NO ONE ESCAPES THEIR WRATH…. It was quite a sight yesterday when Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it’s time to let gay servicemen and women serve openly in the U.S. military.
What I didn’t realize was the extent of the pushback they received from conservative Republican senators. Dana Milbank had a good report on this.
On the dais, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the Republican Party’s 2008 presidential standard-bearer, accused Mullen and the other witness, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, of trying to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law “by fiat.” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) accused the admiral of obeying “directives” from President Obama. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) accused Mullen of “undue command influence.”
As the challenges to his integrity continued, Mullen pursed his lips, then put his forearms on the table, displaying the admiral stripes on his sleeves. After Sessions’s provocation, the Joint Chiefs chairman glared at the diminutive Alabamian. “This is not about command influence,” Mullen said. “This is about leadership, and I take that very seriously.”
It gets back to something we talked about the other day — the growing divisions between the Republican establishment and the military establishment. There was a point not too long ago when GOP senators on the Armed Services Committee would be far more respectful and deferential towards the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. It was simply assumed — Republicans revered the judgment of the nation’s military leaders.
But now that the military establishment agrees with President Obama — on everything from civilian trials to Gitmo to torture to service qualifications — the GOP has no qualms about questioning not only the brass’ judgment, but also its honesty.
The entire dynamic seems unusual, and it is. But the political world should acknowledge what is plainly true — the days when Republicans and military leaders marched to the same beat are over.