Rightbloggers on DADT: A Slow March Toward Tolerance, With Side Trips to Insanity

This weekend the Senate repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell -- the 17-year-old policy that allowed gays to serve in the U.S. military only if they could conceal their sexual orientation. The bill awaits Obama's signature.

You might expect rightbloggers to be angry about it, and some of them are -- hilariously so. But homophobia isn't what it used to be (that is, it's not as popular) so some have gotten with the new gay wave, while others resort to a softer, more passive-aggressive approach.

Their behavior gives a little clue as to who's really running the right-wing show these days.

Let's start with the refuseniks. Generally, the less lunatic rightbloggers went gently with the sad news, leaving the outrage to their readers. Weasel Zippers, for instance, got in and out fast ("DADT Repealed 65-31, Armed Forces hardest hit..."), but his commenters were far more voluble ("We are Rome and we are burning," "The problem is, you know how flamboyant these sorts of people are. Yeah, I said these sorts..." "Okay, what happens if a dyke lesbian insists on staying with the guys, and fighting as a man?" etc).

"If only the President was this committed to fighting the war in Afghanistan to a successful conclusion," bemoaned This Ain't Hell. Dan Riehl said he wasn't "much of a culture warrior and "I haven't paid much attention to this issue," then made a bunch of gay jokes ("Do military uniforms allow for cross-dressing, by the way?"). Stop The ACLU published the names of "The 8 Republican RINOs that voted for repeal."

Kevin McCullough had questions. For one: "How can you possibly be allowing for the flamboyancy of effeminate male soldiers to engage in sexual conduct and their notorious ever wandering lust for the new on one hand, and hold court martial for those who have discreetly hidden their sexual escapades while destroying their families?" We're sure DoD is working on it.

At The Astute Bloggers Alec Rawls -- best known for his tireless efforts to expose the proposed United 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania as a secret tribute to radical Islam -- applied his fertile imagination to the newly-gay military. At present, Rawls argued, military personnel serving overseas don't have many sexual opportunities, which made him proud: "Heterosexual young men are willing to join the military and put their sex lives on hold," he explained, "because the manliness of fighting for their nation makes the lack of access to females bearable."

But "if a subculture of active homosexuality is allowed to burst out and grow amidst the suppressed heterosexuality of our military," Rawls added, look out: military service will become "a gauntlet of having to abide whatever in-your-face homosexuality the flamers want to throw up," like Tailhook, only gay and 24/7. This, Rawls predicted, "will be a death sentence for heterosexual recruiting." See how you like your all-gay armed forces, America!

Another big-picture thinker, Jane Jamison, identified herself to readers of Right Wing News as a "heterosexual conservative" who lives in the "very liberal San Francisco area," where she has been able to observe the gay menace at close hand. For example, "God forbid you happen into San Francisco by accident during the 'Bay to Breakers' race," she wrote, "you and the kids will see naked gay sex acts on the sidewalk with police standing by watching." Along with this travel tip, Jamison revealed that "there can be dire consequences for being unabashedly heterosexual" -- for example, "being 'homophobed,'" which sounds unpleasant.

Based of her experience, Jamison has determined that "repeal of DADT is just one more progressive step to shrink our defenses and weaken us in the world. That long-term goal has only a little to do with gays, but they are useful tools for now. Gay soldiers are just one way to create chaos and distraction and eventually end our military."

Jamison found relevance to this charge in the case of reportedly gay WikiLeaks soldier Pvt. Bradley Manning. She riffed off a post at Gay Patriot, which actually supported repeal on security grounds, that "gays have been lying for years to get hired into military jobs, and knowingly setting themselves up to be bribed by people who would do this country harm. What is patriotic about that? This is similar to the argument about amnesty for illegal aliens." She also read the Gay Patriot post to mean that "the gay community has been committing an 'extortion' against America - legalize us or we will keep joining the military and doing what we can on the inside to jeopardize the system." Also, gays will usher in "shariah law," but they'll have a hard time with those radical Islamists once they take over, etc.

Deebow of the milblog Blackfive found the news that the military will probably "'expressly prohibit' heterosexuals from using separate showers, bathrooms and bunking facilities from homosexuals" as proof that "Liberalism is a Mental Disorder... I am pretty certain that if I have to live in the same BEQ room with two other guys, who happen to be gay, I am nigh on to convinced that there are going to be, um... issues."

Disappointingly, Deebow didn't follow up on this speculative fiction opening, but did tell us that "even though it is the military, there are things you still can't make service members think or do" -- like accept gay people as comrades in arms. "I think the 'giant sucking sound' that America is about to hear," he added, "comes from the members of our military who are going to be leaving... So libturds, you might think that you have given us a kinder gentler military that is more fashion conscious and sensitive. All you did today was weaken a country." Deebow also quoted Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, presumedly for added authority.

At The American Spectator, W. James Antle III said that while DADT was "flawed and unstable," it had attempted "to balance two competing realities: Many individual homosexuals serve honorably and effectively in the miltary even as, all other things being equal, open homosexuality as such is a disruptive force... Now instead of trying to avoid the incidence of sexual attraction within the armed forces, there will have to be myriad rules and regulations trying to cope with its consequences."

If you think this argument is flawed because heterosexual women serve with men in the military without much difficulty, you should know Antle doesn't approve of that either. "...introducing into the military women as a group ensured that some of the women will inevitably be attracted to some of the men (and vice versa) over time... DADT repeal ensures that this element of sexual attraction and tension will be repeated in still more intimate settings and in combat situations." So the trouble all really started with the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, or perhaps Florence Nightingale.

Ah, such larks. But there were rightblogger repeal supporters, and those whose position might best be described as Tolerant, But With An Explanation.  

Several prominent rightbloggers including Tom Maguire ("John McCain is fuming but Barry Goldwater would have applauded"), Ann Althouse ("I don't like all this lame duck action, but I'm greatly pleased to see the awful old law repealed at last"), and Allahpundit ("I support the move, but if you don't, look at it this way: As Gates has often said, if it didn't happen here it probably would have happened in the courts"), gave repeal a categorical thumbs up. Even the coverage of the Senate vote in National Review's The Corner was generally sober and straightforward (though we haven't heard at this writing from John Derbyshire yet).

Some strained a bit to show their conservative credentials while supporting, or at least staying out of the way of, this progressive policy change.

"I've been on record as favoring repeal for a long time," said Donald Douglas at American Power, "but that doesn't mean I don't find the military's rationale compelling." Then Douglas pointed to another post of his from last February in which he said "I oppose Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" but which is titled "Against Gays in the Military" -- and, like his current article, consists mostly of reasons why gays shouldn't serve. Douglas seems conflicted (might we say Questioning?), or maybe he's just expecting readers to pick up only the buzzwords of which they approve.

William Jacobsen of Legal Insurrection was slippery, allowing only that "there were a number of arguments in favor of (and against) repeal," and turning the occasion into a lecture on the preferability of passing possibly-good social reforms via legislation rather than by judicial fiat, e.g. Roe v. Wade.

Others saw the repeal as bad news for the Democrats. When repeal supporter Ann Althouse had a laugh at a CNN front page that played a "Mom defies doctor, has baby her way" story big and the DADT story small, repeal supporter Instapundit interpreted thus: "A SUGGESTION THAT DON'T ASK DON'T TELL REPEAL may not be so good for the Democrats. If it were, would they be downplaying it?" A special prize is due Jim Hoft, who headlined, "Senate Repeals Bill Clinton's Discriminatory 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Law."

All this gives us a little insight into who's running the rightwing agenda these days.

Time was, you had hunt high and low to find a conservative who supported any kind of gay rights. When rightwing pioneer Marvin Liebman came out as gay in a letter to William Buckley in 1990, it was a big deal. When Barry Goldwater made pro-gay-rights statements in the 90s, the Washington Post portrayed it as "Barry Goldwater's Left Turn," apparently considering it so far out of character for a conservative politician as to constitute apostasy.

Over time general American attitudes toward homosexuality have softened. On the evidence of their writings and policies, this would seem to be happening more slowly on the right. To some extent this has to do with principles and prejudice, but we think it has to do with politics, too: With the rise of the Moral Majority in the 80s, the evangelical movement became a major player in the Republican coalition, and there was no motivation to upset them by bucking their anti-gay-rights agenda.

That coalition came a-cropper in the 2006 and 2008 elections, and today the evangelicals have lost their mojo to the Tea Party, whose primary loyalty is to capitalism rather than Jesus. Christian Right orgs like the American Family Association are denouncing DADT repeal, with particular contempt for the "Benedict Arnold Republicans" who joined with the Democrats to "destroy [the] military and our national security." But secular conservatives aren't giving them much cover. When they do talk about morality, it's more likely to be about the morality of the market, as in William McGurn essay in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month ("the heart of the tea party's objections to the Beltway status quo is fundamentally a moral one: that Washington is arrogant about how it takes and spends our money").

So while some of the brethren will continue to fume over gay this or gay that, most seem to find such talk a poor use of resources -- at least when the battles are lost and the return on political investment thereby diminished. There's still a place for culture warring, but it will be mostly about the overthrow of a putative "ruling class," and Jesus will be reduced to guest appearances.

Unless there's a big ruling on gay marriage. Then, all bets are off!

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