What is Wesley Clark thinking? The retired four star general, who won the Oklahoma Democratic presidential primary by a razor-thin margin, raised more than a few eyebrows recently when some saucy photos of him appeared in the gay culture rag, The Advocate. Sure enough, there is Clark on the cover of the magazine, his shirt provocatively unbuttoned, hands on his hips, looking rather…um, homoerotic. The picture is the first and (hopefully) last sexually charged image of this year’s Democratic presidential primary. With Gert by his side, it’s obvious Wes is as straight as an arrow, and one would think signing the nation’s first civil unions bill would make Dean the cause du jour of the gay community.
Dig deeper into the article, however, and readers will begin to see how Clark landed the cover. In those pages, Clark pledges an end to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, widely viewed in liberal circles as one of Bill Clinton’s biggest failures, save possibly welfare reform. This is the same position all his rivals in the race for the Democratic nomination hold to one degree or another. But in Clark the liberal left has found a military man to make their case. As the magazine notes, Clark “could be the only one with enough brass to make a difference.”
And while Clark never saw the need to make a stand for gays wanting to serve in the military during his 34 years of service, he clearly wants to adopt the issue as part and parcel of his campaign. The former Supreme Commander of NATO seems to have lost a bit of respect for his beloved military since he recently converted to liberalism. In The Advocate, Clark describes the armed forces as, “the last institution in America that discriminates against people. It ought to be the first that doesn’t. (Homosexuals) ought to have the right to be who they are. They shouldn’t have to conceal their identities.”
When speaking to the national media rather than the gay press, however, Clark sings a different tune. Instead of simply repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” regulations put in place by Bill Clinton, Clark explained on CNN’s Crossfire that he’d, “tell the military to re-look at the policy and come back and we'd talk about it.” Strangely enough, this is exactly what happened in 1993. The Pentagon, under executive order, completed an exhaustive survey of the military’s policy, and in the end determined, “The prohibition against homosexual conduct is a long-standing element of military law that continues to be necessary in the unique circumstances of military service.” Due to the close living quarters and sometimes “primitive” conditions enlistees must endure, the military concluded that, “The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.”
Should we believe that the answer would be any different 10 years on? The fact is, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is merely an enforcement regulation signed by Bill Clinton that eliminates the military’s ability to ask recruits if they are gay during the initial screening. The actual law with regard to this issue clearly states that homosexuality is incompatible with military service. This was codified in 1993 by Congress with bi-partisan support and veto-proof majorities in direct response to Clinton‘s attempts to change military policy.
“When people say ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ doesn’t work, I want to ask them, ‘Working to do what?’” President of the Center for Military Readiness Elaine Donnelly said. “They seem to want absolutely no restrictions on anything. But the military is not there for fads or to advance liberal causes. It’s not the place for individualism. Everyone can’t have his own haircut and wear jewelry to accentuate himself. The military is there to enforce discipline, pull together fighting units, and when necessary win wars.”
Donnelly believes President Bush should rescind the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” regulations for the good of both the military and gays considering joining its ranks.
“Because of the confusion and the way the actual law has been misrepresented in the national press, homosexuals believe they are eligible to serve and they are not,” she said. “I don’t blame the trainees. I blame whoever told them they were eligible.”
Clark and other Democratic presidential candidates point to the dismissal of nine Arab language specialists at the Army’s Defense Language Institute as a grievous blow to national security. But in fact they were only trainees and not experts in the language. Seven of the nine were discharged when they admitted they were homosexuals, and the other two after they were discovered sleeping together. “Apparently, the Bush administration thinks the war on terror should take second place to the war on homosexuals,” journalist John Aravosis sniped at the time.
But the ban on homosexuals in the military is codified law. Save any change in the law, it is the duty of an officer to dismiss open homosexuality. So who is playing politics in a time of war here? The Bush administration, which is only enforcing the same rules that the Clinton administration did? Or could it be the seven Arabic linguists who chose to enroll in a program essential to our national security when they knew they were not eligible, and further put their individual political agenda ahead of their country by announcing their homosexuality when they were needed most?
Odder still is the attempt to make some sort of martyr out of former Lt. Col. Steve Loomis, a Vietnam war veteran and recipient of both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Liberals point to his dismissal from the Army in 1997, purportedly because of his sexuality, as proof that the United States military is a backwards institution running a witch hunt for homosexuals. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down a sodomy law on the grounds that it “furthers no legitimate state interest,” Loomis has brought a lawsuit against the government over his dismissal.
So how was it that the United States Army “outed” Loomis? Well, it was right about the time his house burned down and pornography he had made with enlisted men was found in the debris. Furthermore, the arsonist turned out to be an enlisted man Loomis had been photographing nude. This hardly seems like the “witch hunt” many are describing his case as. Is there any doubt Loomis would have been punished if he had been making pornography with female recruits? Of course he would.
Perhaps Clark, as full of brass as he is, should understand the command structure of the military better than the other candidates this primary season. He himself has lived under the Military Code of Conduct, a set of laws much more restrictive than anything in civilian life. But, then again, Clark seemed to rankle under control even as a general. This is why Hugh Shelton balked at Clark’s candidacy over issues of “character and integrity,” and also why Bill Clinton fired him in the aftermath of the Kosovo war.
The General is not deterred. Clark has a rather self-aggrandizing view of his powers of persuasion. For example, those making more than one million dollars a year will gladly accept a five percent tax hike, Clark explained recently, when he makes it clear paying those taxes is their “patriotic duty.” Clark has also variously promised to prevent another September 11 attack, eliminate the federal income tax for anyone making $50,000 a year or less, and even to make the internal combustion engine “obsolete” and end all car accidents by building electric highways with remote controlled cars. He waves off any concerns over whether a Republican controlled Congress, or indeed even a Democratic controlled Congress, will go along with such plans.
In The Advocate Clark points to retired Brigadier-General Virgil Richard coming out to the New York Times as proof that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should be repealed. “No one knew I was gay when I was in the military,” Richard told the newspaper of record. “I suppressed my desires, and didn't allow myself to be who I am because there was too much at stake.” Couldn’t every straight person who ever served say the same exact thing? Serving in the military is a sacrifice on behalf of our nation. And the well-being of the nation must come first, which means social engineering in its military should be, well, “out.” And so should the General.