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Skelton’s Risk with DADT

It’s no surprise that the comments last week by the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), were not helpful. ("I am personally not for changing the [DADT] law.”) He made his views crystal clear, and his timing in conveying those views was impeccable. But the chairman now runs the risk of being at odds with the majority of his caucus, including President Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and 186 Democratic members of the House of Representatives, all of whom support repeal of the law. The congressman just firmly planted himself with the 25 percent of Americans who think the law should remain on the books.

Rep. Skelton’s remarks also underscore something we don’t talk enough about: the palpable generational divide around “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Seventy-eight percent of 18-29 year olds favor gays serving openly, according to a 2009 Gallup poll. Among military people, the younger generation — those fighting America’s 21st century wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — largely don’t care about sexual orientation. It is this age group, those in their 20s and 30s, that makes up the vast majority of the military. We would hope Skelton and his generation would consider this reality.

By Kevin Nix, Communications Director and Jermey Wilson-Simerman, Legislative Manager |


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Bill in Washington DC on January 22, 2010 at 03.45 pm

What follows is a (mostly) copy of what I wrote 3 days ago thanking Aubrey Sarvis for his previous article on Skelton.  Now, I get to thank Kevin Nix for keeping this topic going.  And, I get to agree with Rich’s first comment here:  “Executive action is the only near-term solution.”
    In comments that follow the report on Skelton (at, one can see the homophobia and hatred against gays in the military by a vocal minority.  I have concluded, watching senior politicians in 2009 avoid like the plague the issue of ending DADT, that there are only 2 routes for success, and they both come from our President:  Obama should review the Jan 16-22 Economist magazine, cover article “Time to Get Tough, Lessons from Obama’s first year,” and then Obama must realize that he is not chairman of the board for the military.  He is commander.  To end DADT he then must either (1) issue an executive order suspending DADT indefinitely until a paralytic Congress can act, or (2) order his general officers (all subordinate to him) to develop their case and demand of Congress that the law be ended now.  General officers who do not follow his order should retire now.  Congress will respect a demand from the military to end DADT as wasteful, unjust and dysfunctional, but also will support DOD requests for delay until the cows come in.  By the way, I don’t know how Sec. Gates stands, but I do know he has no command authority over the military; he is advisor to the President.  For Obama’s continuing education, Obama should also review President Truman who fired a wayward McArthur during the Korean War and earlier ended legalized racism in the military.  Yes, ending DADT will cause a firestorm from the right, but recent experience from almost all our NATO allies show it will be brief and inconsequential.  The sooner we have that firestorm and get it over with, the better.  The longer the President and Congress wait, the weaker they will both appear and become in reality.  For the uneducated on issue of gays in military service, I refer them to a book, Nathaniel Frank’s Unfriendly Fire and, of course, to the rest of the SLDN web site.
      Finally, in light of the Massachusetts election, does anybody know how Senator Brown will stand on this issue?  I have long thought that it would only take a handful of Republicans in Congress pushing to end DADT to give senior Democrats enough spine to end the logjam.  I am told that Brown was not uncomfortable in Massachusetts working with gay members of his state legislature, so he may well not be a genetic homophobe.  As I die-hard Democrat, I would be happy to take any help we can get from Republicans.

Rich on January 21, 2010 at 10.30 am

This isn’t a risk for Skelton.  He is facing a tight race against a conservative candidate in the November election.  Why wouldn’t he start acting like a conservative in order to get elected?  How many of those 186 co-signers do you think will think twice about voting for DADT repeal now that the mid-terms are starting to look ugly for Democrats?  You won’t find out the answer to that question because they aren’t going to ever let it come to a vote.  Executive action is the only near-term solution to this problem.  Any other solution is probably a decade away.