Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Gay General

There's a minor controversy from the latest CNN/YouTube debate, stemming from a question posed by retired Brig. General Keith Kerr. Kerr, who came out as gay after leaving the US Armed Forces, pointedly asked the Republican candidates about the military's policy of excluding openly gay members, specifically why they thought "American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians." Unsurprisingly, though many were uncomfortable, none responded by repudiating Don't Ask Don't Tell.

But that's not the controversy. Immediately after the debate, it came out that Kerr had links to Hillary Clinton's campaign, where he is an adviser for her on LGBT issues. Kerr is also a member of the Log Cabin Republicans, but it appears that in recent years (undoubtedly due in no small part to this issue) he has been voting Democratic.

I agree that CNN should have done a better job checking Kerr's credentials. It is relevant that he is affiliated with a Democratic campaign, and folks watching the debate have a right to know it. I do not, however, believe that this means Kerr's question should have been excluded. I have no problem with Democrats and Republicans having to answer pointed questions from the other side of the aisle. That strikes me as a feature, not a bug. The goal of these debates isn't to make the candidates comfortable. It's to get them to engage with real Americans which (though I know the partisans have trouble believing it) include folks from both sides. I'd be very interested in hearing the Democrats respond to a pointed query from an anti-gay American, or someone who feels that religion is being chased out of the public square.

So, failures of disclosure notwithstanding, the question and questioner should have stayed. Even conservative blogger James Joyner concedes it was a poignant and appropriate question, source notwithstanding. What bothers me is that it would have been so easy to include Kerr's Democratic conversion into the question and make it better, not worse. Here was his original question:
My name's Keith Kerr, from Santa Rosa, California. I'm a retired brigadier general with 43 years of service. I'm a graduate of the Special Forces Officer Course, the Commanding General Staff Course and the Army War College. And I'm an openly gay man. I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.

What if it were asked this way?
My name's Keith Kerr, from Santa Rosa, California. I'm a retired brigadier general with 43 years of service. I'm a graduate of the Special Forces Officer Course, the Commanding General Staff Course and the Army War College. Though I have long been Republican, in recent elections I have been compelled to support Democrats for one simple reason. I'm an openly gay man, and I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.

Just as powerful, and up-front.

Before we leave this topic, I just want to cast a spot-light on Rep. Duncan Hunter's answer to this question:
Rep. Duncan Hunter of California said: "General, thanks for your service, but I believe in what Colin Powell said when he said that having openly homosexual people serving in the ranks would be bad for unit cohesion.

"The reason for that, even though people point to the Israelis and point to the Brits and point to other people as having homosexuals serve, is that most Americans, most kids who leave that breakfast table and go out and serve in the military and make that corporate decision with their family, most of them are conservatives,'' Hunter said.

"They have conservative values, and they have Judeo-Christian values. To force those people to work in a small tight unit with somebody who is openly homosexual goes against what they believe to be their principles, and it is their principles, is I think a disservice to them. I agree with Colin Powell that it would be bad for unit cohesion.''

I may be wildly off base here, but I think Israelis would know something about Judeo-Christian values -- at least, if the "Judeo" part has any meaning whatsoever. If ever there was proof that the term has absolutely no Jewish component at all, Hunter just provided it.

4 comments:

PG said...

My perception may be incorrect, but I had thought the problem is not that he has voted Democrat, but that he is specifically affiliated with Hillary Clinton's campaign. As far as I know, people don't have to sign affidavits that they are of the Democratic Party to submit questions for Dem debates, nor of the Republican Party to submit questions for their debates. So merely saying that he "supported Democrats" in a general way (pun unintended) probably wouldn't have sufficed. This is looking bad both for CNN and for Hillary Clinton, both of which have gotten bad press for "plants."

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Jewish Atheist said...

I may be wildly off base here, but I think Israelis would know something about Judeo-Christian values -- at least, if the "Judeo" part has any meaning whatsoever. If ever there was proof that the term has absolutely no Jewish component at all, Hunter just provided it.

It's not that the "Judeo" part has no meaning, it's that when they say it, they just mean "the Jews who agree with us." Just as any position that the left 50% of Israelis agree with is derided as anti-Israel, positions that liberal Christians and Jews hold are derided as not being in accordance with "Judeo-Christian" values.

Stentor said...

I have to give Hunter a certain kind of credit for being so forthright about the moral bankruptcy of his position. To me, the exchange read as:

Kerr: Are you saying our troops are too wimpy to handle serving alongside LGBT people?

Hunter: Absolutely -- they're completely gutless, and we need to shelter their cowardice.