The first of two installments.
If there is a conflict between equal opportunity and military necessity, which one should have priority? The non-partisan Center for Military Readiness asked all presidential candidates to state their views on this and related military/social issues that affect discipline and morale (www.cmrlink.org).
In 1992, candidate Bill Clinton downplayed his intent to lift the ban on homosexuals in the military. Mr. Clinton failed, but his administrative "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy/regulations moved the agenda half-way.During a June 2007 presidential debate, Sen. Hillary Clinton, New York Democrat, admitted that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was supposed to be a "transitional policy" toward full acceptance of professed homosexuals in the military. Where do Republicans stand on this and other military personnel issues?
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee responded well to the CMR survey, indicating that he would assign priority to military necessity. Mr. Huckabee would restore compliance with regulations and law regarding women in or near direct ground combat, and opposes Selective Service registration of young women, female sailors serving on submarines, the still-unratified CEDAW Treaty, tax-funded feminist power bases in the Pentagon and problematic family policies that increase single parenthood.
Mr. Huckabee also endorses the 1993 law banning homosexuals from the military, but with contradictions. In a transcribed interview with Associated Press editors reported April 24, 2007, Mr. Huckabee said, "I'm not sure that being homosexual should automatically disqualify a person from the military. If a person can do his or her job, you know that's not for me the biggest issue."
This statement fails to recognize that the military differs from civilian occupations. Discipline and morale are essential, and the law states that homosexuals are not eligible to serve. When asked about Mr. Huckabee's incongruous statement to AP, his campaign said he still supports the 1993 law. He and other Republicans also endorse "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," without explaining what they mean.
On the one hand we have the law that Congress passed with bipartisan veto-proof majorities, "Section 654, Title 10," which could have been named the "Military Personnel Eligibility Act of 1993." The statute codified pre-Clinton Defense Department regulations stating that "homosexuality is incompatible with military service," and the courts have declared it constitutional several times.
We also have Mr. Clinton's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" enforcement regulations, inconsistent with the law, which invite homosexuals to serve if they do not say they are homosexual. Presidents are obliged to enforce laws, but not their predecessors' administrative policies. If the next president faithfully enforces the law, while dropping Mr. Clinton's convoluted "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, homosexuals would be deterred from enlisting in the military. They could still serve America in many ways, but the number of homosexual discharges would plummet.
The campaigns of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said they do not answer surveys, leaving questions about positions taken previously. In December 1999, for example, the New York Times reported that Mr. Giuliani, who was expected to run against then-Senate candidate Hillary Clinton, agreed with her support for professed homosexuals in the military.
In 1994, then-Senate candidate Mitt Romney secured the endorsement of the Massachusetts Log Cabin Republicans by signing a letter supporting "gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation's military." When CNN's Anderson Cooper confronted Mr. Romney with that statement in November 2007, Mr. Romney answered in terms of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." "I didn't think it would work," Mr. Romney said. "I thought that was a policy, when I heard about it, I laughed. ... It's been there now for, what, 15 years? It seems to have worked." We still do not know Mr. Romney's position on the 1993 law, which codified pre-Clinton regulations stating that "homosexuality is incompatible with military service."
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, voted for the 1993 law, but his campaign only provided an April 2007 letter from his Senate office to an activist for homosexuals in the military. The letter mislabeled the law "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and indicated support for that policy. Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson sent a statement endorsing the proper purpose of the military, but reflecting the same contradiction. Mr. Thompson's statement says he supports both current law and Defense Department policies regarding homosexuals in the military, and "sees no reason to alter this approach, especially during times of conflict and global instability."
The comment about timing, which echoes similar statements made by Mr. Romney and Mr. Giuliani, is puzzling because liberals are the only ones trying to repeal the 1993 law. When the current conflict subsides, should homosexual activists succeed? Voters should ask, and Republicans should tell.
Elaine Donnelly is president of the Center for Military Readiness. The CMR 2008 Presidential Candidate Survey is posted at www.cmrlink.org.