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.