This week, Republicans in the Senate successfully showed their collective contempt for our men and women in uniform and in the process they made our military weaker and our country less safe.
Led by John McCain -- the upper chamber's cranky uncle -- Republicans blocked Democratic efforts to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the ban on gay men and lesbians openly serving in the military.
If McCain's comments after the repeal effort failed are any indication, members of the Grand Old tea Party fail to grasp the finer details of the policy or how it has been implemented. Worse still, they are defiant in their ignorance.
Speaking with reporters, the former Republican Party standard bearer was pressed about members of the military who had been outed -- in other words, those who didn't tell but were asked anyway.
McCain said, "We do not go out and seek. Regulations are, we do not go out and seek to find out if someone's sexual orientation. We do not!" A contention he repeated again and again as journalists attempted to offer him examples of troops who met that very fate.
You'd think Arizona's senior Senator would have been familiar with at least one such example. After all, as ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee he heard testimony from Michael Almy, a 13-year Air Force veteran who was discharged after emails to his same-sex partner were discovered.
Why let facts get in the way when animus towards the gay community on the right pays such handsome political dividends?
For McCain, it is a sad footnote for a man whose family has given so much to the armed services. For gay men and lesbians who have served or are currently serving in silence, McCain's words and actions border on desertion.
Those opposed to repealing the discriminatory policy usually claim that allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly would undermine unit cohesion, that repeal would adversely affect retention and that the public does not support such a move.
All three of these assertions are demonstrably false.
The unit cohesion argument is not supported by a single scientific study. In fact, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office said in a 1993 report that allowing gays to openly serve "has not created problems in the military" of other countries. Perhaps most telling, those who helped create the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy have reportedly admitted the argument about cohesion was "based on nothing."
The notion that military retention would be harmed if gay men and lesbians were to serve openly is also a canard. Such claims fly in the face of the experiences many other counties that allow open service have seen. One report noted that Canadian and British officials surveyed service members on the subject and found large majorities saying they would not serve if gay men and lesbians were allowed to serve -- the dramatic findings did not materialize when these nations ultimately lifted their bans.
Perhaps silliest of all is the claim that Americans do not support repealing the ban. Countless polls have found large majorities of Americans -- some as high as 75 percent -- supporting the right of gay men and lesbians to serve openly and honestly in uniform. Of course, those who rely on this false claim seem to suggest that civil rights should be part of some sort of popularity contest. A scary thought to be sure.
Because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," more than 14,000 service members have been discharged -- many of who were specialists with mission critical skills. Each passing day that this policy is allowed to stand our military is made weaker and our country is made less safe.
Fortunately, the president can end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" without the help of Republicans or Democrats for that mater. According to new legal analysis by the Palm Center, Obama's Department of Justice can simply decline appealing a recent Federal Judge's decision that found the policy unconstitutional.
This is an opportunity for President Obama to become the "fierce advocate" the gay community was promised.
Then again, he can always take McCain's lead.
Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and progressive political communications consultant. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube or sign-up to receive his columns by email.
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