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)