Study Backs Allowing Gays in the Military

Following the previous post seems like a good time to post yet another example of a conservative getting it right, in contrast to what other conservatives are writing. Ed Morrissay quotes from a study which reports that “A bipartisan panel of retired military commanders has concluded that Congress should repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” and allow gays to serve openly in the military.  One commander helped Bill Clinton implement the current policy in 1993 but says it’s flawed by an assumption of disruption when no evidence exists for it.  The study, commissioned by UC Santa Barbara, found no evidence that gays serving openly would affect morale, unit cohesion or readiness.”

After quoting form the report, Morrissay continues:

Supporters of the ban have argued that the potential for disruption has never been disproven, but one cannot prove a negative.  Evidence exists in other Western forces that gays serve openly without affecting unit morale or performance; British and Israeli militaries have long allowed gays to serve openly, and they have suffered no loss in readiness. As Admiral Shanahan notes, DADT itself creates morale problems with its hypocrisy and necessary deception on the part of everyone involved.

DADT could be considered a necessary bridging step between the outright ban on gays in the military and full acceptance.  Congress needs to ask whether the policy has outlived its usefulness and — importantly — whether this moment will serve best as a launching point for a more reasonable policy.  The military has spent 15 years admitting, at least tacitly, that gays can serve their nation with honor and distinction.

A Conservative Attack on the Discovery Institute

Blogging is a useful means of posting one’s views, allowing for brief comments from those of us who must fit it into a very busy schedule which makes it difficult to write in longer formats. One problem with this is that we must often use generalities and blog posts don’t lend themselves to all the qualifications which should be made when writing. That means in general I write of conservatives as being on the wrong side with regards to a number of topics I often write about here, such as the religious right and the attempts to teach creationism in the schools. To make amends for that oversimplification I do try to periodically provide counter examples to demonstrate that sometimes conservatives do get it right.

I’ve previously quoted John Derbyshire’s criticism of the creationist movie, Expelled. Today he rips apart the Discovery Institute. He notes how the Discovery Institute encourages the teaching of creationism in places such as Dover, but skips town when it comes time to pay the legal bills:

Where will the Discovery Institute be when these legal expenses come due? Just where they were in the Dover case — nowhere! What, you were thinking that those bold warriors for truth at the Discovery Institute will help to fund the defense in these no-hope lawsuits? Ha ha ha ha ha!

Helping to defend creationist school boards in federal courts is not the Discovery Institute’s game. Their game is to (a) make money from those spurious “textbooks” they put out, and (b) keep creationism in the news so that they don’t run out of lecture gigs and wealthy funders. So far as those legal bills are concerned, Discovery Institute policy is: Let the dumb rubes fund their own stupid lawsuits.

Clinton Votes No as FISA Compromise Passes

Role reversal is quite apparent on the FISA vote. Over the last several years Hillary Clinton has moved to the right on many issues, including those related to civil liberties and the power of government. She has received plenty of criticism in the past for her weak opposition to the FISA bill. While she was hoping to run for president, she repeatedly pandered to fear of terrorism. Now that she is no longer a candidate, she has moved back to the left as Barack Obama has disappointed many of his supporters in voting for the bill to avoid right wing charges of being weak on terrorism.

As Matthew Yglesias wrote, “I don’t believe that if Clinton and Obama swapped roles that they’d be acting any differently.” Regardless of who the Democratic nominee was, I have little doubt they would be making the mistake Obama made and vote for the compromise. If Obama was not the nominee, he be sticking to his principles and voting no. Still, the fact remains that today Clinton was right and Obama was wrong. Clinton also had a good statement:

Congress must vigorously check and balance the president even in the face of dangerous enemies and at a time of war. That is what sets us apart. And that is what is vital to ensuring that any tool designed to protect us is used – and used within the law – for that purpose and that purpose alone. I believe my responsibility requires that I vote against this compromise, and I will continue to pursue reforms that will improve our ability to collect intelligence in our efforts to combat terror and to oversee that authority in Congress.

Clinton has long been on the wrong side with regards to supporting increased presidential power. She has corrected her position as her situation changed. I hope that Obama, regardless of what he felt he must do politically today, remembers his views on civil liberties once he takes office and is not tempted to allow increased Executive power when he is in the one in the White House.

McCoward Stays Away As Senate Passes Medicare Bill

Ted Kennedy made it back to the Senate today (pictured entering the Capitol Building above with Caroline behind him) to ensure that the Medicare bill did not fail by one vote as it did before the Senate went on recess. With Kennedy present to guarantee passage, nine other Republicans also changed their vote to guarantee a veto-proof margin of victory.

While Kennedy made it back despite undergoing cancer treatment, there was one notable absence. John McCain was the only Senator who failed to make this important vote. Earlier in the day The Hill reported on attempts by Democrats to force McCain to take a position on this issue, especially considering that his vote could have made a big difference in June. This issue had doctors, the elderly, and even military families on one side with the insurance industry on the other. McCain avoided inquires as to his position, most likely hoping to avoid opposition from any of these groups on either side of the issue.

This has been typical of John McCain during the campaign. While it is common for candidates to miss many votes while running for president, John McCain is taking this to a new level. McCain has missed 61.8% of the votes cast, exceeding even the number missed by Tim Johnson following a cerebral hemorrhage. Obama has missed 43.5% of the votes, far fewer than McCain. What is particularly notable about McCain’s missed votes is that they are often on controversial issues where he has avoided taking a stand. In contrast, other candidates in similar positions such as John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama this year have announced how they would have voted on controversial votes which they missed.

Update: Pete Stark released this statement on John McCain’s failure to show up to vote:

Senator Kennedy managed to make it back from treatment for cancer, but Senator McCain couldn’t be bothered. Senator McCain, who wants to be our next President, has skipped this vote three times now. Clearly, he’d rather hide than face up to the insurance industry. You can do that when you’re in the U.S. Senate, maybe voters should leave him there.

McContradictions on Spending

The New Republic has an article which provides a good follow up to this post yesterday. I commented on how McCain’s promised tax cuts would add more to the deficit than the spending increases for programs promised by Obama. The New Republic writes:

John McCain’s fantastical pledge on Monday to balance the budget by 2013 through massive tax cuts and unidentified budget reductions deserved the bad reviews it received. But the most unfortunate element of his incoherent promise is that it’s representative of his policy agenda these days. While the McCain campaign is trying to paint Barack Obama as a flip-flopper, the Arizona Republican is making diametrically opposed policy promises to different audiences at the same time. The contradictions are often in the details, but their obscurity is evidence of the campaign’s cynicism.

The article reviews many contradictions made by the McCain campaign. Here’s just one of the examples they discuss:

Take McCain’s ambitious health care plan. It would give every family a $5,000 health insurance tax credit at a cost of $3.6 trillion, by his campaign’s own account. Despite its size, McCain aides have said, repeatedly, that McCain’s health care proposal has no net cost. That’s because it would tax workers’ health benefits, which the Joint Committee on Taxation agrees will raise $3.6 trillion (in its analysis of the Bush proposal that served as the model for McCain’s plan). Taxing health benefits solves the budget problem, but it creates another: It raises taxes on tens of millions of middle-class families, according to a Center for American Progress Action Fund report one of us co-authored.

Rather than face up to the difficult choice between higher deficits and more taxes, McCain advisors are attempting to have the best of both worlds. Jonathan Cohn noted “rumors” that McCain was actually subjecting health benefits to income taxes but not to payroll taxes–a policy that would help middle-class families but explode the deficit. And the McCain campaign told Daily Tax Report that “health benefits would only be subject to income taxes, not payroll taxes.”

This makes no sense. The campaign’s own $3.6 trillion figure is based on both income and payroll taxes. To say the plan cuts taxes by $3.6 trillion, has no budget cost, and doesn’t raise payroll taxes is sort of like saying that Cindy McCain’s passion fruit mousse recipe has no fat, burns calories, and eliminates male pattern baldness: It’s impossible.

Obama, Faith-Based Iniatives, And The Right Wing

Sometimes seeing who opposes a plan, and the specifics of their objections, provides some insight about a policy. Some liberals had reservations about Obama’s support for faith-based initiatives, with these reservations largely fueled by inaccurate media accounts. Besides being inaccurate with regards to Obama’s position on hiring based upon religious views, the media accounts were too superficial to include discussion of the degree to which Obama made sure that his proposals were consistent with his strong support for separation of church and state.

I have noted many times that I would prefer that politicians leave religion entirely out of politics. In Obama I’ve seen a fair compromise. While Obama does bring religion into politics far more than I would like, he has also demonstrated strong support for separation of church and state. I’m willing to accept more talk of religion from Obama if this must be the trade off for having a presidential candidate express such strong support for separation of church and state following the manner in which this has been eroded in recent years.

In general I hope that all sides see Obama’s position on religion as an acceptable compromise. As winning an election might depend upon bringing in more of the religious vote than Democrats generally receive, this would be a worthwhile compromise if more religious voters, who might not share my concern for separation of church and state, also found Obama’s position to be a good compromise between left and right.

There have been many signs that some religious voters are considering voting for Obama, but it is inevitable that the more extreme on the right will not accept Obama’s views. This opposition still does serve a useful purpose, possibly helping reassure liberals who misunderstand Obama’s views and religion and see them as a sell out to the right.

The Daily Standard provides such an example today. In failing to respect separation of church and state, they frame Obama’s restrictions on the use of government money for hiring based upon religion as being overly restrictive and anti-freedom. While liberals will easily see through their claims of a “freedom” to use government funds as both a misuse of the word “freedom” and a violation of the First Amendment, their position does help demonstrate that there is a clear difference between Obama’s views and the views of the religious right on faith-based initiatives. The article demonstrates that such differences extend to the views of John McCain:

McCain quickly responded to Obama’s faith-based proposal on July 2, 2008, fully supporting the freedom of faith-based organizations to staff on a religious basis even when they receive federal funds:

“John McCain supports faith based initiatives, and recognizes their important role in our communities. He has co-sponsored legislation to foster improved partnerships with community organizations, including faith-based organizations, to assist with substance abuse and violence prevention. He also believes that it is important for faith-based groups to be able to hire people who share their faith, and he disagrees with Senator Obama that hiring at faith-based groups should be subject to government oversight.”

The Daily Standard makes it clear that Obama and McCain have distinctly different views on religion and government, and the attacks on Obama from this conservative publication help to debunk the claims that Obama has moved away from his core liberal values on this issue.