To explain why I found former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s response to the question on gays in the military so bizarre, let me fisk the entire comment and offer a conclusion at the end of the post. First, the question from Stephen Hill, a serviceman deployed in Iraq:
In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was, because I’m a gay soldier, and I didn’t want to lose my job.
My question is, under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?
And the candidate’s response:
Yeah, I — I would say, any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. And the fact that they’re making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to — to —
I chose to break the former Senator’s comment here because up until this point, I agree with everything he is saying. Our soldiers should not be engaging in sexual activity while on duty. And the military shouldn’t give special privileges to any group.
To be sure, it’s bizarre that the Senator begins his response as he has, saying sexual activity has no place in the military. (He’s right about that.) Perhaps, he believes that if gay people serve, they would necessarily engage in sexual activity with their fellow soldiers.
and removing “don’t ask/don’t tell” I think tries to inject social policy into the military.
Well, he does quality his remarks with an “I think,” but his thought is at odds with the meaning of repeal. Here he makes a huge leap from the first part of his response. Instead of injecting social policy, however, repeal (of DADT) merely removes a provision preventing certain individuals who belong to a certain group from serving in the military in the same manner as individuals who don’t belong to that group. Perhaps, he contends the policy serves to promote social acceptance of homosexuality. In reality, it prevents the military from discriminating against individuals otherwise qualified to serve.
And the military’s job is to do one thing, and that is to defend our country.
We need to give the military, which is all-volunteer, the ability to do so in a way that is most efficient at protecting our men and women in uniform.
No wonder these words received applause. He’s right again.
And I believe this undermines that ability.
Perhaps he really does believe repeal of DADT undermines that ability, but he hasn’t provided any evidence to suggest as much. He doesn’t cite any study nor cite the experience of any commanders who found their effectiveness diminished by the presence of gay troops.
Moderate Megyn Kelly then followed up with another question:
So what — what — what would you do with soldiers like Stephen Hill? I mean, he’s — now he’s out. He’s — you know, you saw his face on camera. When he first submitted this video to us, it was without his face on camera. Now he’s out. So what would you do as president?
Do hope those who fault FoxNews will note that a FoxNews anchor asked that great question. In his reply, Santorum acknowledges how he defines repeal*:
I think it’s — it’s — it’s — look, what we’re doing is playing social experimentation with — with our military right now. And that’s tragic.
I would — I would just say that, going forward, we would — we would reinstitute that policy, if Rick Santorum was president, period.
That policy would be reinstituted. And as far as people who are in — in — I would not throw them out, because that would be unfair to them because of the policy of this administration, but we would move forward in — in conformity with what was happening in the past, which was, sex is not an issue. It is — it should not be an issue. Leave it alone, keep it — keep it to yourself, whether you’re a heterosexual or a homosexual.
Here in his conclusion, Santorum all but admits just how unnecessary the policy (DADT) was.
He’d keep gay soldiers in because it “would be unfair” to remove them? Wait, I thought this wasn’t supposed to be about fairness, but about military effectiveness. In allowing an openly gay soldier to serve, once grandfathered in by DADT repeal, the one-time Senator is acknowledging that an individual’s sexuality is irrelevant to his ability to serve. (Or that he places fairness over military effectiveness. And a man holding such a view is not qualified to serve as Commander in Chief of the U.S. armed forces.)
Santorum is at once saying that sexuality should be irrelevant to one’s service, while insisting that certain individuals’ sexuality disqualify them from service. And if he believes heterosexuals should also keep their sexuality to themselves, why then is he not insisting on a DADT policy that applies to all servicemembers, that is, that any soldier could be dismissed if he talks about his sexuality.
The policy proved unworkable because of the expansive definition of the second aspect of DADT, the “Don’t Tell” part. Gay soldiers who were discreet while on base — or otherwise on duty — could face expulsion for a private e-mail or communication conducted when they were on leave.
I agree with Santorum’s overall sentiment, but he makes a huge leap from his concerns about an effective military to his defense of the recently repealed policy. The response is bizarre because he defends the Clintonian policy not by citing evidence, but by telling us what he thinks, what he believes.
*His position is almost identical to that of Barney Frank who saw repeal as necessary to promote social change. Others, including yours truly, saw repeal in terms of military effectiveness, preventing politicians from depriving the military of qualified individuals willing and eager to serve.