Good news this Sunday morning — the Senate finally overturned Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, meaning it only took 234 years for the United States to begin the process of officially recognizing gays as citizens. In all seriousness it’s a great thing, but the amount of time and effort it took to get such an obvious thing done borders on comedy.
A former Hill staffer friend recently told me that basically two things were holding up Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. One was that a minority of legislators in Bible-Belt states weren’t going to sign off on the repeal no matter what. The other was that there was some internal opposition in the government not on moral grounds but on financial grounds — apparently there were some who weren’t stoked about the future prospect of paying benefits to the partners of gay federal employees.
If a handful of religious loonies and a few government bean-counters can hold up something this obvious for this long, one can imagine how hard it will be to pull off something like, say, the breaking up of the too-big-to-fail banks.
Meanwhile, in exchange for standing up during what history will surely recognize as one of this era’s great Calls to Douchedom, 31 Republican Senators won themselves the at least temporary approval of a minority of religiously bigoted voters in their home states. It was a nice opportunity to cast an essentially meaningless but politically expedient Nay vote for those many Republicans who’ve recently been facing bitter challenges from the Tea Party/far right, people like John McCain:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a leading opponent of the measure, said liberals with no military experience were pushing a social agenda on troops during wartime despite reservations among the fighting forces.
“They will do what is asked of them,” McCain said of the troops. “But don’t think there won’t be a great cost.”
The thing I liked about McCain’s quote is that the “liberals with no military experience” he is referring to were actually senior Pentagon officials, who pushed the repeal effort over the edge into reality by undertaking a lengthy internal review and concluding that the vast majority of modern troops are comfortable with the idea of serving with gays and lesbians. Not even the Pentagon is against this thing anymore, and there were still 31 Nay votes — amazing. Anyway, it’s all over now, but man, did that take a long time!