- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 13, 2000

One of the most contentious issues of the 1990s President Clinton's attempt to lift the ban on homosexuals in the military has reappeared in the new century.
During a Jan. 5 presidential debate, Vice President Al Gore rocked the Pentagon by saying he would apply a "litmus test" to potential appointees to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Those who do not agree with Mr. Gore's policy regarding homosexuals serving openly in the military would be excluded from consideration. Under that standard, retired Marine Gen. Charles Krulak would have never become commandant.
Every president has a right to expect loyalty from officers executing military orders. But Mr. Gore and his rival for the Democratic nomination, former Sen. Bill Bradley, are demanding far more than that. Officers aspiring to high rank would have to salute, in advance, the social agenda of liberal civilian activists, while disregarding what is known about military culture and human sexuality.
They would also have to disobey the homosexual exclusion law enacted by Congress in 1993. From the beginning, the Clinton administration has tried to circumvent that law with problematic "don't ask, don't tell" enforcement regulations, known as "the policy," which were never passed by Congress. Assuming that civilian Pentagon appointees would have to meet the same litmus test, leadership positions would soon be occupied by a politically correct few who personally support Mr. Gore's gay agenda, and are willing to say so in congressional testimony.
Since flag officers rise from junior ranks, the Gore litmus test would apply at all levels of command. Those who refuse to pledge allegiance to the homosexual agenda would be denied promotion and forced to resign. Forget about recruiting shortages and personnel losses that are devastating the volunteer force. President Al Gore would practice deliberate discrimination against uniformed people who harbor religious or traditional values. Republicans used to rail against "San Francisco Democrats." Now the vice president says he wants to place America's national security in the hands of a San Francisco Military, led by officers and civilian appointees who pass muster with homosexual activists.
In essence, Mr. Gore would misuse officers under his command to fulfill campaign promises to well-heeled special interest groups. Not since Bill Clinton used junior officers to serve hors d'oeuvres at the White House has the nation seen such an outrageous affront to the dignity of military officers.
The Joint Chiefs and subordinate officers must take an oath to give their honest, professional opinion on military matters, prior to the making of policy. Trust in the integrity of the officer corps would be shattered by any attempt, explicit or implied, to skew those opinions with litmus tests colored by domestic politics. Politicizing the officer corps would thoroughly demoralize the military, and demonstrate the full definition of that word that appears in the American Heritage dictionary: "To undermine the confidence or morale of; To disorder, or confuse; To debase the morals of, or corrupt."
Public relations spin cannot mitigate the impact of the vice president's jaw-dropping statement. Promotable officers have already gotten the message, and they know what it means. The Gore litmus test would not end with accommodation of professed homosexuals in the military. To make the plan "work," appointees would be expected to support a host of collateral policies, such as same-sex domestic partnership privileges and gay pride events on military bases.
A legion of PC police would be needed to shape a gay-friendly military force. When inevitable discipline problems occur, loyal officers would have to blame the troops never the commander in chief. Stepped-up "sensitivity training," conducted by gay activists, of course, would become a growth industry.
Nervous Democrats keep trying to downplay Al Gore's remarks, and some conservatives seem inexplicably ready to join them. On CNN, for example, Tucker Carlson of the Weekly Standard referred to the "inconsequential" Gore controversy as a "tiny boutique issue."
On the campaign trail, Texas Gov. George W. Bush called himself "a don't ask, don't tell man," without explaining what that means. And Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who says he opposes open homosexuality in the military, would nevertheless retain contrary Clinton regulations that could be repealed with a stroke of the pen.
The Republican National Committee produced a quick television spot that criticizes the vice president's comments, but does not explain why retired Army Gen. Colin Powell would not measure up to Mr. Gore's litmus test. The unique culture of the military, which is incompatible with homosexual demands, needs to be defended with confidence and conviction, not timid commercials.
Presidential and congressional candidates, regardless of party, should pledge support for the constitutionally sound exclusion law, which was passed by Congress in 1993 with a veto-proof, bipartisan majority. To lessen confusion and improve enforcement, the next defense secretary should be instructed, as authorized under current law, to restore "the question" about homosexuality that used to appear on military induction forms.
The next president should also scrap Bill Clinton's convoluted "don't ask, don't tell" regulations, which are inconsistent with the statute. Then the president and Congress should concentrate on restoring the strength, morale and readiness of the volunteer force.
Election campaigns are supposed to clarify matters of important public policy, instead of confusing them. Can't the political "experts" recognize a true national defense issue when they see one?

Elaine Donnelly is president of the Center for Military Readiness, an independent organization that specializes in military personnel issues.

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