The Blend welcomes Sue Fulton and JD Smith as commentators who will liveblog the Senate debate involving DADT repeal. They will be here today and tomorrow.
The URL for the CoverItLive console is http://tinyurl.com/phbdadt.
Sue Fulton is the Chair of Knights Out – 1980 graduate of West Point, former Army Captain and company commander.
JD Smith is the active duty co-director of OutServe. A graduate of a U.S. service academy. “JD Smith” is a pseudonym since he is currently an active-duty officer.
Note: Comments will be disabled in CoverItLive, but readers are welcome to use this blog entry to post your thoughts/reactions. If you want to see what people are tweeting about DADT, we’ve included that stream on the right.
Video feed is here: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/SenateSession4651
It is also below the fold so you can watch and comment.
Pam Spaulding: This event is now live. Reader comments are disabled for the time being to allow producer commentary until break.
Jd Smith: Everyone is filtering into room now. Not many seats to watch.
Pam Spaulding: Thanks for doing this, JD!
Jd Smith: Sitting next to lt col fehrenbach, Jonathan Hopkins, Tony woods.
Jd Smith: Code pink has started to hold up signs.
Jd Smith: They say “repeal dadt”
Jd Smith: No problem Pam! Hope you feel better!
Jd Smith: Code pink has stood up with signs now. Secretary gates is here
Louise: Good morning, all, and thank you!
Jd Smith: McCain has just showed up
Louise: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/pro… A link to videofeed.
Jd Smith: Code pink has sat down in audience. Security is talking to them now
Pam Spaulding: Hi Louise. I will add that link to the post that is now up: http://pamshouseblend.com/diar…
Sue Fulton: Hey everybody. Tech-challenged, but I’m here now.
Sue Fulton: Quick bio on me: West Point ’80 grad. Company commander in Germany. Witch-hunted under the old gay ban, but managed not to get kicked out. Resigned on my own in 1986. Helped found Knights Out in 2009; currently I am the Chair.
Sue Fulton: In today’s hearing, all four of those testifying are in favor of repeal (tomorrow, not so much…)
Sue Fulton: We can expect Ham to give a strong defense of the Working Group report; to some extent he will also defer to the SecDef (“We did exactly what the SecDef charged us to do”).
Jd Smith: I obviously can’t see cspan, are the hearings now being broadcasted?
Sue Fulton: It will also be interesting to see if they ask Ham (he and civilian Jeh Johnson) co-chaired the Working Group) directly about his personal views, it will be interesting.
Louise: Yes they are, JD; I found a link to the video and we’ve got it posted on the Blend.
Sue Fulton: Yes, the broadcast started when Sen Levin started speaking.
Sue Fulton: Sen Levin is in process of the intro, praising the report and focusing on the 92% message, i.e., those servicemembers who know they’ve served with gay troops think there’s no problem.
Levin: “In other words, real experience is a powerful antidote to the stereotypes” that create so much discomfort among some troops.
Jd Smith: The 92% point in the survey that says 92% of straight service members that have known someone that is gay in their unit and found it to be ok Is a huge positive talking point in this debate.
Jd Smith: McCain looks angry.
Sue Fulton: Expect McCain and his cronies to focus on the 30% of troops – 40% of Marines, even higher among combat Marines – who said they thought repeal would negatively impact readiness.
Sue Fulton: Towards the end of the Working Group’s report, they made two points clearly focused at McCain: 1) the report is NOT biased by the views of SecDef and Obama; and 2) we didn’t ask whether SHOULD DADT be repealed (as McCain said they should) because we don’t make decisions by referendum, but we did find out that we CAN.
Sue Fulton: And now McCain is going RIGHT AFTER that second point
Sue Fulton: McCain says that Congress must answer the question SHOULD DADT be repealed.
Sue Fulton: Now McCain is going to try to delay… “There’s more than 1500 pages and 72,000 comments” that they have to review
Jd Smith: Here we go, McCain going after the 28% only filling out survey. Palm center put out a great memo to respond to this argument. Can someone post that link?
Louise: Let me find it, JD; will post ASAP.
Sue Fulton: McCain is now bringing up “only 28%” responded. Palm Center deftly took this apart with a scholarly analysis. This number is at least at the average of email survey responses. Check it at http://www.palmcenter.org/pres…
Jd Smith: You should see the reaction of servicemembers right now in audience. McCain is insulting us all right now.
Sue Fulton: “This debate is focused on our military and its effectiveness”
McCain is ending on a note of, this is too controversial to address in our military at a time of two wars.
He ends “one of our highest responsibilities is to our men and women in the Armed Services” – though apparently not the gay ones.
Jd Smith: Everyone in audience laughed at McCain when he said to put politics aside
Sue Fulton: Secy Gates is on now.
Sue Fulton: Gates: “This … is not a poll. The Commander in Chief made his position clear.”
Code Pink demonstration moments ago
Sue Fulton: Go Code Pink!
Jd Smith: That’s Chris neff smiling from the palm center.
Sue Fulton: “Existing laws should be applied equally” – t will be interesting to see if the billeting and showers issue will be brought up. I kind of hope it will, because I believe Mullen and/or Ham can handle that neatly.
Jd Smith: Potentially dangerous!?!?
Sue Fulton: In Tuesday’s press conference, Ham addressed that billeting concerns/issues will continue to be handled at the low-level commander issue, not by policy.
Jd Smith: The British military integrated gays by a court decision. So it can change overnight.
Sue Fulton: Gates is making one of HIS biggest concerns now – we don’t want this to happen in the courts, we want it legislatively so we can do it our way.
Sue Fulton: Don’t agree with him that that’s necessary – JD, you’re right – but this could be persuasive for moderate Repubs.
Jd Smith: It’s really cold in this room (well I’m cold)
Jd Smith: Gates is making an important point now that he did this before with the CIA
Sue Fulton: Now he’s taking a little credit for tightening the procedures on enforcing DADT, that he’s “added a measure of commonsense and decency to a legally and morally fraught process” – that last phrase is pretty damn strong.
Sue Fulton: Mullen is going right after the % of combat troops who are resistant
Jd Smith: McCain is smiling at ADM Mullens comments. Specifically at the part where Mullen said it’s fact now.
Sue Fulton: This is a good strategy. He’s going to handle this.
Sue Fulton: Mullen “Knowing [you’ve served with someone gay ] means a lot.”
Sue Fulton: Mullen is not speaking in soundbites, but this is eloquent and moving. “It may be the combat arms community” that does the best job implementing this change “disciplined as they are.”
Sue Fulton: Mullen is talking about foreign military experience He acknowledges that their military is not as challenged as ours, but he dismisses that.”gay or straight, they have fought with our troops, and bled with them.”
Sue Fulton: Mullen is impressive. Gates comes off as a polished politician; Mullen comes off as a leader. McCain should be shaking in his loafers.
Sue Fulton: Mullen is clarifying, it’s all about effective leadership. This is perfect. Positions opponents as lacking confidence in leaders throughout the military.
he quotes a Marine: “If that’s what the president orders, I can tell you by God, we’re going to outpace the other services in getting it done.”
Sue Fulton: Now Mullen is echoing Gates’s point – don’t let this happen in the courts.
Jd Smith: I’m very impressed my ADM Mullen right now.
Sue Fulton: “War… does not make change harder – it facilitates it.”
Sue Fulton: “Knowing something to be true…about some of their colleages will not take away” from troops’ readiness and ability to fight. – Mullen
Sue Fulton: OOH – slap down to John McCain for calling him “political”
Sue Fulton: This is the right thing to do for our military, our nation, and our collective honor.
Sue Fulton: Ham: short and sweet. Holding his powder for the responses. My guess is he will be the target of most of the questioning.
Sue Fulton: Jeh Johnson – the chief lawyer for DoD. Four-star equivalent.
Sue Fulton: Ham is an Infantry guy, solid command experience. Had battalion command in Macedonia during the mess there.
Sue Fulton: Johnson is outlining the risk of letting this happen in the courts.
Sue Fulton: Clear that they are all standing by the merits of the study – but they know their best strategic angle is, do this in Congress or the courts will do it, and we don’t want that.
Sue Fulton: Passing repeal legislatively allows repeal “…on our terms, on our timetable, on the advice of our senior military leadership.”
Sue Fulton: I disagree with this notion that this could be done with a stroke of the pen, that all these policies need to be handled – but I see the strategy.
Jd Smith: Wow.
Sue Fulton: Cool – so they’ve positioned Johnson as the guy to answer the legal questions only.
Louise: Now McCain is trying to block by suggesting MORE hearings? Good lord is he DESPERATE!!
Sue Fulton: McCain already starting his strategy, we need more time.
Sue Fulton: Louise – dead right.
Sue Fulton: He clearly thinks this is his best strategy – delay. Shocker.
Louise: My deep deep respect for those in the room, that they are not standing and screaming at McCain. I am sitting here in Maine and apoplectic!
Sue Fulton: JD, what is the reaction like in the room?
Jd Smith: Dang. Secretary gates shuts McCain down
Sue Fulton: Guaranteed McCain will bring this up over and over –
Jd Smith: The audience is all laughing about going from 5-6 minutes
Sue Fulton: Six-minute question rounds instead of five.
Jd Smith: The audience got very angry. And even The press seemed to negatively react to McCain suggesting more hearings.
Sue Fulton: Levin is trying to make the point that these guys considered the views of the service chiefs – trying to mitigate the problems we will hear tomorrow from them. Clumsily, I might add. I mean, I love Levin, but hey.
Pam Spaulding: McCain is an embarrassment.
Sue Fulton: McCain vs Mullen/Ham is the headline event. I think the officers will win in a TKO.
Sue Fulton: He asked Ham’s personal opinion about repeal, not about homosexuality. Wrong question, Senator.
Sue Fulton: McCain is coming across as bitchy.
Sue Fulton: But maybe that’s just me.
Sue Fulton: McCain is quoting 265,000 troops “will leave the military” if DADT repealed. Gates is pointing out that Aussie and Brit surveys had similar results, and it never happened. McCain will respond about how much braver and stronger (and more homophobic) our troops are… j.k.
Sue Fulton: OMIGOD, he’s pointing to the gay guy for WikiLeaks!!!! McCain is TRULY desperate.
Sue Fulton: Ran out of time, but he’s trying to pin WikiLeaks on the gays.
Jd Smith: The room really started to turn on McCain when he started to talk about wki leaks
Sue Fulton: Lieberman is up. He’s making the case, whether the law should be repealed is up to Congress. In making the case, as long as the law CAN be repealed, Congress should act in the interests of justice. Not a bad point, but as a Jon Stewart devotee, I can never listen to Lieberman without hearing Deputy Dawg…
Louise: I am just astounded at that by McCain, Sue. Almost as astounded as I am at finding myself saying “ATTA BOY!” at Joe Lieberman…
Sue Fulton: The wikileaks point was nasty politics.
Sue Fulton: JD, how many uniforms in the room outside those supporting the witnesses and members? do you sense pro or con?
Sue Fulton: Lieberman is trying to make the point that DADT is bad for the military, but focused on 14K kicked out. Mullen is talking about recruiting and retention – which is good.
Sue Fulton: The RAND study! Great.
Lieberman quoting from a gay servicemember, making the point that there won’t be huge numbers of people coming out, much less “flaunting” as some seem to be so concerned about.
Jd Smith: Must not be too important to McCain. He’s left the hearings
Jd Smith: Something must be more important
Sue Fulton: At McCain’s age, you can’t go an hour without a bathroom. No insult, I’m just sayin’.
Sue Fulton: Lieberman: “DADT is a stain on the honor of our military.”
Louise: True, plus one never knows who McCain is talking w/out there and getting his next batch of talking points from. Just sayin’.
Sue Fulton: Why, Elaine! so nice to see you! 😉
Louise: lol- yup!
Sue Fulton: Inhofe is back to the retention and recruitment issues. But if this is their only point, they’re dead in the water.
Sue Fulton: Mullen is being very reasonable: there are lots of reasons why servicemembers stay in or get out. He’s going back to the 92% point, quite effectively.
Sue Fulton: Inhofe: why did only x% respond? Mullen: by every scholarly view, this was an extraordinary response level.