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Reid isn't helping his own cause

Date: 9/20/2010

By G. Michael Dobbs, Managing Editor

As I write this column, news reports indicate there may be a vote in the Senate on a repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. I've also heard reports there may not be enough votes to pass it the House has already passed their version and Sen. John McCain has said he would oppose it because the Pentagon has yet to finish a study on it.

The following is part of the testimony Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff, gave to a Congressional hearing on the subject earlier this year:

"Mr. Chair-man, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me personally, it comes down to integrity theirs as individuals and ours as an institution. I also believe that the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change. I never underestimate their ability to adapt."

He continued, "But I do not know this for a fact, nor do I know for a fact how we would best make such a major policy change in a time of two wars. That there will be some disruption in the force I cannot deny. That there will be legal, social, and perhaps even infrastructure changes to be made certainly seem plausible. We would all like to have a better handle on these types of concerns, and this is what our review will offer."

Of course, like nothing is easy on Beacon Hill, nothing is easy in Washington, D.C., and Sen. Harry Reid has muddied the waters by adding an amendment that is also proving to be quite controversial.

Reid issued a press release about the "DREAM amendment," that read in part, "We are also offering an amendment to pass the DREAM Act. This amendment will ensure that millions of children who grow up, as Americans, will be able to get the education they need to contribute to our economy. Students who come to America before age 16 and who have been here for five years should be able get their green card after they go to college or serve in the military. And many who have volunteered to defend our country can finally become citizens of it."

Now I'm just a crusty old small town journalist, but I don't understand why Reid would act on the gay rights aspect of the bill before he received a report from the Pentagon and attach an amendment that is sure to infuriate people who will see it as a handout to illegal immigrants.

How is this progress?

Gay Americans should be able to serve their country. Reid should allow the Pentagon to take at least some of the politics out of the debate with its recommendations. I think the Pentagon could have "de-wedged" this issue.

And attaching this amendment on illegal aliens now is only fuel to the upcoming midterm election fire. I don't think Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck need any more reasons to get all frothy with rage about something. Gee, this could make Beck cry. Again.

It's a political gamble, of course, and one to try to attract the Latino vote.

For the life of me, I don't understand why, in this day and age, people can't accept gay people in American society. Gay marriage has been a non-issue in Massachusetts. How has any gay marriage affected anyone other the people in that marriage?

It's a shame that instead of a step forward, we may see a couple of steps back.

This column represents the opinion of its author