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Mullen deserves medal for Senate testimony backing open military service by gays

The joint chiefs chairman let his stripes do some of the talking in his Senate testimony backing open gay service in the military.
The joint chiefs chairman let his stripes do some of the talking in his Senate testimony backing open gay service in the military. (Melina Mara/the Washington Post)
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"Not with me," McCain retorted.

"It was indeed," Levin maintained.

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"You're the chairman," McCain said bitterly.

In the end, three minutes proved more than sufficient. McCain and four Republican colleagues left before the hearing ended, and the other six GOP members of the panel didn't show up at all.

After McCain's performance, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) reminded him, and the rest of the room, about the different view on the topic held by McCain's late political mentor from Arizona. "Barry Goldwater once said, 'You don't have to be straight to shoot straight.' "

The next three Republicans were all Southern white men, and all opposed to Mullen's view. After Sessions and Wicker took their shots at the admiral, it was time for Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.). "In my opinion, the presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would very likely create an unacceptable risk," he said, putting homosexuality in a category with "adultery, fraternization and body art."

Mullen did not bend. He said he knew of no studies indicating that repealing the law would undermine morale. He said he knew of no harm to the British and Canadian militaries from the decision to allow openly gay troops to serve.

"Sort of a fundamental principle with me . . . is everybody counts," he told the senators. "Putting individuals in a position that every single day they wonder whether today's going to be the day" -- that they are kicked out for being gay -- "and devaluing them in that regard is inconsistent with us as an institution."

If they awarded decorations for congressional testimony, Mullen would have himself a Medal of Honor.


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