Bush’s role in the disaster

In a post on the conservative surrender on homosexuals in the military, Lydia McGrew emphasizes the fact that G.W. Bush accepted Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” order and didn’t overturn it—that he failed to bring back the clarity of the 1993 law which simply prohibited homosexuality in the military. Once the highly ambiguous DADT—rather than straightforward prohibition of homosexuality—became the thing that was to be defended from further leftist assaults, the battle was already lost.

In other words, the real “repeal of DADT,” as distinct from the fake one we’ve been endlessly hearing about, would have meant a return to the complete exclusion of homosexuals. However, I’m not sure that Lydia’s analysis is correct. Was there any pressure coming from the conservative movement for Bush to overturn the Clinton order and re-institutionalize the unambiguous prohibition of homosexuals? I’m not aware that there was. I’m not aware that this was ever an issue during the Bush administration.

- end of initial entry -

January 3

Lydia McGrew writes:

Good question about conservative pressure on Bush to overturn DADT (in the real sense). I don’t remember any such pressure, but I don’t think that that lets Bush off the hook. He should have led by example. And he was the one who had the power. The “conservative movement” didn’t have the power to overturn the policy. Bush was in the position to do it.

I certainly think—and this seems to me the most interesting point to consider—that it would have made a difference to conservatives and to their perception of the issue if he had done so. That would have been eight full years during which a ban on homosexuals in the military was truly in place for conservatives to defend. That additional eight years of DADT, under a Republican President, solidified DADT in the public mind and in the conservative mind as the status quo and even as “the law.”

By the way, a liberal reader has introduced some interesting new information concerning an ambiguous way in which, in mid-1993, Congress may have covered for Clinton (who had already instituted DADT on his own recognizance at the beginning of his presidency) without actually passing a DADT law. This is detailed in the comments. I still have not absolutely confirmed that the relevant “sense of the Congress” paragraph (which does not have the force of law) was included with the 1993 law, but it appears that it may have been. If so, it contained ambiguous wording which appeared to permit “not asking” as a matter of the discretion of the executive branch while also allowing the executive branch, at its discretion, to reinstate the former policy of asking about recruits’ sexual orientation and acts. Bush could and should have done so.

LA replies:

But why should that issue even have been on his radar screen? Consider same sex “marriage.” The conservative movement was in his face on that, requiring him to endorse the soft version of the constitutional amendment, and he did so, but only in a rote way that made clear he didn’t care about the issue at all. Since conservatives didn’t even raise the issue of DADT, never challenging it from 1993 to 2010, I don’t think it’s realistic to have expected Bush to have been aware of the issue, let alone to have taken action on it.

Lydia McGrew replies:

Well, um, I was aware of the issue. In fact, one of the things I particularly thought about (without any great hopes) was whether in a variety of ways Bush would reverse various bad Clinton policies concerning the military, including the use of women in near-combat roles.

I know the President has a lot on his plate, but as I advise in my post itself, one of the major things a new, ostensibly conservative, President should be doing is looking immediately when he comes in at what lies within his power to change right away and easily, particularly when it comes to reversing dreadful acts of his predecessor. The military is an excellent place for such actions to take place, as the President and his appointees have so much leeway there.

Mitchell B. writes:

I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw the above headline. My reaction was to wonder which of the many, many disasters were being contemplated. Even if there had been pressure on Bush to do something about gays in the military, he probably would have done as little as possible.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 02, 2011 03:15 PM | Send

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