The Danger of Hiding Behind the Generals.

A key part of the conservative argument for keeping the ban on gay Americans serving in the military is that military leaders supposedly tell us that removing the ban will cause untold chaos. The problem comes when those military leaders begin to change their minds, as John McCain is finding out. His previous position was that "the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, 'Senator, we ought to change the policy,' then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it." Oh, well. Now that the military leadership has done just that, McCain decided that he has to support the ban because Colin Powell does. Seems that may not be quite the ace in the hole he was hoping for:

During the hearing, McCain told the committee that "the reason why I supported the policy to start with is because Gen. Colin Powell, who was then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the one that strongly recommended we adopt this policy in the Clinton administration. I have not heard General Powell or any of the other military leaders reverse their position." But today, Powell released a statement doing exactly that. "In the almost 17 years since the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed. I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen," his statement read.

Just going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing McCain will come up with yet another justification for his continued support of the ban. Perhaps he could join his good friend Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who warned that repealing the ban could force the military to tolerate "alcohol use, adultery, fraternization and body art." Come to think of it, if the Navy Seals started painting henna on their faces, it would be totally badass.

-- Paul Waldman

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