Josh Akman, Columnist
Ideology: Democrat | Writing from: Washington, DC
The inability of Congress to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a multi-layered tragedy. It’s sad for the obvious reasons. It’s sad because men and women volunteering in our Armed Services must continue to be faced with an impossible dilemma: lie to the soldiers with whom they serve about who they really are, or be discharged from the military not because of their performance, but because of their sexual orientation. It’s sad that our nation is poised to continue to ask gay soldiers to defend the Constitution of the United States, even though certain parts don’t seem to extend to them. It’s also sad because, if repeal doesn’t happen now, it’s going to be this way for a while. The 111th Congress does not seem anxious to deal with this travesty of a law, especially when there’s so much posturing still to do on the national debt (although they can still find some wiggle room in the deficit to fund tax breaks for millionaires). So, save for a miracle, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell survives. It’s just so sad. The most disappointing part of the failure to repeal DADT, though, hasn’t been discussed too much: This should have been an easy one.
See, the divided state of our political atmosphere has caused multiple casualties: the truth, moderation and the actual solving of most of our nation’s serious problems. But it has another casualty, too: nuance. Despite what the Olbermanns and the Bachmanns and the Graysons and the Palins of the world would have us believe, most of the issues that we’re talking about are incredibly complicated. From nuclear treaties to immigration policy to tax policy to entitlement reform, there is not one right answer. These issues are critical; they are dangerous; they are generation-defining; but they are not easy. Any of these talking heads who tell us that they are easy is lying. Just like Democrats don’t really believe that Republicans want to cut taxes for the rich because Republicans hate poor people, Republicans don’t really believe that Democrats want to extend unemployment benefits because they desire to see a welfare state. That’s just how these things get sold. The problem with all of this is that we are now completely unable, as a nation, to appreciate nuance. If we pretend that most of these issue that we face are easy, and not the intricately complicated problems that they really are, we can’t even begin to solve them. Entitlement reform is complicated; tax reform is complicated; immigration reform is complicated. We would all do well to admit that. It’s in this vein that the failure to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is such a travesty. This one actually is easy!
Currently, there are more than 60 votes in the Senate supporting repeal, possibly as many as 62. That’s a landslide! In a time when 62 senators can hardly come to an agreement on where the restroom is, they all can agree that it’s time we repeal this disaster of a law. That’s what makes the bungling of the issue so maddening; the votes are there. If Congress can’t enact legislation with 62 votes in the Senate, if they can’t do the easy stuff, what hope do we have at solving the hard stuff? A recent Rasmussen poll reported that 70% of the country felt that America was on the wrong track. If Congress can’t do something that is supported by the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and more than 60 Senators, it raises an important question: What the hell are the other 30% thinking?
Hope is not lost, as there is still a path for the repeal of DADT in the lame-duck session. Congressional leaders are now exploring the offer repeal as stand-alone legislation, instead of part of a larger defense bill. Let’s pray that it works. This is the easy stuff. Congress needs to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Only then do we have any chance of fixing the hard stuff.