Going gaga over political gamesmanship

Lady Gaga, it turns out, has only limited political clout.

Thank goodness for that.

On Monday, the celebrity songstress known for her bizarre outfits, held a rally in Maine, pleading for Congress, including Maine’s two GOP senators — to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that has governed gays in the military since early in the Clinton administration.

Not only did Ms. Gaga fail to win the votes of Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins in Tuesday’s Senate action, three Democrats and one independent joined in blocking the Pentagon funding measure that included the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

We continue to believe “don’t ask, don’t tell” should be repealed, as we made the case for doing so early this year.

Among other things, polls show a majority of Americans, including most young members of the military itself, have qualms about gays and lesbians serving in the armed services. And Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress in February that the policy only forces gay citizens to lie to serve their country.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is a relic that serves little purpose, other than to alienate one group of U.S. citizens who want to serve their country.

Even so, it’s not hard to understand the reluctance of Republicans and a few Democrats to move forward the Pentagon spending bill that included the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The repeal provision was one of several amendments cynically added to the Pentagon funding bill by Democrats attempting to score points with particular voter groups in the weeks before a key mid-term election. And polls show Democrats trailing badly in key races this election.

As a political analyst told the Christian Science Monitor regarding the repeal provision: “Some people on the Democratic side are in a hurry to get this done and dare Republicans to vote against it.”

Furthermore, as Sen. John McCain pointed out in supporting the Republican position, the Pentagon is currently conducting a survey of all of its members regarding “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and debate on the policy should await the results of that survey.

“This is a blatant political ploy in order to try to galvanize the political base of the other side,” McCain said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Another such amendment added to the Pentagon bill would have allowed children of illegal immigrants to move toward becoming citizens of the United States by attending college or serving in the military.

There is a reasonable argument to be made in support of such a plan, but some observers saw it as an effort by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to attract more Hispanics to the Democratic side this November.

No doubt, Republicans will also use the two amendments and the failed Pentagon funding measures in efforts to rally portions of their base.

Voter anger toward incumbents of both political parties is born of just such cynical political posturing.

The questions of gays in the military and citizenship for children of illegal immigrants are both major policy issues that should be dealt with by full congressional debate — not hastily tucked into a military spending bill in an attempt to curry favor with a few voting blocs.

Regardless of which party wins the most seats in Congress in the Nov. 2 election, congressional leaders should realize the mass of voters are fed up with such political maneuvering. If they don’t, they may find voters going ever-more gaga over candidates who promise not to play typical Washington games.


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