extreme pandering was the order of the day at the candidates' forum. Barack Obama thanked organizers for setting up this "historic moment, not just for the LGBT community, but for America." He pointed out that being a black guy named Barack Obama made him aware of what it's like being on the outside. Obama said he opposes the Defense of Marriage Act and homophobia. He favors a "strong version" of civil unions and modestly conceded he's a "hope-monger."
John Edwards boasted that his universal health care proposal would cover gay couples exactly the same as heterosexuals. He wants to end the "don't ask, don't tell" military policy, backs homosexuals adopting children, and would be very supportive of any staff member wishing to undergo a sex change. He told the LGBT audience: "You're so important. The truth is America owes you a debt of gratitude."
Dennis Kucinich was asked if there is anything the LGBT "community" wants that he doesn't support. The answer was no.
Mike Gravel, like Kucinich, supports same sex marriages: "They can be heterosexual; they can be two lesbians; they can be transgender; they can be two gays. What it is is a commitment of human beings in love, and if there's anything we need in this world, it's more love." Groovy, man.
Bill Richardson started OK, taking credit for appointing gays and lesbians to his gubernatorial cabinet, being the first governor to include folks of the transgendered persuasion in a state hate crimes bill, and calling a special session of the New Mexico legislature to expand domestic partnership. Stumbling on a question about whether homosexuality is a choice or a biological determination, Richardson weakly replied he's not a scientist. He issued a clarifying statement that towed the favored "it's not a choice" viewpoint shortly after his embarrassing gaffe.
Hillary Clinton said she is "a friend of a lot of members of the LGBT community." Challenged for not vehemently enough disagreeing with Joint Chiefs chairman General Peter Pace's contention that homosexual acts are immoral, she quickly moved into full you know mode:
"You know, because my view was that as a chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he had absolutely no right to say what he said. I disagreed with him profoundly. But what was really offensive is that he was in a position of responsibility that had a direct impact on the lives of, you know, hundreds of thousands of these young people in the military. So I went right at him on ‘don't ask, don't tell.' And I, you know – you know, you say these things. You know, somebody sticks a microphone in front of you. And I thought, well, that's - you know, that was pretty good. And my friends started calling me and saying, well, you know, that wasn't very good. So I said, you know, ‘Oh, you're probably right.' So I immediately got the first opportunity I could to, you know, say the whole thing."
We know, we know. We also know that the pertinent legislation (section 654 of title 10, United States Code) signed into law by her husband includes the Congressional finding: "The prohibition against homosexual conduct is a longstanding element of military law that continues to be necessary in the unique circumstances of military service." Moreover, "The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards. . ."
Contrary to what the Democratic candidates want people to believe, merely lifting Bill Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy won't open the military's doors to homosexuals. It'll bar the door. Congress, not the president, has the requisite authority to satisfy the LGBT crowd on this matter. Which it might.
Until then, gay activists can take satisfaction in knowing that today's Democrats don't, as Lyndon Johnson did, think homosexuals have a sickness or disease. They're a formidable, respected, contribution generating special interest welcomed in the coalition of Democratic special interests.
Somewhere, Walter Jenkins is smiling.
This Michael Bates column appeared in the August 16, 2007 Reporter Newspapers.
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