Posted by: Rick | Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ronald Reagan Versus The Troglodytes

Wingnut politicians like to think they’re completely in sync with the Gipper’s “core beliefs”.  But on the ridiculous “issue” of gays in the military, these fossils might be barking up the wrong presidential pant leg.  (Mixed metaphors for mixed-up hacks!)

Here’s Senator Saxby Chambliss, uber-douchebag from Georgia, warning gravely of the Lavender Menace that now apparently lurks just outside the gates of the Pentagon:

“Military life is very different than [sic — This is one of my grammatical pet peeves! — Rick] civilian life.  Military society is characterized by its own laws, rules, customs and traditions including restrictions on personal behaviors.”

Chambliss also pointed out a few of many behaviors regulated in the military that can result in a court martial.

“Examples include alcohol use, adultery, fraternization,” Chambliss said.  “If we change these rules, what are we going to do with these other issues?”

Again quoting the statute, Chambliss said, “The military must maintain personnel policies that exclude personnel whose presence in the armed forces would present and unacceptable risk to the armed forces’ high standards of morale, good order and discipline and unit cohesion.”

“In my opinion, the presence in the armed forces of those who present a propensity and intent to engage in homosexual acts would very likely create an unacceptable risk to those high standards of morale, good order and discipline and effective unit cohesion,” Chambliss concluded.

If our military personnel can’t carry out their duties in the presence of a few gays, we don’t stand a chance against Al Qaeda.  But I digress.  Back to the point of this post:

What would Ronald Reagan do about this issue in today’s political climate?  Perhaps he’d be forced to knuckle under to the knuckle-draggers in his midst, but I can’t see it happening without a fight:

According to biographer Lou Cannon, Reagan shared the common view of his time that homosexuality was a sickness.  He was not above telling jokes about gays.

Still, perhaps because he worked with gay actors in Hollywood and had gay friends, Reagan was relatively tolerant.  Cannon notes that Reagan was “respectful of the privacy of others” and was “not the sort of person who bothers about what people do in their own bedrooms.”  This attitude was consistent with Reagan’s larger philosophical commitment to individual liberty and limited government. . . .

Aside from his tolerant personal attitude, Reagan’s actual record on civil liberties for gays was surprisingly good.  Cannon reports that Reagan was “repelled by the aggressive public crusades against homosexual life styles which became a staple of right wing politics in the late 1970s.”

In 1978, for example, Reagan vigorously opposed a California ballot initiative sponsored by religious conservatives that would have barred homosexuals from teaching in the public schools.  The timing is significant because he was then preparing to run for president, a race in which he would need the support of conservatives and moderates very uncomfortable with homosexual teachers.  As Cannon puts it, Reagan was “well aware that there were those who wanted him to duck the issue” but nevertheless “chose to state his convictions.”. . .

The military’s ban on service by homosexuals was firmly in place long before Reagan became president.  It remained in force during his tenure, of course, but discharges for homosexuality declined every single year of Reagan’s presidency, suggesting the administration wasn’t interested in anti-gay witch-hunts. [Emphasis added]

Reaganism was bad for the country, but at least its architect had one foot planted (albeit a bit shakily) in the twentieth century.  Son of Reaganism, as practiced by today’s Republicans, is a joke and an abomination.  They’re moving backwards.

Note:  Lots of Democrats are just as bad.  (Ike Skelton, anybody?)  But they’re a shrinking minority of the party — I hope.

Update: Colin Powell has now flip-flopped and seen the light here.  I’ve got to believe that if Ronald Reagan rose from the grave to run the Republican Party in a post-9/11 era, he would quickly grow tired of the Saxby Chamblisses and would begin trying to drag his party back into sociological relevance.  Reagan was wrong about most things, but he was also — nonetheless — a leader concerned with serious ideas.   Fearmongering about gays is not an issue for such men.

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