Republican presidential candidates are on their way to South Carolina−let’s hope that the next debate we see is better than the one that ABC News produced in New Hampshire last Saturday. Commentator George Stephanopoulos relentlessly interrogated former Governor Mitt Romney about a non-issue: Should states be able to ban contraception?
It was a ridiculous question that Romney disposed of handily. The time could have been better spent if Romney had been asked about a real issue that he would actually face as Commander-in-Chief: How far are you willing to go in promoting or opposing LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights in the military?
In September, fifteen conservative leaders of the Military Culture Coalition (MCC) tried to get answers to such a question by submitting a 2012 Presidential Candidate Survey to all of the Republican candidates.
Mitt Romney, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, and Texas Congressman Ron Paul failed to answer the six MCC survey questions, but voters who are looking for a new Commander-in-Chief should examine the candidates’ positions on military/social issues, as stated elsewhere.
When asked about gay rights during the Saturday ABC debate, Romney said he opposed “discrimination,” without commenting on what that would mean in the military. But during a largely-unreported interview with the Des Moines Register editorial board on November 9, Romney said that he does not plan to change the law mandating acceptance of gays serving openly in the military. Romney further indicated that he was “not comfortable with [the lame-duck Congress] making the change during a time of conflict,” but “complicating features” of the new law “no longer present that problem” because the two wars in the Middle East are winding down.
The military, however, does not work that way. Flawed policies that impose heavy “complicating features” on military men and women cannot be switched on and off, depending on the direction of political winds or promises made to LGBT activists of either political party. Sound policies that reinforce morale and readiness should be maintained at all times. Problems associated with repeal are no more acceptable now than in the midst of a shooting war.
Congressman Ron Paul also needs to answer questions about his position. The Texas libertarian is a staunch advocate of personal privacy, but he seems to have forgotten that in the military, personal privacy often does not exist. In 2010, Rep. Paul voted twice to impose LGBT law and related policies on military men and women, for lame reasons that the other candidates, the media, and voters and should question. According to an October 26 Hill Blog Briefing Room article titled “Ron Paul: Heterosexuals in Military ‘ Causing More Trouble than the Gays’,” Paul explained his 2010 votes for gays in the military during an interview with the Iowa State Daily. Paul shrugged off the issue by arguing that heterosexual relationships in the military are as disruptive as homosexual misconduct, and due to the larger proportion of heterosexual soldiers, more likely to occur.
Paul has that half-right− we do have issues of sexual misconduct in the military. But if we know that tensions already exist because men and women are human, why should the Pentagon worsen the situation by adding new forms of sexual misconduct to those already occurring? Paul’s indifference reflects superficial thinking, not logic or sound leadership.
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who also ignored the Military Culture Coalition 2010 Presidential Candidate Survey, is a long-time supporter of same-sex civil unions. According to the Daily Beast, a political advisor has said that Huntsman has long consulted with the gay activist group Log Cabin Republicans, and is a supporter of their issues. The article also indicated that he is not stressing these issues due to the need to draw conservative votes in Republican primaries.
Voters should know and consider where the other candidates stand on issues affecting future military life. In addition to former candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Senator Rick Santorum, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and former Speaker Newt Gingrich provided solid answers to the MCC Survey. Their responses are summarized here:
1. Position on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal Act, legislation to repeal the 1993 law regarding homosexuals in the military , which was rushed through the 2010 lame-duck Congress (All would have voted “No” on repeal; Rep. Bachmann did vote “No,” but Rep. Ron Paul voted “Yes.”)
2. Position on full and specific reviews of the consequences of that repeal, and administrative or legislative steps to restore sound policies regarding homosexual conduct that would improve the All-Volunteer Force (All support)
3. Continued enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act in the military (All support)
4. Career penalties for military chaplains and personnel who express sincere concern or disagreement with the new LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender) law and related policies (All opposed)
5. LGBT celebrations in the White House and on military bases (All opposed)
6. Repeal of policies that exempt military women from direct ground combat (infantry) units that attack the enemy, and civilian women from Selective Service (registration) obligations (All opposed)
The next Commander-in-Chief should support the interests of national security and all personnel in the military, not just a few. To deliver on political promises to civilian LGBT activists, the Obama Administration is taking its “non-discrimination” policy to extremes, imposing “zero tolerance” career penalties on anyone who disagrees, starting with the chaplains. The next president should give explicit permission to all military leaders to report and testify about all problems objectively, and take administrative or legislative steps to correct problems associated with a social experiment that is only just begun.