If there was one concrete promise in the State of the Union speech, it was to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. And the president obviously means business. The powers that be are lining up behind him.
Robert Gates said the Pentagon is preparing to repeal the law.
Adm. Mike Mullen got a lot of press for his comments that it is his "personal belief" that lifting the ban is the "right thing to do."
Now Colin Powell has added his voice to the chorus. "Attitudes and circumstances have changed," Powell said to the Washington Post. They certainly have in the 17 years that have passed since he had opposed it.
The energy of the gay movement has shifted away from military to marriage. Most developed countries don't discriminate on basis of sexual orientation when it comes to gays and lesbians in the military and none of them seem to have imploded. They serve quite well as America's NATO allies in the "War on Terror" while the U.S. proceeds to discharge its gay Arabic speaking officers.
Now the United States is finally catching up.
Powell said, "We've had a lot of experience watching what other nations have done." Really? On this issue, and this issue only, America needs to follow while others lead? I thought President Obama said in his State of the Union: "I do not accept second place for the United States of America."
I guess gay rights isn't in the same ball park as green tech.
But what is aggravating is that Colin Powell, who had helped scuttle Bill Clinton's promise to end the gay ban in the military, said in his eminently reassuring way that it's OK now because there is increased "acceptance of gays and lesbians in society."
Did it make it all right then to drum gays and lesbians out of the military or force them to lie about their orientation just because society was not as "accepting" then?
I am glad that Powell now thinks its OK -- better late than never. But I am wondering what he really thought then. Has he changed his attitude towards homosexuality, which he once called "a behavioral characteristic"? Has Powell had a change of heart, or is he merely glad the great unwashed masses have had a change of attitude? Did he always believe this, but was waiting (quietly) for society to catch up? Would he ever admit he was plain wrong like the mayor of San Diego Jerry Sanders did when he reversed his stance on same sex marriage?
Colin Powell is a respected figure in politics because he has so often stayed above the fray. His endorsement of Obama, when it came, carried weight. On this issue, a mea culpa would have been appreciated. It's not that much to expect for 17 years of Don't Ask Don't Tell and the hundreds of lives that were upended in a morass of lies and accusations.
Dear Colin Powell: Those discharged soldiers do ask. Please do tell.