It’s probably not much of a surprise that a majority of Republican presidential candidates suggested during CNN’s debate last night that if elected, they would go back to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. But they sounded oddly out of touch, since on the very same day, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the transition to allow openly gay service members in the military was, for the most part, moving along swimmingly.
Gates told the Associated Press that more than a million troops have already been trained on the new regime, with few problems, and that a formal repeal might take place at the end of June. “I think people are pretty satisfied with the way this process is going forward,” he said. “I think people have been mildly and pleasantly surprised at the lack of pushback in the training.”
Never mind that. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said last night that if elected, she would go back. “I would keep the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, she said flatly. Former Sen. Rick Santorum agreed, adding that the military is “not for social experimentation.” Mitt Romney said that, “Don’t ask, don’t tell’ should have been kept in place until conflict was over,” which we all know might be for decades.
Despite the swell progress described by Gates, Newt Gingrich suggested that he would go back to “don’t ask, don’t tell,” because the Army and Marines want it that way. “Well, I think it’s very powerful that both the Army and the Marines overwhelmingly opposed changing it, that their recommendation was against changing it,” he told CNN’s John King.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty also seemed to agree that military commanders wanted to go back to the policy as well. “I know they expressed concerns — many of the combatant commanders did — when this was originally repealed by the Obama administration,” he noted.
Interestingly, the only two candidates who see the writing on the wall are the ones with a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. A guy named Herman Cain, who is apparently running for president, admitted that he probably would not have overturned ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,” but that there is no reason to go back to it now. “Our men and women have too many other things to be concerned about rather than have to deal with that as a distraction,” he pointed out.
Ron Paul, who ran and lost last time, pointed out that discrimination is, well, wrong. “We have to remember, rights don’t come in groups,” he said. “We shouldn’t have gay rights. Rights come as individuals.”