Elaine Donnelly is at it again. Yesterday she trotted out former commandant of the Marine Corps Carl E. Mundy Jr. and a thousand (she says; we didn't count them) other retired flag and general officers to warn President Obama that they are firmly behind the 1993 law known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The letterhead - "Flag & General Officers for the Military" - indicates it emanated from the same suite 650 on L Street that she and a number of other organizations use as a Washington drop box. The office has a conference room for hire that they can call their own and occasionally do.
Well, no surprise about Elaine. No surprise about General Mundy, either. He was one of the Joint Chiefs to let President Clinton know who was boss when the former president - who, like Ms. Donnelly, never served - said he was going to issue an executive order to end the ban on gays. No gays in the showers on the Mundy watch, by golly. To the barricades, men! We've got to keep the military safe for straights!
Yes, well, General Mundy, now 73 and retired since 1995, has been down the road reserved for bigots before. In an October 31, 1993, appearance on 60 Minutes, the general noted that in regard to military skills "we find that the minority officers do not shoot as well as the non-minorities. They don't swim as well. And when you give them a compass and send them across the terrain at night in a land navigation exercise, they don't do as well at that sort of thing."
Oops! There was some complaint about his being "the victim of selective editing," but in any case the general later apologized - as he has on other occasions when he stumbled and woke up to find his foot in his mouth. Eventually he may even apologize for this. Yes, I know it seems unlikely, but both General Mundy and I are from the South where we believe in redemption. Elaine is from the North - Livonia, Michigan - so I'm not so sure about her. Just last summer she told a Congressional hearing about "a group of black lesbians who decided to assault" a fellow soldier. Roving bands of black lesbians! You can see where she and General Mundy might be natural comrades in arms.
The question for President Obama is whether he wants to stand with General Mundy and Elaine Donnelly's misguided army of the gay-obsessed mired in the past, or with the vast majority of Americans in and out of the military who are grounded in the 21st century and don't share that obsession. Wouldn't he rather stand with Major General Vance Coleman, USA (ret.), who testified in that same 2008 hearing that brought forth Elaine's nightmares of "forcible sodomy" and lesbians snapping pictures in the shower?
General Coleman is an African-American, a flag officer who presumably learned to shoot straight. He enlisted in the Army at 17, before President Truman desegregated the armed forces by executive order. He knows the harm that prejudice borne of ignorance can do. "I have seen and experienced what happens when our armed forces treat some service personnel as second-class citizens," he said, "and, conversely, what we can achieve when we reverse those views and embrace all of our troops as first-class patriots with an important contribution to make."
General Coleman does not stand alone. There are the members of Knights Out, a group of gay West Point graduates. There are the hundred plus admirals and generals who have called for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." There is Major General Michael Oates, commander of the 10th Mountain Division. And there is Staff Sergeant Cory R. Schneckenburger, stationed at Joint Base Balad in Iraq. He wrote a letter responding to one published in Stars and Stripes March 20. Sergeant Schneckenburger's was published March 25. (The newspaper published a series of letters on the subject, which can be found in a search of its website.) I am going to quote Sergeant Schneckenburger's in its entirety:
"In "Problems with gays" ("Shower issue not homophobia," letter, March 20), the writer mentions that, in his travels throughout the region, he has realized there are limited shower facilities.
"I must applaud such a profound observation. He then comes to the astute conclusion that this means if homosexual men and women are permitted to be open in the military, they will be sharing the same shower facilities with straight men and women they may find attractive.
"It escapes me how someone can logically assume there are no gay men and women currently in the showers. Furthermore, the writer assumes just because someone can be open about their sexual preference, they WILL be open, and that if they are open, they are compelled by some mystical force beyond their control to hit on everyone.
"There is a standard regarding sexual harassment that gays who are currently serving in our military are meeting and that will continue to be met if gays are permitted to serve openly. I suggest that the writer and everyone with similar thought patterns get past their own fears and deal with the modern day integration in an honorable fashion befitting the U.S. military."
We all know that President Obama stands with General Coleman, with General Oates, with Sergeant Schneckenburger, and with the American people. All he has to do is say so and say it in his Defense budget that goes to Capitol Hill on May 4. If the president fails to lead now, Elaine Donnelly and her hall-of-shame gang will gladly fill the vacuum.