Rick Santorum. He stands up for what he believes are wholesome values and traditional morality, and some joker re-defines his very name to stand for the by-products of sodomy. You almost have to admire the guy for having the nerve to run for president while having to live with that kind of deeply humiliating stigma.
Tonight Santorum's deep hatred and intolerance for homosexuality has compounded his problems once again. Asked at the Republican candidates' debate by a gay soldier, Stephen Hill, who only this week was able to come out of the closet, whether the candidates would re-institute "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Santorum couldn't help himself. He did not hesitate to give the crowd-pleasing response, but by doing so, he made a mockery of another traditional value that Republicans used to hold dear: the value of supporting our troops.
Santorum's rationale for re-instituting DADT didn't make much sense. First he said that sexual activity of any kind has no place in the military, which would probably come as news to a lot of married soldiers, as well as a lot of active young heterosexuals who do not practice a celibate lifestyle. Then he said that the new policy gives gay soldiers special privileges. What special privileges? I thought they only wanted to be just as open about their sexual preferences as everyone else around them. Is telling the truth a special privilege? Then he said that repealing DADT is a social experiment. Here Santorum at least has a point. Allowing gay soldiers to serve openly in the military unquestionably will be a social experiment. So was integrating black soldiers with white soldiers. So was expanding the roles of female members of the military. Should we re-examine those policies because they were social experiments?
The don't ask, don't tell policy was also a social experiment. It was a social experiment instituted at the beginning of the Clinton administration as a compromise that was supposed to allow gay soldiers to serve so long as they concealed their identity. We tried that experiment for more than 15 years, and the consensus of military leaders was that the policy was a failure. We forced many qualified soldiers out if their status was revealed, and we forced others to live a lie. So unless we want to go back to the previous policy, which was simply to ban all homosexuals from service (even that policy could be viewed as a social experiment), we have to try something new, something like tolerance and honesty.
Santorum finally had to admit that it would be unfair to take any actions against soldiers like Hill, who were allowed to come out of the closet by virtue of the new Obama policy. Given that concession, is it even possible at this point to turn the clock back to the old rule? Tonight the candidates did not have to explain how they would design a policy that requires toleration of all gay soldiers who came out in 2011 and 2012, but allows discrimination against those who reveal themselves after we supposedly return to the Clinton rule (Good luck getting that through Congress, Rick!). I'm sure Santorum is smart enough to realize that even if he could manage to get the new policy reversed, enforcement of a hybrid policy would present enormous difficulties. (Not to mention the legal problems!)
My prediction is that by next year's election, the vast majority of soldiers will have fully adapted to the new policy. The military's strong sense of solidarity, or esprit de corps, will not take kindly to any attempts to disrespect fellow members of their units. Therefore Republican candidates for president will be endangering their support among the vast majority of members of the military if they continue to insult our troops by demanding that they return to the days of having to lie about their identities. They ought to be brave enough to stand up and say that, whatever their misgivings, there is no going back, just as there was no going back from the decisions made in the 1940's and 1950's to integrate the military. But the Republican base may not allow them to do that, and therefore these candidates will probably have to continue to lie about this issue to please the primary electorate, at least until the nomination contest is over.
Do I need to add anything about the audience reaction here? I'll just say that it appears that they have not thought these issues through.