Pepper Spray Incident Shows Why OWS Has Less “Staying Power” Than Vietnam War Protests

I have very little use for “Occupy Wall Street” and its far-flung imitators, but even so I found the image somewhat disturbing.  A UC-Davis police officer seems to be strolling along, casually emptying a can of pepper spray toward the heads of protestors seated on the ground.

Then I mentally shrugged.   Unfortunate optics, but no real harm done.  It may have been excessive, but no matter how the police break up a demonstration, they will be criticized for the inevitable injuries and indignities.  A YouTube video helps by putting the pepper spray in the context of a broader and more calibrated use of force.

Obviously, the left has a different storyline to offer.  If you Google “pepper spray” + “Kent State” you’ll get nearly half a million results.

To be fair, nobody seems to be claiming that the UC Davis incident is “another Kent State.” (Googling “pepper spray” + “another Kent State” yields 3,970 results, but the top result says “another Kent State is unlikely”, and other results express fears of “another Kent State.”)

The 1970 Kent State shootings may have been the tipping point of the battle for public support of the Vietnam War.  The episode inspired CSN&Y’s haunting refrain of “four dead in O-hi-o,” and was captured in an iconic photo of a 14-year-old runaway screaming over the body of a dead protester.

But the differences between the two incidents only start with the fact that nobody died at UC Davis.  Taranto, who evokes “Hoovervilles” by consistently referring to the OWS protestors as “Obamavillians,”  breaks it down:

Let’s say, heaven forbid, that the Obamavillians get their “Kent State moment”–a violent climax serving as the final tipping point that convinces the majority of Americans to oppose . . . well, you see the problem. To oppose what exactly? Private property? Public order? Personal hygiene?

Exactly right. To belabor his point: During the Vietnam War, there was a straightforward, easily defined, highly achievable course of action that would meet the demands of the protestors. All the government had to do was abandon our South Vietnamese allies and get out of Southeast Asia.  Rightly or wrongly (and I tend to think it was the least-bad option), the government eventually did precisely that.

But what can be done to satisfy OWS?  Raise taxes on “the 1 percent”? Fine, but even if you assume confiscatory tax rates and no change of behavior by taxpayers, taxing “the rich” won’t do much toward closing the budget deficit — and it certainly won’t create jobs.  And no level of taxation will ever be high enough to satisfy the tax-the-rich impulse.

I haven’t blogged much about the ongoing protests;  my entire OWS oeuvre apparently consists of a passing swipe at “the aimless juvenile antics of the Occupy Wall Street crowd” in a post on an unrelated topic.  The movement hasn’t interested me — I’ve always thought its enemy was capitalism itself.  I’m a big fan of capitalism, and OWS poses no real threat to it.

My priest, a thoughtful liberal who has tugged me back before from some of my more conservative leanings, gave me a new way to think about OWS in his Sunday sermon.  After carefully stating that he was taking no position on the specific messages and tactics of the movement, he said that Occupy Wall Street can be seen as “an expression of pain.”   His point, which I hope I am capturing adequately, is that the pain is real and needs to be acknowledged.

Fair enough.  The classic right-wing response to demonstrators is to snarl “get a job” — a phrase that bristles with cruel irony during a period when it sometimes feels like 9% unemployment is settling in as the new normal.  I have my own riches-to-rags story, although both “riches” and “rags” are exaggerations. I work at a church, making about what I made in 1985 — and I thank God every day that I have a job at all, let alone one that provides the privilege of laboring for a worthy organization.

I do think the OWS crowd would do well to channel its anger in more productive ways.  Say what you will about the Tea Party, but it certainly has built something out of its initial expressions of pain:  one out of every four Republican members of the House now self-identifies as a member of the Tea Party Caucus. Somehow I don’t expect there will ever be an OWS coalition in Congress.

(Unattributed photo snatched from Eschaton.)

Does Perry Even WANT to be President?

Of all the punditry about Rick Perry’s “oops” moment at the Republican debate this week, the best description about why it was more than just an embarrassing brain freeze came from Matt Bai in the New York Times:

Here he was calling for what would be a truly radical restructuring of the federal government — involving many thousands of jobs and many billions of dollars in federal expenditures — and he didn’t have a grasp on which sprawling departments he would shutter. It seemed the idea was not his own, but rather something he had tried and failed to memorize. …

There’s nothing more central to Mr. Perry’s campaign than the idea of scaling back the government in Washington — that’s pretty much the whole tamale right there — and what he proved last night, in 60 or so agonizing seconds, is that he hasn’t thought deeply enough about it to even master the basics of his own agenda. …

It underlies the lingering sense that Mr. Perry is running chiefly because he saw an opening he could exploit, rather than having spent much time thinking about what ails the country and what to do about it.

Perry was the last major candidate to join the race, jumping in a mere three months ago when the Republican Party seemed to want to unite behind someone more conservative than Mitt Romney. (Personally. I’m relieved that it looks like the moderate Romney will be the nominee.)

On paper, the idea of a Perry candidacy was compelling — long-time governor of our second largest state, etc.  But on paper, Gov. Sarah Palin with her executive experience was more qualified for the presidency in 2008 than was Barack Obama, and we know how that turned out.

I don’t think it’s possible to become president without spending many years steering toward that goal.  Even before the sexual harassment allegations began erupting, it was clear that Herman Cain had given very little thought to many of the issues that he would face as president (such as, you know, foreign policy and stuff).  The narrowness of his focus would doom his candidacy if he wins the nomination.

In Which Your Humble Scribe Encounters Law & Order in Action

I try to learn something new every day.  On Friday I learned that in Madison, NJ, the fine for driving with an expired registration is $54.

Now, I’m a rule-of-law kinda guy.  Sometimes civil disobedience can be warranted, but generally speaking, I believe laws should be obeyed.  Bad laws should be changed, not broken.  A failure to enforce any law leads to diminished respect for all laws.

(I’m even opposed to the “neighborhood play” in baseball.  The infielder should have to step on second base while holding the ball to start a double play.  But I digress.)

I reflected on this (not the baseball part) at the end of my morning commute Friday, after a Madison police officer rolled to a stop behind me in the parking lot where I work, blocking me in.  I had seen the black-and-white SUV a mile earlier, parked in a driveway, pointed outward, watching the traffic go by.  I checked my speed, slowed down slightly, and kept cruising toward work.

Turns out he ran my plates and found the expired registration.  I’ve watched enough TV to know that it’s really a bad idea to get belligerent with someone who carries both a ticket book and a weapon, so I fought back some of the snarky remarks that came to mind.  A second patrol car also followed me into the parking lot, and the patrolman checked for wants and warrants while the sergeant was writing the ticket… and I’m thinking, isn’t there any real crime in Madison?   And: Isn’t there a doughnut shop nearby or something?  (The latter is particularly unworthy — he could have been eating a doughnut, but instead he was doing his job.)

The sergeant told me my registration was expired, and asked to see my credentials.  I pulled the paperwork out of my glove compartment and looked at the registration.  Ha! It expired at the end of September — only two weeks ago that day!  I can talk my way out of this!  I’m starting to make that case to him and I hear him say, “if it were a day or two, I could let it go, but two weeks, I’ve got to give you a ticket.”  Oh.  I felt the time-space continuum snap into a different shape.

I imagined I was outside myself watching this on TV.  There were lots of cars going in and out of the parking lot, people looking at me — I made a point of smiling bravely.  One of my co-workers walked by, and I asked her to send a search party if I’m not in the office in half an hour.  Just hangin’ out here, having a chuckle with my homies in uniform.

There was even a kind of good-cop, bad-cop dynamic.  The sergeant said he could write me up for “Failure to exhibit D.L. or Reg,” which sounds like the same thing but carries a $180 fine, but he wasn’t going to do that.  The patrolman walked over from his cruiser, handed my license to the sergeant and said “no wants or warrants — you’re not going to have him towed, right Sarge?”  Naw.

The sergeant told me I have the right to contest the summons, and showed me the relevant court date on the ticket.  Hm… should I try to take it to court, given that I’m, like, obviously guilty and stuff?

“It’s really important to keep your registration current,” he said.  Yes, I gathered that.  I paid it online as soon as I got home.

When the sergeant handed me back my credentials, I shook his hand and thanked him for his service.

Cleveland Land Bank: A Model for Public-Private Partnership

Photo: Washington Post

Cleveland, where the Cuyahoga River once caught fire, is a pioneer in what seems to be a productive method for dealing with the wave of foreclosures that have blighted that city and many others.  The land bank program described by the Washington Post today involves cooperation between government, non-profits and banks, to the benefit of all parties.

A handful of the nation’s largest banks have begun giving away scores of properties that are abandoned or otherwise at risk of languishing indefinitely and further dragging down already depressed neighborhoods.

The banks have even been footing the bill for the demolitions — as much as $7,500 a pop. Four years into the housing crisis, the ongoing expense of upkeep and taxes, along with costly code violations and the price of marketing the properties, has saddled banks with a heavy burden. It often has become cheaper to knock down decaying homes no one wants.

The demolitions in some cases have paved the way for community gardens, church additions and parking lots. Even when the result is an empty lot, it can be one less pockmark. While some widespread demolitions could risk hollowing out the urban core of struggling cities such as Cleveland, advocates say that the homes being targeted are already unsalvageable and that the bulldozers are merely “burying the dead.”

Two things about this warm my capitalist heart. One of them is described in the article.  Instead of the aimless juvenile antics of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, the land bank program enlists the banks that helped create the mess in the effort to clean it up.

Cleveland has found progress in the sliver of common ground between the land bank’s mission and the interest of financial firms, including some that helped fuel the housing crisis through risky loans and later botched paperwork in carrying out foreclosures across the country.

This collaboration was uncomfortable at first, said Gus Frangos, the Cuyahoga land bank’s president and one of the people behind the state law.

“Two years ago, when we started . . . it was difficult,” he said. “Everybody was guarded.”

After countless meetings, however, land bank officials and banking representatives shed their initial wariness of one another. Frangos made a simple pitch: We’re not here to point fingers. We’ll take your worst properties, the ones not worth keeping. Pony up for the demolition, and you’ll still come out ahead. Just don’t walk away from them.

And in the process, construction — or destruction :) — workers are employed who otherwise might be idle.

(Photo: Washington Post)

Another Body Blow to the “Tea Party Is Racist” Meme

Herman Cain, a Tea Party favorite

What does it mean that Herman Cain, a black candidate for President, overwhelmingly won the recent Florida straw poll with Tea Party support?

Why, it means the Tea Party is racist, of course.

Just ask Janeane Garofalo.  Garofalo, a comedian, C-list actress and wanna-be pundit, appeared on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” a nightly smarm-fest that landed on something called Current TV after Olbermann was fired by MSNBC.

Via Real Clear Politics, which watches Olbermann so that I don’t have to, here’s Garofalo’s analysis:

Janeane Garofalo: “Herman Cain is probably well liked by some of the Republicans because it hides the racist elements of the Republican party. Conservative movement and tea party movement, one in the same.

“People like Karl Rove liked to keep the racism very covert. And so Herman Cain provides this great opportunity say you can say ‘Look, this is not a racist, anti-immigrant, anti-female, anti-gay movement. Look we have a black man.'”

Fiendishly clever, these Tea Partyers.  You can almost hear the wheels turning in their twisted little minds.  “What’s the most effective way to camouflage my deep-seated racism?  Ha!  I’ll vote for the black guy!”

Allen West, R-Fla.

Cain’s showing continues a pattern of Tea Party support for black Republicans.  In 2010 the Tea Party helped elect two black candidates to the House of Representatives: Allen West of Florida and Tim Scott of South Carolina.  Anyone seeking to accuse the Tea Party of racism is invited to explain it first to Rep. West and Rep. Scott.

Tim Scott, R-S.C.

In a white-majority country that has already elected a black president, it’s getting harder and harder to take racism charges seriously.  The Left’s “Tea Party Racism” meme is not just lazy and false; it is corrupt.  By reflexively leveling racism charges, the Left elevates a factor that should be irrelevant into a wedge issue, and sets back the very cause it supposedly supports.

(Photos from Wikipedia)

In the Budget Battle, GOP Should Not Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good

Who would have predicted that Obama — or any Democratic president — would inspire a headline like this one in the Washington Post: “In debt talks, Obama offers Social Security cuts“? Isn’t Social Security supposed to be the third rail of politics?  Isn’t it the Democratic party that has inspired 249,000 Google hits on  the phrase “balancing the budget on the backs of the poor”?

As near as I can tell, Obama has expressed nothing more than a willingness to tinker with the formulas for calculating inflation for Social Security and other entitlement programs.  Only in Washington is slowing the growth of something considered a “cut”.

But it’s a huge step nonetheless. Kathleen Parker urges Republicans not to overlook

the enormous opportunity for conservatives that has taken shape since the beginning of the year. Just a few months ago, Obama was asking for a “clean” debt-limit increase. That is, an unconditional hike without spending cuts or reforms.Republicans responded by making clear that there would be no increase to the $14.3 trillion debt limit without fundamental reforms, including to entitlements, and without spending cuts larger than the debt-limit hike, enforceable limits on future spending, and no tax increases.

Fast-forward through a few months of intransigence — and a few friendly rounds of golf — and the conversation has become something much different. The president’s proposal for a deal that would save $4 trillion over the next 10 years through cuts to all major spending areas, including entitlements and the Pentagon, is otherwise known as a “sea change.”

Entitlement reform is essential not because of any rich-versus-poor calculus, but because the programs are unsustainable in their current form.  By signaling that some change in entitlements is inevitable, Obama is giving Republicans a bit of protective cover against toxic class-warfare rhetoric.

Republicans have gotten to this point by digging in their heels against tax increases and against raising the debt ceiling — but at the end of the day any budget deal is going to include tax increases, a higher debt ceiling, or most likely both.

If purists force a government shutdown in August to avoid exceeding the debt ceiling, each side will of course point fingers at the other.  But Republicans have seen this movie before.  In 1995, Bill Clinton triggered a government shutdown by vetoing budget bills — yet Republicans ended up shouldering the blame, and Clinton was re-elected.

Processing bin Laden’s Death in a Spiritual Context

Osama White House celebrationThe Rev. Bernard Poppe, my priest and friend, is more liberal than I am.  (Ditto for 98% of his flock at St. George’s Episcopal, in the deep blue town of Maplewood, NJ.)  So when Bernie started his sermon on Sunday by indicating he had mixed feelings about the death of Osama bin Laden, I was prepared to sit politely in silent disagreement.

But I found I had no quarrel with anything he said.

He said he was pleased at the news bin Laden had been killed — but then appalled by the tenor of the celebration in front of the White House and elsewhere.  He questioned his own motives: “I’m not supposed to rejoice  at anybody’s death.” He was unpersuaded by the notion that bin Laden had been “brought to justice,” because justice implies due process and an opportunity to mount a defense.  The celebrations made it seem more like vengeance than justice.  I hope I am accurately reflecting what he said — Father Poppe sometimes posts his sermons online, but this one was delivered without notes.

Father Poppe

I also reject the “brought to justice” formulation, although my reasons probably differ from Bernie’s.  The idea that the fight against Islamic jihadism is a war, not a law-enforcement issue, is a well-established conservative meme — I’ve written about it here, here and especially here.  Bin Laden declared war on America in 1996, but our government did not acknowledge that we were at war until that awful day in 2001.  Much of the Left still has not acknowledged it, although President Obama, to his immense credit, has.

My faith teaches me that Osama bin Laden was a child of God and a sinner — and that he shared those traits with me.  Few people in recent history have more fully earned a double-tap to the forehead, and yet hatred and the lust for vengeance are ugly emotions that lead to bad places.  It’s appropriate for a minister to remind us of these things.

But if we are not to celebrate death, and if we reject the law-enforcement model, I still believe there is reason to rejoice in the success of the Navy SEALs.  We cheer not for vengeance or justice, but for victory.  We did not start this war, and it is not over, but our side has won an enormously important battle.  I think we can celebrate in good conscience.

A Brief History of Presidential Betrayal, Through the Prism of Andrew Sulllivan

Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan

If Obama has lost Andrew Sullivan, has he lost the Left, the Right or the Center?

For reasons that will become clear, I’ve been watching off and on to see what might happen when Obama does something that Sullivan perceives as a betrayal. The time may have come with Obama’s shocking decision to intervene in Libya.

Sullivan, who once wrote a book called The Conservative Soul from an insider’s perspective, felt the sting of betrayal from George W. Bush in 2004 and began a well-chronicled move to the Left, slashing and burning his way through conservative friends and supporters as he went.  By the time of Barack “Hope and Change” Obama’s election and presidency, Sullivan’s incessantly repeated exhortations toknow hopecarried echoes of Dan Rather’s “courage” from an earlier era.

I described Obama’s rush to war in Libya as “astonishing” and “bizarre,” and Sullivan apparently has similar feelings.  (One difference is that I’m actually hopeful that it might work out OK, whereas Sullivan appears more pessimistic.)  Sullivan has taken to referring to his onetime idol as King Barack I, and he’s raised the specter of impeachment.  Here’s a sample post from last week, with emphasis added:

I’m still absorbing this news and don’t want to vent immediately, because there is still part of me that simply cannot believe that president Obama has already ordered covert action in Libya on one side in a civil war, and is now actively discussing whether to arm that side in another chaotic Muslim country, committing the United States to yet another war against yet another tyranny simply because we can.

It’s so surreal, so discordant with what the president has told the American people, so fantastically contrary to everything he campaigned on, that I will simply wait for more confirmation than this before commenting further. I simply cannot believe it. I know the president is not against all wars – just dumb ones. But could any war be dumber than this – in a place with no potential for civil society, wrecked by totalitarianism, riven by tribalism, in defense of rebels we do not know and who are clearly insufficient to the task?

By all means keep the no-fly zone to protect unarmed civilians from brute military force. But that must be the total sum of the commitment.

Love him or hate him (and I’ve leaned in both directions), Andrew Sullivan is a towering figure in the development of blogging as a vital form of communication.  His pioneering “Daily Dish,” with its barely readable white and beige text on a dark-blue background, provided thoughtful commentary on a daily basis for years before the potty-mouthed Wonkette came along to become, briefly, the best-known name in blogging.

I started following Sullivan so long ago, his blog is in the “Conservatives” folder of my bookmarks.  This was back when James Taranto — one of many bloggers who now cannot stand the man — used to refer to Sullivan as his “favorite gay, Catholic Tory.”  I got the Web Goddess interested in Sullivan’s writing, and then we sprang for $20 (I think that’s what it was) to get his short-lived weekly email with the inside story behind the Daily Dish.

Sullivan, former editor of the New Republic , backed Bush in the 2000 election and was a strong supporter of the decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003.  He started to sour on Bush because of the mismanagement of the war, and in 2004 was openly flirting with the idea of endorsing the  Democratic nominee — even if it were John Kerry, whom he despised — over Bush.  That deal was sealed on February 24, 2004, when Bush, after calculating that he had more to gain among evangelicals than he had to lose among the few gay people inclined to support him, endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment.

The FMA went well beyond declaring that “marriage is between a man and a woman.” (That’s still Obama’s official position, btw.)  The FMA also would have eviscerated civil unions and domestic partnerships, which are a squeamish society’s well-meaning effort to provide legal protection to gay couples.  Here’s the text of the amendment:

Marriage in the United States shall consist solely of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.

(The amendment failed to advance in either the House or the Senate, falling far short of the two-thirds majorities required.)

I remember being struck that day by how anguished Sullivan was over Bush’s announcement.  I remember Jonah Goldberg, who at the time was largely sympathetic to Sullivan, describing Sullivan’s reaction as a “cri de coeur” (which I had to look up).  But I couldn’t remember what Sullivan himself had said that day, so I went back looking for it.  His actual post doesn’t seem as raw and livid as I remembered, but you can see the sense of betrayal.  Excerpts:

WAR IS DECLARED: The president launched a war today against the civil rights of gay citizens and their families. And just as importantly, he launched a war to defile the most sacred document in the land.  … Those of us who supported this president in 2000, who have backed him whole-heartedly during the war, who have endured scorn from our peers as a result, who trusted that this president was indeed a uniter rather than a divider, now know the truth.

NO MORE PROFOUND AN ATTACK: This president wants our families denied civil protection and civil acknowledgment. He wants us stigmatized not just by a law, not just by his inability even to call us by name, not by his minions on the religious right. He wants us stigmatized in the very founding document of America. There can be no more profound attack on a minority in the United States – or on the promise of freedom that America represents. That very tactic is so shocking in its prejudice, so clear in its intent, so extreme in its implications that it leaves people of good will little lee-way. This president has now made the Republican party an emblem of exclusion and division and intolerance.

Sullivan’s blogging home has bounced from his own domain to Time to The Atlantic, and as of today he is settling in to new quarters at Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast.  He’s a gifted writer who gets carried away with his passions. Somehow I don’t think his animus toward Obama will ever quite reach the level it did with Bush.

Shooter’s Derangement Points to Need for More Civility in Politics

Sarah Palin and everyone associated with her political action committee are, no doubt, regretting the boneheaded decision to superimpose crosshairs on the districts of Gabrielle Giffords and other House members Palin was “targeting” in the 2010 campaign.

But it’s easy to make too much of the ad, and there was support for Palin from an unlikely source today.  Writing in The Daily Beast, Tina Brown’s left-leaning news and opinion site, former WaPo media columnist Howie Kurtz, puts it in perspective:

The use of the crosshairs was dumb. But it’s a long stretch from such excessive language and symbols to holding a public official accountable for a murderer who opens fire on a political gathering and kills a half-dozen people, including a 9-year-old girl….

This isn’t about a nearly year-old Sarah Palin map; it’s about a lone nutjob who doesn’t value human life….

Let’s be honest: Journalists often use military terminology in describing campaigns. We talk about the air war, the bombshells, targeting politicians, knocking them off, candidates returning fire or being out of ammunition. So we shouldn’t act shocked when politicians do the same thing. Obviously, Palin should have used dots or asterisks on her map. But does anyone seriously believe she was trying to incite violence?

Others on the left side of the media spectrum reacted more predictably.  In The New Yorker, George Packer wrote:

[F]or the past two years, many conservative leaders, activists, and media figures have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents. Not just arguing against their opponents, but doing everything possible to turn them into enemies of the country and cast them out beyond the pale. Instead of “soft on defense,” one routinely hears the words “treason” and “traitor.” The President isn’t a big-government liberal—he’s a socialist who wants to impose tyranny. He’s also, according to a minority of Republicans, including elected officials, an impostor…. This relentlessly hostile rhetoric has become standard issue on the right. (On the left it appears in anonymous comment threads, not congressional speeches and national T.V. programs.)

Packer falls into the common trap of believing that the opposition is uniquely guilty of inflammatory tactics and statements.  I’ve written about this phenomenon before — see, for example, “Don’t Blame Me for Rush Limbaugh, I Won’t Blame You for Michael Moore,” and “Left Vs. Right: Who Has the Best Echo Chamber?

Packer tries to inoculate himself with a lame aside about “anonymous comment threads.”  But Checkpoint, a 2004 novella based on a fictional plot to assassinate then-President George W. Bush, was not published in an anonymous comment thread, nor even by an obscure publishing house.  It was published by Knopf, a storied 95-year-old imprint and a division of Random House.  (Yes, I know that’s only one example.  But it’s one more specific example than Packer gave.)

Jonathan Tobin at “Contentions” puts his finger on a double standard:

As the political left seeks to use the Arizona tragedy to tar all conservatives with the brush of the murderer, there is another point to remember here. In the past few years, there have been several shootings and terrorists attacks carried out or attempted by American Muslims who were clearly influenced by extremist Islam.

Yet every time such a crime happens, liberals loudly warn us that an examination of the motives of those who carry out such attacks is beyond the pale, since such ruminations might be prejudicial to Muslims, even if the truth is that those crimes were influenced by Islam.

When a crime has a seriously deranged perpetrator, like the young man who opened fire in Tucson yesterday, it’s counterproductive to speculate about where the suspect falls on the left-right political spectrum. There’s plenty of inflammatory rhetoric on both sides, and the whole point of realizing that the perp is a nutcase is to understand that his political opinions are not based on reality.

Since the shooting, the New York Times has published two separate articles about “a wrenching debate” or “a wrenching process of soul-searching” over the lack of civility in America’s public discourse.  Let’s hope this soul-searching continues past the current news cycle.

DADT: Some Days It’s Not Easy Being a Socially Liberal Republican

For national security and economic reasons I generally vote Republican, but I’m quite liberal on social issues.  For example, my support for same-sex marriage equality puts me to the left of Barack “marriage-is-between-a-man-and-a-woman” Obama.

This occasionally leads to cognitive dissonance, when people I otherwise admire take positions I find offensive.  I voted for Jon Corzine against the man I now think of as Governor Awesome, solely on the basis of Christie’s declaration that he would veto any legislation providing for same-sex marriage. Now the man I proudly backed for President has substituted tantrums for argumentation in leading the opposition to repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  The repeal was approved yesterday — the Web Goddess considers it a birthday present — and I take some solace in the fact that enough Republican Senators crossed the aisle to make the vote a landslide, 65-31.

I agree with Nick at GayPatriot that this legislative outcome is hugely preferable to the judicial ruling that no doubt was just a matter of time.

I cannot express how grateful I am that this didn’t happen at the rap of a judge’s gavel. Nothing could have been more destructive than had our military been forced to make this change not because our commanders had been directed to do so by our elected civilian leaders, but by judicial fiat. Simply put, the judicial branch is not (despite this Administration’s obsession with trying our enemies in civilian courts) charged with, nor does it have the temperament for, taking on the responsibility of national security. While all would agree that the policy is discriminatory, that in and of itself is a very very poor reason to make such a huge change to policy. For example, the ADA doesn’t quite apply to the military, now, does it? On the other hand, give me a truly national-defense reason for considering applying it so, and I (and all military commanders) will be all ears.

Some Senators argued that a change of this sort should not be made in time of war.  Two Republican Senators, Richard Burr of North Carolina and John Ensign of Nevada, voted to support a filibuster attempt that failed… and then later in the same day voted in favor of repeal. “Despite my concerns over timing, my conclusion is that repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is the right thing to do,” Burr said in a statement after the vote.

I agree that the timing is not ideal — it should have been done years ago. I have every confidence that the men and women of the armed forces are equal to the challenge posed by colleagues who no longer have to lie about who they are.

Meanwhile, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network offers a grim warning: “The bottom line is DADT is still in effect and it is NOT safe to come out.”

Even after the successful votes in Congress and even after the President signs the bill, the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must certify that the Defense Department is prepared to implement repeal. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will still be the law until 60 days after the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs certify repeal can happen.

It’s tempting to think this is excessive caution — the President, SecDef and Chairman all are on record supporting repeal.  The 60-day waiting period was a fig leaf provided to those concerned about moving too quickly.  But when the Bush tax cuts were originally passed in his first term, I don’t think many people expected the ridiculous sunset provisions to be triggered — and they almost were.

I’ll give the final words to Nick at GayPatriot, himself a veteran:

I thank God for the gay men and women who have been serving during (and even before) DADT in spite of it. While many gay activists have been on the sidelines carping about “rights” and “integrity” and “honor”, these brave men and women put their Nation before themselves and sacrificed as their colleagues never had to. They were called by service and answered in a way that speaks volumes about their dedication to the mission of the military. They chose to serve even as doing so meant keeping such a big part of themselves under wraps.

The bottom line is DADT is still in effect and it is NOT safe to come out.