It often seems to me that Americans value national security above anything else. No matter how deep the deficit is, Americans must continually increase the defense budget! If Americans conclude (falsely) that they must choose between obeying the Constitution and protecting national security — national security it is!
But there’s one priority that Americans rank even higher than national security: keeping those moral reprobate homosexuals out of the military! In this video, Rep. Patrick Murphy points out that 13,000 soldiers have been kicked out of the U.S. military for having the “wrong” sexual orientation.
13,000 soldiers = 3½ combat brigades: at a time when the U.S. military has been stretched to (or beyond) its limits.
President Obama has been rather passive on this issue: you can see Rep. Murphy dancing around that criticism in the interview. Andrew Sullivan is sufficiently provoked that he has subverted an Obama slogan, “the fierce urgency of now”, recasting it as the fierce urgency of whenever.
I’m inclined to cut Obama some slack here. The art of leadership is largely about setting priorities and sticking to them. Obama is facing a catastrophic economic crisis; he has two wars to wage and he must respond to the Iranian nuclear threat; he campaigned to provide affordable health care to every American; and evidently he is serious about tackling climate change.
Those are big-ticket items, and Obama is going to spend significant political capital on each of them. It seems to me that the President sincerely supports the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, but he has decided he can’t afford to spend political capital on the issue.
It’s easy for me to cut Obama some slack: as a heterosexual Canadian, I have nothing personal at stake. And I understand the sad reality, that minority rights persistently get pushed to the bottom of the list of priorities, because there’s little political gain to be had.
But Obama doesn’t bear the fundamental responsibility. That lies with the American people, for making sexual purity a higher priority than national security.
It should be easy to sell this policy change. Instead there’s a political price to be paid, which forces every politician (including Obama) to look nervously over his or her shoulder. Homophobia: at what cost to the nation?