Cowards! Real leadership is needed in America

I have to be honest, I’m generally a pretty cynical person. Now, I think I’m officially depressed. The recent developments regarding the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy — the head-in-the-sand policy that prohibits gay American soldiers from admitting they’re gay and the military from asking them — leads me to nothing short of total despair. This is complete political cowardice, plain and simple.

A vast majority of Americans, 78 per cent, want the discriminatory law repealed, President Barack Obama has vowed to repeal it, and even Obama’s regular foil, Bill O’Reilly, is against the law. Yet after several court challenges and what appeared to be a victory for the forces of inclusion (and I dare say, sanity) in a San Francisco courtroom, the Supreme Court ruled last week that because the Defense Department — that’s right, the one directed by Obama — appealed the California court’s ruling, the law will stay on the books.

So what do we have here? A president who has stated time and time again that he’s against the law, but whose justice department defends it; a congress who purports to represent the people, but that seems willing to ignore the will of 78 per cent of them; and a military that is still legally obligated to kick out qualified, well-trained and willing men and women simply because of their sexual orientation during a period of enrolment shortage.

But the cowardice of these politicians doesn’t end there. Many American politicians argue that they are against DADT but that it is not the place of the congress to tell the military how to run its operations. This is like saying that slavery is wrong, but that the Emancipation Proclamation was the government overreaching. First off, acts of congress are the method by which the Uniform Code of Military Justice can be amended — that’s already the law. Second, the military is resistant to change and that’s fine — after all it’s there to fight and win wars, not to act as the nation’s moral compass. Yet, this argument, that the military should “be the master of its own house” and should not be interfered with, is one that sounds a little too familiar to anyone with a basic knowledge of American history.

Leaving the military to its own devices was the call of pro-segregationists arguing against the inclusion of African Americans in the American military in the 1940s. But, on July 26, 1948 President Harry Truman signed an Executive Order forcing the desegregation of the military, congress be damned. That is what President Obama should do. Immediately. No more excuses.

In 1948, Truman did something unpopular. There’s no question that 78 per cent of Americans did not support desegregation in 1948. In comparison, Obama would not face much public fight on this one. There is a question of legality and many Obama supporters have said that an Executive Order may be overturned, but this is extremely unlikely. After all, the Truman order was not overturned and could act as a loose precedent. Lastly, many are saying that the president is waiting for a report on DADT currently being prepared, yet this is a joke. Key members of the military, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense have already come out against the law and the president himself has already made his position clear. The report is a political delaying tactic.

The president’s Deficit Commission just put forth some hugely controversial suggestions for improving the state of the American economy in the long term. Social Security, welfare, taxes and general economic policy are acrimonious in the extreme. Both parties are already poised to fight over the recommendations — and they can’t even fix something that Bill O’Reilly and President Obama agree on. How are they ever going to fix the really difficult stuff where there is fundamental disagreement? I despair, I really do. If this is what is passing for leadership south of the border, they’re in trouble, big time.

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