Monday, December 20, 2010

Hold off on accolades for U.S. Senate – the progressive ‘glass’ is half-empty

To listen to, and read through, much of the rhetoric that came from Capitol Hill this weekend, our government took some serious steps in the direction of decency when it did away with the inane policies concerning gay people serving in the military.
KIRK: "Nea," then "yea"

I’ll be the first to admit that having the Senate vote to do away with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that was former President Bill Clinton’s inane attempt to compromise away an issue where there really is no compromise was a positive.

THE SOONER WE come to realize that gay people exist in our society, including in our military, the quicker we will move along and advance.

Yet before we get all too worked up in patting ourselves on the back because our political people had a “job well done” on Saturday (and that President Barack Obama will finish off by signing the repeal into law some time this week), let’s keep in mind that the very same politicians also took steps backward on the decency scale when they failed to overcome the nativist hostility that wants to view the DREAM Act as an attempt to reward the children of criminals.

I consider those two acts linked together because of the way they got paired up – short debate on DREAM, then a vote for cloture, followed up by short debate on the military policy, followed by a vote for cloture – by the Senate.

First, failure, then success, all within an hour’s time span, setting the stage for the vote later in the day Saturday where the U.S. Senate decided that the policy of allowing gay people to serve in the military only if they went to extremes to keep quiet about their orientation.

THAT MIGHT BE a step better than what the conservative ideologues would prefer (a policy by which the military could openly seek out gay soldiers and sailors, then whack them with the “dishonorable” discharge). But accepting that the sexual orientation is most likely irrelevant is the real direction our military needs to go – and is the direction that Clinton should have sought back in the 1990s when he pushed for the policy that is now on the verge of becoming ancient history.
GUTIERREZ: Pulling a Vrdolyak over DREAM?

It may well be totally appropriate that DREAM and the abolition of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” came on the same day. Because there are times I see a similarity in Clinton’s handling of gays in the military to the way Obama is trying to handle immigration reform – an issue needed just as crucially.

Clinton’s attempt to compromise into a policy “everybody” could accept created a nonsense policy that we now have to undo. Perhaps it is the same with Obama – who gives us the rhetoric about immigration policy that shows us he understands the issue’s significance.

But he seems unwilling to expend the political capital for “those foreigners” in the same way that Clinton wouldn’t do so for gay servicemen/women. His actions don’t match the talk.

COULD IT BE that we’re going to be stuck with a future president taking on the issue of immigration in a respectable manner, the same way that it appears Obama has to take on the military question because of Clinton’s shortcoming?

Despite that attack on the president, I’m not about to fall into the nonsense-rhetoric being spewed by the GOP Latino interests these days. I agree with them when they say the five Democratic members of the Senate who voted against DREAM are “shameful” and “should permanently be listed as anti-Hispanic” (although I’d use the label ‘anti-Latino’ instead).

But I think they’re behaving hysterically when they say our very own Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., should leave the Democratic Party in response to the Senate’s actions, and that the DREAM's failure is the fault solely of Democratic Party leadership.

These Latino Republicans (who at times come off sounding like they wish they were Anglo-, instead of Latin-, American) sound too much like apologists for their own party – which is the solid leader of the effort to kill off the DREAM, while also trying to maintain the status quo on gays in the military because they fear the future.

I’D TAKE THE Latino faction of the Republican Party (which does exist) a lot more seriously if they’d divert their future attention to trying to convince the majority of their own side about the legitimacy of immigration reform and the DREAM – whose purpose was to treat these young people who have lived here the bulk of their lives just like any other young person who lives here.

So what should we think of this weekend in the U.S. Senate – which I consider to be a draw for the forces of progressivism (which at times behave as though they’re two middle-aged stoners wasting away time in the basement)?

I couldn’t help but notice both Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Evan Bayh, D-Ind., were among those who backed both issues, while rookie Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and veteran Richard Lugar, R-Ind., were split.
LUGAR: He was half-correct

Kirk did right by the military question, while Lugar behaved properly on the immigration-related issue. I didn’t expect Kirk to vote in favor of the DREAM, so his “nea” wasn’t shocking to me. I was more disappointed by the rhetoric of Lugar (one of the few GOPers who consistently acts properly on immigration) on gays in the military.

HE SAID IN his prepared statement that he questions making such a change at a time when U.S. military personnel are fighting both in Afghanistan and Iraq, falling into the line of illogic that this is merely the “wrong” time for the issue.

It sounds as absurd as those who argue that a time of tough economic times such as now is the wrong time to bring up immigration reform. Because the people who have the biggest hang-ups about these questions are going to keep them even when the war’s over, and the economy improves.

When we overcome all of these issues, then that is when we can legitimately pat ourselves on the back.


No comments: