Our Touch-y Feel-y Troops.

There was never any question that Republicans, led by John McCain, would kick up a fuss during today’s Senate hearings on whether to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." The only question had been what their strategy would be -- what to do in light of the recently released report by the Department of Defense Working Group, which concluded that DADT should be repealed, particularly since 70 percent of the troops surveyed couldn’t care less.

Basically, Republicans complained that the military and Congress "need more time" before going ahead with repealing DADT – and that the decision to repeal DADT, unlike any other policy that applies to the troops, should be made via a referendum in which every solider has a chance to express his or her feelings. McCain, the guy who picked his 2008 running mate in 15 minutes and made no big fuss about the importance of counting every vote in 2000, said that he wants more time to read the report -- and more reports after that. Along with three other Republicans, he said that while not enough troops answered the survey – there was “only” a 28 percent response rate -- we should consider the high percentages of combat troops (Marines in particular) who opposed repeal. Sen. Lindsay Graham suggested that military chiefs should ask better questions and listen better when it comes to the people they serve. (The Senate, not so much.)

It was a touching embrace of lesbian feminist collective politics: The soldier-who-respects-the-chain-of-command-and-does-what-he’s-told is now concerned that too few soldiers got to express their feelings. Of course, all of the Republicans who suddenly care about the feelings of our troops should get some kind of commendation for hypocrisy: They voiced no such concerns when it came time to rush them into Iraq without sufficient justification for war or enough body armor and have made no move to stop multiple forced deployments or address the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, unemployment, and homelessness among those who return.

That said, a profile in courage award should go to Susan Collins, who broke ranks with her Republican colleagues to state her support for repeal and to note that one does not poll the troops when it comes to other policy decisions. Tomorrow, the committee will hear from the five heads of the military branches, including those representing the combat troops whose objection to repeal provided the Republicans with so much of their thunder today.

-- Nancy Goldstein

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