When the excuses well runs dry

WHEN THE EXCUSES WELL RUNS DRY…. The first of two days of Senate Armed Services Committee hearings got underway this morning, with lawmakers considering the latest evidence on scrapping the existing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

At this point, I’m honestly not sure what more there is to talk about. In light of the new Pentagon report on the attitudes of servicemen and women and their families, Fred Kaplan explains that John McCain and other anti-gay senators have officially run out of excuses.

Really, senator, what more is there to say?

The 257-page report — dauntingly titled “Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated With the Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ ” and written by a panel co-chaired by Jeh Charles Johnson, the Pentagon’s general counsel, and Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of the U.S. Army in Europe — makes the case that McCain and others have been demanding. […]

The evidence, the polling data of service men and women, the testimony of senior officers, the everyday experiences of living and fighting, the imperatives of national security, as well as the obvious moral standards of contemporary life — all point to, at the very least, a shift in the burden of proof on whether DADT should be repealed. It’s no longer valid, and it’s clearly a pretense, to call for further studies, further surveys, closer questioning. If McCain and the others oppose repeal, they have to come up with some new reason — or fall back on the oldest, most unpalatable reason — why.

The reality, of course, is that we know the “why”; it’s just an uncomfortable truth well-intentioned people are reluctant to say publicly. After all the studies, surveys, hearings, testimonials, court rulings, debates, and discharges, we’re left a conclusion that’s hard to avoid: opponents of repeal don’t like gay and lesbian Americans, even when they’re prepared to put their lives on the line to protect the rest of us.

To block repeal — indeed, to refuse to allow the Senate to even vote up or down on funding the troops because of a repeal provision — is to give in to bigotry. It’s as simple as that.

As of yesterday morning, it appeared repeal was in deep trouble, as Republicans announced they’d hold the chamber hostage over tax cuts for millionaires, killing everything else, including the defense authorization bill. But by late yesterday afternoon, a few GOP senators — Lugar, Murkowski, and possibly Collins — hinted they could vote for the defense bill even before the tax issue is resolved.

We should know more fairly soon, and if the Armed Services Committee hearings go as expected, the testimony should give the larger effort a significant boost.