President Obama called on Congress to repeal the ban on openly gay people serving in the military last night. The path to doing so runs through the Senate Armed Services Committee, where Defense Secretary Robert Gates — who applauded the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” line in Obama’s State of the Union — is set to testify on Tuesday. And almost immediately after Obama’s call went out, the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), took the surprising step of coming out in favor of DADT, a policy that affects the lives of an estimated 66,000 Americans serving their country — and quite probably deters many others from doing so — at a time of war.
Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), a retired three-star Navy admiral who’s trying to win the Democratic nomination for Senate from Pennsylvania, has issued a statement checking McCain:
“As the senior ranking military Veteran in Congress, I am compelled to respond to Sen. McCain’s opposition to President Obama’s commitment to allowing all American troops to serve their country openly and honestly. How can a policy that has dismissed more than 13,000 trained, able, and honorable American servicemembers — including upwards of 800 troops with “mission critical” skills, like Arab linguists — be viewed as successful?
“Especially in a time of war, when our military is overstretched and our troops and their families are under unprecedented strain, we cannot afford to lose any more troops that the American people depend on for our national security. I agree with Sen. McCain that our military is the best in the world and the best in our nation’s history. That’s precisely why I have faith in the leadership capabilities of our officer corps and non-commissioned officers, as well as the dedication, professionalism, and integrity of our troops, to handle this transition without detriment to readiness or capability.
“The men and women who wear the cloth of this nation should be entitled to the rights they so heroically defend.”