But recently a new John McCainJohn Sidney McCainJuan Williams: Obama's dire warnings about right-wing media Democrats' squabbling vindicates Biden non-campaign McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol MORE has emerged.  One who has thrown both his old publicly stated positions, as well as his commitment to Goldwater’s principles, overboard.  To take just one example, in the past Senator McCain has said he would consider supporting a repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” if the military leadership recommended it.  But when the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs recommended repeal, the new McCain flipped positions, dug in, and loudly objected.

I’ve finally figured out why.  If you watched the senator over the weekend on television, it’s all politics.  Politics is the only explanation I can find for such a dramatic flip.  McCain appears willing not only to abandon his own past positions but also to mock the legacy of Goldwater, the mentor he professes to emulate, solely for the purpose of blocking anything this President seeks.  Since he could not win the presidential election, Senator McCain apparently has decided to get even.  The politics of revenge is the worst kind of politics. It is beneath Sen. McCain.   Among the casualties are gay and lesbian service members, many of whom are on the frontlines today in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Senator Goldwater must be spinning in his grave.

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I knew and worked with Senator Goldwater when I was a young senate aide working on tactical air defense issues, airline deregulation and the breakup of the old AT&T.  In 1970 when the late Democratic senator from Nevada, Howard Cannon, was in a tight race for reelection, Goldwater not only showed up in Las Vegas, he delivered a ringing endorsement for Cannon.  The right wing went after Goldwater for what they viewed as a horrendous breach—crossing party lines—but the senator told them in no uncertain terms that Howard Cannon was the best man for the Senate.  He also told them what to do and where to go and of course they backed off. Senator Goldwater invariably knew who he was and what he stood for.

I can tell you the new John McCain is no Barry Goldwater.

Does this new McCain feel he’s making the military safe for straights?  Is he preparing to take his determined stand to the steps of the Pentagon, like Governor George Wallace blocking the schoolhouse door in Tuscaloosa?  I hope not.  There are better principles to stand on, and Senator McCain knows it.

There was no stronger advocate or protector in the Senate Armed Services Committee or in the United States Senate for our fighting men and women than Barry Goldwater.  Senators, staff and lobbyists could sit down and have a rational discussion with Senator Goldwater about a bill or a new proposal.  The discussions were brief, but occasionally he would prod or challenge, and he never hesitated to let a senator or staffer know if he thought they were mistaken or should just hurry up and get to the point.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times not long before he died, Senator Goldwater said, “I served in the armed forces. I have flown more than 150 of the best fighter planes and bombers this country manufactured. I founded the Arizona National Guard.  I chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee.  And I think it's high time to pull the curtains on this charade of policy.  A compromise . . . like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ . . . doesn't deal with the issue—it tries to hide it.  . . . It's time to stop burying our heads in the sand and denying reality for the sake of politics. . . .

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“Government governs best when it governs least—and stays out of the impossible task of legislating morality. But legislating someone's version of morality is exactly what we do by perpetuating discrimination against gays. . . . If I were in the Senate today, I would rise on the Senate floor in support of our Commander in Chief. He may be a Democrat, but he happens to be right on this question.”

I don’t believe John McCain is a homophobe, but here he is this week manning the barricades with his fringe-group allies to keep this discriminatory law on the books, as he rejects the findings of the Pentagon’s year-long report that favors repeal.  In December the Senate will have a chance to end this nonsense and insure that all service members can serve with integrity.  Maybe by then there will be an even newer John McCain, and he'll be channeling the former Republican Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Barry Goldwater who famously said, "You don't need to be straight to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight."

Aubrey Sarvis is an Army veteran and executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a group working to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  Sarvis is the former chief counsel for the Senate Commerce Committee and later executive vice president of Verizon Communications.