by Max Brantley
Frank Rich thinks the noise has been noticeably muted to military leadership's endorsement of the end of discrimination against gay people in the service. He takes heart. He says polls show the majority of American people are comfortable with the switch, critical independents moreso than Republicans.
I need not be reminded that the homophobia of the majority of Arkansas members of Congress and their would-be successors -- or at least their terror at being revealed as supporters of equal rights -- remains too fully on display. I can hope Rich is right, but the New Yorker is undoubtedly ahead of the Arkansas curve. (A story is coming about unbridled evil at work on this issue by a Republican member of the Arkansas legislature rousing opposition to accepting money for a program aimed at stemming AIDS on account of sexual politics.) Writes Rich:
A Scott Brown Republican isn’t a Boehner or Hatch Republican. In his interview with Barbara Walters last weekend, he distanced himself from Sarah Palin, said he was undecided on “don’t ask” and declared same-sex marriage a “settled” issue in his state, Massachusetts, where it is legal.
It’s in this political context that we can see that there may have been some method to Obama’s troublesome tardiness on gay issues after all. But as we learned about this White House and the Democratic Congress in the health care debacle, they are perfectly capable of dropping the ball at any moment. Let’s hope they don’t this time. Should they actually press forward on “don’t ask” in an election year with Mullen and Gates on board — and with even McCain’s buddy, Joe Lieberman, calling for action “as soon as possible” — they could further the goal and raise the political price for those who stand in the way. Recalcitrant Congressional Republicans will have to explain why their perennial knee-jerk deference to “whatever the commanders want” extends to Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Stanley McChrystal on troop surges but not to Mullen, who outranks them, on civil rights.
The more bigotry pushed out of the closet for all voters to see, the more likely it is that Americans will be moved to grant overdue full citizenship to gay Americans.