Pace's Comments Bring Dead Debate Back to Life

Peter Pace has done more than offend some with his statement about homosexuals being immoral; he may have initiated a bitter and sweeping domestic policy debate. Pace should be allowed to share his personal views. But negative comments about any men and women, gay or straight, who risk and sacrifice their lives for the rest of ours are usually the rhetorical equivalent of dropping a bomb. Those of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) one week before the 2006 elections, in the form of a “botched joke,” come to mind.

Because of Pace’s comments, the question of the military’s policy for gays and lesbians has suddenly been dusted off and removed from the shelf. It isn’t a great time for the Democratic majority, who are wrangling with Iraq war policy and are not interested in changing the subject to something that could so quickly excite the GOP base. But opponents of “don’t ask, don’t tell” have waited for the right time to make a push for repeal and could see this as their season. When they move forward, they will be joined by presidential contenders like Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) who want to overturn the controversial policy her husband chose to open his presidency with. And there will be new allies, converts like former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), who voted for the policy in 1993 and now wants the ban on out-of-closet gays in the military lifted.

In his Washington Post editorial today, Simpson said he began shifting recently when he learned that despite Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledging that our government needs more Arabic and Farsi speakers, more than 300 foreign-language experts have lost their jobs because of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Moreover, our stretched military is now granting waivers to felons in order the keep up the numbers.

Simpson noted that retired Gen. John Shalikashvili and Lt. Daniel Christman, a former West Point superintendent, “are calling for a second look.” It appears Pace, who supports the policy, has helped open the door.