ATWG: Why I’m Ashamed of Sen. McCain

The history of oppressing Black and LGBT service people has striking parallels. In the latest installment of Ask the White Guy, DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti explains why the president needs to sign an executive order to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" right now.

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

Marine Corps Commandant James T. Conway has asked a question the Big Media refuses to ask, namely: Will open homosexuality within the ranks enhance combat readiness? “My personal opinion is that unless we can strip away the emotion, the agendas, and the politics and ask [whether] … we somehow enhance the war fighting capabilities of the United States Marine Corps by allowing homosexuals to openly serve, [then] we haven’t addressed [this issue] from the correct perspective. And, at this point, I think that the current policy works. My best military advice to this committee, to the secretary, and to the president would be to keep the law such as it is.” General Conway’s moderate and commonsense message was echoed, albeit in more muted form, by Army Chief of Staff General George W. Casey Jr. and Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton A. Schwartz. GENERAL CASEY: I do have serious concerns about the impact of repeal of the law on a force that’s fully engaged in two wars and has been at war for eight-and-a-half years. We just don’t know the impacts on readiness and military effectiveness. GENERAL SCHWARTZ: [My] strong conviction [is that] this is not the time to perturb the force, [which] is, at the moment, stretched by demands in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere without careful deliberation.

Our country has gone through this before; when President Truman wanted to end military racial segregation in 1948, the same argument about “decreased combat readiness” was used against Black people. President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 and two commissions formed: one by Charles Fahy, which recommended the end of segregation and quotas, and the other, formed by the Army, was headed by Lt. General Chamberlin. The Chamberlin Board recommended retention of segregation and quotas.

The Korean War then made integration a necessity—there weren’t enough white soldiers to fill combat slots. As is the case today, when bullets start flying, pragmatism takes over. Integration of some combat units happened and the Chamberlin Board was asked to reconvene a year later. Although it had to concede that integrated units performed just as well as all-white units, it still recommended segregation and quotas. It’s eerily similar to today’s experience; because of  staffing and specialty shortages, since our current two wars started, there has been a dramatic fall in service people separated under DADT (the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy), a fact that bluntly contradicts any prediction of “decreased combat readiness.” The military has already shown us that out and gay can work just fine.

It’s sad to note that the history of oppressing Black service people and LGBT service people has striking parallels—the military in 1951 and 2010  conducted surveys to assess attitudes, hired consulting groups to produce studies (the Research Analysis Corporation in 1951, RAND in 2010—ironically, neither group had discernible excellence in accomplishment in what they were studying). The results of all of these surveys, meetings and reports were remarkably similar. Bigotry was trumped by performance. Familiarity demolished objectification. Integration, handled well, INCREASED combat effectiveness.

Go figure. Treat people like human beings, respect their rights, and they’ll fight better for you. Do you really need RAND to tell you this?

I appreciate the general officer’s opinions that you quoted, and you can counter the opinions you quoted with the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, who while testifying to Congress said, “I have served with homosexuals since 1968” (when he joined the service). He also said, “No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”

We don’t have to line up and contrast senior officers’ opinions, however. It is important to note that we have a very special system in our country: the military is run by the civilian government. The president appoints service secretaries to run the military and the admirals and generals all report to civilians. Our country has a long history of tragedy when we parse rights. The time for action is now—and the president needs to sign another executive order.

In closing, I’ll say that as a fellow naval aviator, I’ve gone from admiring Sen. John McCain to being ashamed of him. He is the Lt. General Chamberlin of our day—a bulwark for bigotry.


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  • What rock have you been under? McCain sold out to the religious right in 2006 in return for a presidential bid. His politics, policies, and allegiances were admirable as a ‘maverick’ for 30 years and now… just another agent of intolerance and theocracy.

  • Good always comes from bad. It took the failure of repealing DADT for you to see John McCain clearly. Ha Ha

  • Fantastic piece! In the end, bullets really don’t care if you’re gay or straight.

  • I agree with you! I support repeal of the DADT . . . or an executive order.

    I am a non-white, heterosexual male. No history of LGBT in either side of my family nor my wife’s family. I have friends who exhibits tendencies of a gay or a lesbian. I work and have worked withgays and lesbian. Have never waste my time to asked their sexual orientation. Not interested at all if they are gay / lesbian. I am an independent voter who had admired John McCain . . . unfortunately, he is loosing my support for his actions the last 18 or twenty months.

  • After the failure of the Republicans to remove President Clintion from office, the 2006 and 2008 election cycles, and the Republicans failed attempts to hijack nationalism, patriotism, and the moral high ground, I am more convinced that ever, that the American people , due in part to it’s demographic shift to racial and ethnic minorities, women, and people under 35, no longer are as obsessed with sexual orientation as older people are, and don’t see it as a threat to them. On the other hand, the Republicans are finding themselves on the wrong side of an issue that denies people “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Their view rest on claims that have no evidence…and John McMame’s limp excuse about letting soldiers to be asked, is ridiculous. Since when do we ask soldiers about national policy? That’s what we have elections for. At the end of the day, if the Commander-in-Chief says the military will return to riding horses, and using swords instead of guns, anyone in the military who doesn’t like it, can leave at the end of their enlistments, or resign if they are commissioned officers. Asking the military about policy is absurd, because it will only produce more confusion. If the military overwhelmingly says “abolish DADT” the reich-wing will then say, “we should survey retirees, their famillies, our allies, our potential enemies,” etc, etc.”

  • I remember one night in 1965 crouching down in a perimeter trench at Camp Holloway (Pleiku, Vietnam) awaiting a detected Viet Cong and NVA assault. The last thing on my mind at that moment was whether the guy next to me was gay or not.

    That being said, I recall massive racism tolerated by the military, ranging from segregated offbase facilities to a Lieutenant who pulled me over (riding pillion on the moto of a VNAF friend) who chewed me out in front of my English-speaking friend for “not sticking to your own kind” and stating my friend would likely turn me over to the VC for a few dollars. Oh, yes, that kind of stuff really improves military morale!

    It seems to me we tend to forget to indoctrinate our military in what we are presumably fighting for – liberty and justice for all. How can we claim the moral high ground when we in fact eschew the moral premise and continue to deny many of our citizens basic rights, whether they are Black, gay or lesbian, or other naturally occurring characteristic?

  • I would politely suggest that this article, including describing Sen McCain as a “bulwark of bigotry” tends to, itself, come across as a piece of bigotry. At some point for a discussion on this topic to have credibility, or even cogency, it must address the lines of reasoning on both sides of the issue. This article does not, and thus has the character of being propaganda — a result of being one-sided and incomplete. If Diversity is truly about “each individual being valued, respected, and included”, then it works for all points of view — even those you personally disagree with, or feel uncomfortable about. Is “Diversity, Inc.” really truly, fully about Diversity, or is it a cover for a political agenda?

    One key quote in this article underscores that there is an agenda to this, rather than truly being about Diversity — “The time for action is now—and the president needs to sign another executive order.” The idea of using a Presidential action is an attempt to bypass a couple of key principles of American government — one being “government of the people, by the people, and for the people”, the other being checks-and-balances. But apparently this article isn’t interested in the Democratic process, and promotes a method to implement its agenda regardless of there being significant reasons for not implementing the agenda — reasons conveniently not addressed in this article.

    If this is about Diversity, then let’s see it reflected in how controversial issues are reviewed, and not resort to “tactics of discrimination” like name-calling, stereotyping, and marginalizing.

  • Military and retired military folks always get credit for fighting for freedom. It’s pretty ironic when they don’t support freedom for LGBT folks as well as everybody else. Hurrah for Admiral Mike Mullen.

  • Excellent article. Excellent responses to nonsensical haters. I too used to be a fan of McCain. I have a hard time believing McCain believes what he touts, but now he has sold out beyond the point of return and can no longer be considered a leader. A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything. He has fallen on the wrong side of history and so will his legacy. This will be his punishment. Once the silent majority wakes up (and we are walking up), the loud mouths in the margin will be appropriately marginalized and further freedom and equality will be disseminated. DADT will be repealed (be it Congress or Executive Order (by our elected leader) and the haters will find another subject to hate on… Debate will ensue, what’s right will prevail and progress will continue.. And again, and again. Doesn’t it always?

  • This seems to be a very partisan article. Did the readers miss the fact that Harry Reid voted against the bill. Why target John McCain? He is a National Hero. He has earned the right to speak his mind regarding our National Defense. What did John McCain say? …”wait for the study” …and “[My] strong conviction [is that] this is not the time to perturb the force”. He is concerned about our national security. Btw, to the reader who said “if “the Commander-in-Chief says the military will return to riding horses, and using swords instead of guns” I offer that he would probably be impeached instantly for jeopardizing our national security.

  • Luke,
    I respectfully disagree with you, but I must say that your service to our great country entitles you to your strong conviction. I also believe your dedication to the principles of diversity makes you a national hero as well. S/F R

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