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Elaine Donnelly A Poor Spokesman For DADT

Posted by Average Gay Joe at 12:50 pm - July 24, 2008.
Filed under: Advocate Watch,Gays In Military,National Politics

I haven’t really had the chance to follow the hearings conducted by the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel concerning the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, banning gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military. From the video clips I’ve seen on You Tube and press reports (e.g. this National Review column), it appears that I’ve been missing some dramatic political theater. I guess part of the reason I haven’t been following this more closely is that the status of DADT will not change this election year and the same tired arguments from the pro-ban side can be overly tedious. I suppose hearings like this one though do help lay the groundwork for eventual repeal, which I hope happens soon. Yet I read today’s column by Dana Milbank and think he makes a good point: pro-ban advocates like Elaine Donnelly hurt their cause more and more each time they open their mouths. From what Milbank and others report, along with Donnelly’s own testimony, I’m somewhat encouraged that the policy’s days are numbered. While Donnelly’s performance yesterday enraged folks like disabled Marine veteran Eric Alva, who opposes the ban, it also helped in “torpedoing her own ship”. I do not know Alva personally but was privileged to meet him at a SLDN event last year. My impression of him is that he is a good man who has sacrificed a lot in service to our country. Donnelly’s inability to show discretion and tact in defending her position was unwise and insulting to veterans like Alva, which perhaps in the long-run will help in repealing this stupid ban.

Perhaps most interesting to me though from Milbank’s column is this exchange between Donnelly and a Republican Congressman, who was very unimpressed with her shoddy performance:

Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) pointed a finger at [retired Navy Capt. Joan] Darrah and glared at Donnelly. “Would you please tell me, Miss Donnelly, why I should give one twit about this woman’s sexual orientation, when it didn’t interfere one bit with her service?”

Donnelly said something about “forced intimacy.”

Shays cut her off. “You’re saying she has no right to serve her country because she happens to have a different sexual orientation than you.” […]

Shays, his voice rising with Yankee indignation, continued to lecture Donnelly: “I think the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy is unpatriotic. I think it’s counterproductive. In fact, I think it is absolutely cruel.”

Donnelly said something about her respect for the service of gay veterans. “How do you respect their service?” Shays demanded. “You want them out.”

Donnelly seemed to have unified the lawmakers — against her. The next questioner was Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), a retired Navy vice admiral. “I couldn’t ask it better than you did,” he told Shays. (Washington Post)

Not bad Congressman, not bad at all.

UPDATE: Pepe Johnson from Integrity in Service has an interesting post composed of notes he took of the hearings.

— John (Average Gay Joe)



  1. Bravo to Chris Shays!

    I never heard of Ms Donnelly or her organization but I am, sadly, very familiar with the vile filth she spewed at the congressional hearing. I repeatedly heard that kind of talk month after month at our county’s Republican Central Committee meetings until I finally chose not to run for re-election as a precinct committeeman.

    As much as I love Colin Powell, I wish he and former senator Sam Nunn and others who forced Bill Clinton to accept DADT had been forced to publicly sit through Ms. Donnelly’s hateful testimony. And then be asked to comment on her testimony.

    It takes a sick mind to devote one’s life to the mission Ms. Donnelly has taken on.

    Comment by Trace Phelps — July 24, 2008 @ 2:56 pm - July 24, 2008

  2. I found a link to the hearings on C-SPAN, if anyone is interested. I could only find a link for Real Player. I have not watched this yet myself. It’s 2 hours and 28 minutes long.

    Hearing on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy

    Comment by NaturallyGay — July 24, 2008 @ 6:21 pm - July 24, 2008

  3. Thanks for posting the article John (Average Gay Joe) and for the links. Thanks also to Naturally Gay for the link to the hearing.

    Let’s hope that DADT is on its way to the ash heap of history. It will happen..the sooner the better.

    Comment by Rocket — July 25, 2008 @ 1:45 am - July 25, 2008

  4. John, I’m puzzled because you seem to refer to DADT as a “ban”. A ban on what? Certainly a ban on gays who *announce* their sexuality in the military, informing their commanders “I am gay”. But not a ban on gays serving. Indeed, DADT legally *ended* America’s historical ban on gays in the military.

    This is not to defend DADT as some great policy. More a plea for accurate language.

    As for Shays and Donnelly: It isn’t clear from what Milbank says that Shays actually got the better of the exchange. It would be interesting to see a transcript. Milbank is clearly not an objectiver reporter.

    To illustrate Milbank’s bias with a small example: he tells us that Donnelly made “an extraordinary exhibition of rage”, when she made a point about transgenders in the military being the next discussion after America allows open gays in the military. Maybe her point was bad, maybe not. But was she “enraged”? I looked at your Youtube reference John. It was a different exchange, with Rep. Patrick Murphy, but if Donnelly showed rage, it wasn’t in that exchange. The handsome and fetching Rep. Murphy quite possibly did display rage. He gradually but steadily raised his voice, misunderstood and talked over the witness (Donnelly), and became visibly agitated. Yet Milbank chose to skip over that, only imputing “rage” to Donnelly – why? On what basis?

    So, taking that (the knowledge that Milbank is one-sided) back to the Donnelly-Shays exchange: Donnelly may have had a reasonable point; we simply can’t know from Milbank, because he simplistically condenses her testimony instead of quoting her. Hypothetically, if she had had a halfway reasonable point – say, that military service does force same-gender servicepeople into intimate situations where gays had better be keeping their sexuality under wraps, for the good and comfort of all – then, hypothetically, Shays, like Murphy, would not be a hero, but just a bully for trying to stuff words into Donnelly’s mouth and prevent her actual point (good or bad) from being heard or understood. Again, we just can’t tell from the one-sided Milbank and would need a transcript.

    I’m all for gays serving openly in the military. My main concern is that I don’t think that talking over witnesses (or practically shouting over them) and treating the other side with disrespect in self-congratulatory, highly biased and one-sided accounts is going to be, or should be, the way to get there.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — July 27, 2008 @ 9:18 pm - July 27, 2008

  5. In other words:

    Donnelly’s inability to show discretion and tact in defending her position was unwise and insulting to veterans like Alva, which perhaps in the long-run will help in repealing this stupid ban.

    *Perhaps.* Against that, we have to set the fact that the committee members were disrespectful, at least in the video I saw. She was trying to answer Congress’ questions – and in the video I saw, they were rude to her, making her fight just to get a word in edgewise. What were they so afraid of? If her arguments are, in fact, faulty or even heinous, then show courtesy and let her talk all the more.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — July 27, 2008 @ 9:46 pm - July 27, 2008

  6. More proof that gays are just ordinary people, and we should let them be “open” in the military, and court-martial anyone who objects to their open behavior. After all, gays are just like straights, except in the privacy of their own bedrooms. Exposing 18 year old farmboys to the following won’t have any effect at all on troop morale, or unit cohesion:

    Comment by Smarty — August 4, 2008 @ 3:25 pm - August 4, 2008

  7. smarty: You’re missing the obvious… the gays are engaging in wide-scale R&D in developing ways to humiliatie Muslims in the most extreme way possible.

    Imagine you’re a sand collector in Libya and you see 20,000 of these gays coming at you.

    That is true terror.

    Comment by Vince P — August 4, 2008 @ 3:45 pm - August 4, 2008

  8. […] would have thought that after Congressmen from both parties handed you your perfectly-coiffed head just three short months ago on Capitol Hill you would be reluctant to attack such a highly-decorated and highly-respected veteran like General […]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Dear Elaine Donnelly… — October 27, 2008 @ 11:21 am - October 27, 2008

  9. […] advocates still need a much better spokesperson for their cause, although as a staunch opponent of this law perhaps I shouldn’t say anything […]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Lt. Dan vs. Elaine Donnelly — October 8, 2009 @ 5:37 pm - October 8, 2009

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