Chatting with Joe Manchin on DADT


manchin wv.jpg
The other evening, I spent some time discussing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell with Senator Joe Manchin and his wife. Democratic super donor Connie Milstein did the same.
While these kinds of conversations are privileged, I will share one comment the Senator, who was extremely open and not defensive at all in the discussion, made to me which is consistent with some of his other public comments.
Senator Manchin said that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was complicated for him and said “there were a lot of military in my state.”
As I told the Senator, I was a gay man who grew up on US military bases and had a father who served in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations — which in my dad’s time of service regularly sought out, spied on and court martialed gay members of the uniformed services. Fortunately, times have changed — and so have attitudes in military families, even those from small towns in West Virginia or in places like Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
The late Senator Robert Byrd carried no more of a burden than Senator Manchin with military folk in the State of West Virginia — which of course the anti-DADT Senator Jay Rockefeller also serves.
But what the Senator needs to know is that the notion that military families are medieval on this subject and opposed to progress is wrong. To say that the military and DoD families are less advanced, less educated, and out of sync with the rest of America is an insult to them that the Senator needs to avoid.
Hopefully, Senator Manchin will realize that this vote is one of the most significant civil rights votes in this era — and his absence will be a most terrible punctuation point to start his Senate career.
Please reconsider, speak to the military in your state, read the report the Pentagon assembled, listen to the Republican Secretary of Defense as well as to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ask whether you are going to put West Virginia on the crest of history’s wave or put it behind progress.
West Virginia deserves to be with those who are charting a new and better future for this country.
Get this one right, Senator Manchin, and happy holidays.
— Steve Clemons


19 comments on “Chatting with Joe Manchin on DADT

  1. The Pessimist says:

    Eric Dondero
    Let’s examine your arguments.
    “Gay men get to gawk at, and even hit on straight men in those close quarters, but straight men are not accorded the same rights to do the same with their female counter-parts.”
    Where in the written legislation repealing DADT are these privileges awarded? Nowhere. You are projecting your simplistic paranoia and obfuscating the actual written legislation. Shades of Fox Noise.
    “Don’t buy the hype. This is not about “rights.” This is about an agenda driving by leftwingers of essentially wanting to destroy the military.”
    Wow, what a stretch! Talk about a simplistic and unsubstantiated point of view. Define within the context of your statement a “leftwinger” and “destroy.” Sounds like the unhinged rantings of Glenn Beck.
    This is absolutely about “rights.” Rights that have too long been denied to any citizen desiring to serve in the military without having to lie about their personal preferences. The military is inherently a very macho, testosterone fueled institution. It will always remain so. Lesbians and gays are not going to feel entitled or protected in any way to


  2. questions says:

    Keep a list of the Senators who voted against the DREAM Act, and vote against them the next time they are up for re-election.
    What a foolish vote — to deny a path to citizenship for kids who grew up in the US because of their parents’ actions.
    They aren’t Mexican if they went to school in the US. We could be a little kinder, perhaps?
    The numbers of groups among us who are not well treated is large, and new groups emerge as we see the world in different lights over time. Likely there’s incoherence in group treatment at all unless the group is the group-of-the-whole, but since we think incoherently about most things, we should be extending civil rights and civil treatment and basic humanitarian good to every group that appears to us as such.
    If nothing else, it’ll keep us both busy legislatively and in terms of comedy skits.


  3. questions says:

    Oligarchy part III:
    “First, the rich spend a smaller proportion of their wealth than the less-affluent, and so when more and more wealth becomes concentrated in the hands of the wealth, there is less overall spending and less overall manufacturing to meet consumer needs.”
    “Second, in both the Roaring 20s and 2000-2007 period, the middle class incurred a lot of debt to pay for the things they wanted, as their real wages were stagnating and they were getting a smaller and smaller piece of the pie. In other words, they had less and less wealth, and so they borrowed more and more to make up the difference. As Reich notes:”
    “And third, since the wealthy accumulated more, they wanted to invest more, so a lot of money poured into speculative investments, leading to huge bubbles, which eventually burst. Reich points out”
    “But I believe there may be a fourth causal connection between inequality and crashes. Specifically, when enough wealth gets concentrated in a few hands, it becomes easy for the wealthiest to buy off the politicians, to repeal regulations, and to directly or indirectly bribe regulators to look the other way when banks were speculating with depositors money, selling Ponzi schemes or doing other shady things which end up undermining the financial system and the economy.”
    And I’d personally add number 5 — that when the concentration of wealth is so vast, many small, local, community businesses disappear, money is shipped out of the community and so doesn’t recycle as quickly, and we end up paying fees of all sorts to service providers far far away. Once the money leaves its local jurisdiction, it leads right to points 1 and 3 above, and then 2 as a result.
    The flow stops, and when the flow stops, we’re in trouble.
    Of course, I don’t really know what I’m talking about here. I still like the word “structural” even though every thing I’ve read now says we don’t have a “structural” unemployment problem we have a demand problem. The flow issue seems structural to me, even though “structure” is supposed to be tied only to immobile labor, untrained labor, and NAIRU issues.
    So I just feel like redefining “structural” to suit my sense of things!
    From now on, “structural” should be a relationship between employment and concentration of wealth that cannot be undone by policy because of an ideological commitment to wealth concentration.
    Let’s face it, untrained or immobile labor can be countered by policy, too. It’s not “structural” the way that, say, the laws of physics are structural. We could, within the realm of possibility, have a government agency that purchases homes and pays relocation costs to increase labor mobility, but we have an ideological commitment to avoid that. We could easily retrain huge numbers of workers so that their skills are aligned with workplace needs, but we don’t really do huge amounts of this on a no cost, subsidized, easy on the family way because we have an ideological commitment to individual responsibility. We could have more command in the economy to take care of all sorts of things, but we don’t.
    Now maybe there are some “laws of economics” that cause problems when we do any of these things, so maybe there’s some graph that shows that if you have subsidized relocation, you instantly get some econ disease…. This I don’t know.
    But assuming not, it seems that much that is “structural” is actually so because of political factors, not because of immutable laws of nature. And if this is the case (a big IF, since I don’t know this stuff well), then the word “structural” is far more flexible than the economists seem to be suggesting.
    If NAIRU is a fixed feature of the universe, it would seem so only if workers can actually push for wage increases and employers have to give in, but of course, there are possible policy responses to interrupt this sequence.
    And further, I seem to remember that, some years ago, NAIRU was declared dead. There was little inflation with low low unemployment. Outsourcing, productivity gains, technological change all seem to have interrupted this most “structural” of structures, suggesting once again that “structure” is mutable when it comes to the economy. Economics is an attempt to find patterns in social relations more than in the workings of physical necessity, so any “structure” is going to be so only metaphorically.
    A morning thought, at any rate.


  4. DakotabornKansan says:

    @ Eric Dondero


  5. DakotabornKansan says:
  6. Eric Dondero says:

    The Gay community has cleverly framed this issue as a civil rights cause to deflect from the real issue at hand: practicality.
    How do you have gay men sleeping in close quarters with straight men, and sharing showers, and such, and not create chaos and heartache for the military?
    Not too mention the inherent discrimination involved: Gay men get to gawk at, and even hit on straight men in those close quarters, but straight men are not accorded the same rights to do the same with their female counter-parts.
    Don’t buy the hype. This is not about “rights.” This is about an agenda driving by leftwingers of essentially wanting to destroy the military.


  7. questions says:

    A quick by the way….
    Kwak notes that the “middle class tax cuts” as a permanent feature of the landscape were a campaign promise…. Does anyone remember how “middle class” came to be defined as 250k per year — it was in one of the televised debates, and one of the moderators pushed that number and Obama had no choice but to agree to it.
    Hence, someone in the top 2% of the income distribution is “middle class” — all because of a debate moderator.
    Amazing how little accidents like that happen, and how we seem to forget their genesis in flukedom.
    Also, this:
    Orszag and Citi…. Ugh, ugh, ugly. Where’s the public spirit in this move? Oh, yeah, the oligarchy. Oops! I forgot.


  8. questions says:

    Welcome to the oligarchy, Part II:,0,957640.story
    “Guards trained in martial arts showed the latest techniques for subduing nightclub troublemakers, joked about the challenges of guarding celebrities like Paris Hilton and compared notes on the latest technology borrowed from the military.”
    So we have wildly disparate wealth, gated communities, the prison-industrial complex, the monetization of nearly every social relationship, the collecting of fees from nearly every task, the interesting side note that consumers of “news” on Fox are the least informed among us (but are confident that they are the best informed, I bet), and now the body guards.
    We need some serious legislative pushback against some of this, people.
    I get the feeling we don’t really want a kidnapping-ocracy, the total fear of fellow citizens, the complete breakdown in social trust, the vectors of rage and communicable disease that mass crowding, mass misery, mass shantytown life will give us.
    To say it’s not possible here is to miss some significant signs of what the public sphere has provided and what it is cutting back on so that the ultra wealthy can have many many body guards, armies of body guards, fleets of bullet proof vehicles….
    In baby steps, we can get there if we try! And try we seem to be doing.


  9. Steve Clemons says:

    Joe M — sorry man, you are way off today. You are anti-military…we get it. But your notes are not compelling, and I am not addressing pacifism here. I’m dealing with the question of national service, the laws of a nation, and what it does to personal and moral integrity. I know you are on the other side — but you could work a bit harder at actually responding to what we are discussing here. all best, steve clemons


  10. Joe M. says:

    Will the gay community next request the civil right to fire nuclear weapons at innocent people? the civil right to slaughter the defenseless, to equally torture captives, take over villages, occupy territory, invade countries unprovoked? These are the “civil rights” you are demanding by asking for the repeal of DADT.
    SO sad.
    When does the gay community get the civil right to commit massacres too? only time will tell! I hope those gay enough to join the military after DADT is repealed will feel equal enough to their colleagues to drop bombs on afghan villages with pride!!!! lots and lots of gay pride!


  11. Joe M. says:

    “Hopefully, Senator Manchin will realize that this vote is one of the most significant civil rights votes in this era…”
    You want the “civil rights” to be a mass murder, conqueror, empire builder? to join an institution of perpetual war crimes is not a civil right i would be proud of. I find it pretty disgusting that the gay community would want to join the military, and anti-progressive that the repeal of DADT is considered a “civil rights” issue.
    If anything, the civil rights issue should be to get more people banned from the most violent institution in the world today. The entire logic is backwards. Joining the military should be discouraged, not encouraged. That the gay community is currently rejected from the most regressive, violent, disgusting institution in the world is a badge of honor, not “discrimination”.
    It is so sad to see this on the political agenda when we should all be fighting for the exact opposite.


  12. Neo Controll says:

    ” General Amos . . . How did this guy get appointed? ”
    More importantly, how does he get fired?


  13. Don Bacon says:

    SC: “To say that the military and DoD families are less advanced, less educated, and out of sync with the rest of America is an insult to them that the Senator needs to avoid.”
    True, but don’t forget the Marines.
    The scuttlebutt last summer when General James Amos was selected by President Obama as the new Marine Commandant was that he would be pro-gay. The former Commandant, General James Conway, was the most forcefully outspoken against the repeal of DADT among the Service Chiefs. So the speculation was that Amos, an aviator, would head the Marines because he was pro-gay during what is largely a ground war, chosen over the


  14. The Pessimist says:

    Another example of the despicable John McCain


  15. samuelburke says:

    I think they were whispering don”t ask and don’t tell into each
    others ear.
    Merry Christmas Mr Clemons!


  16. GayinKansas says:

    My family feels so proud to know you and to see you on
    television and hear about you using your opportunities with this
    country’s powerful people to speak on our community’s behalf. I
    know that you don’t have to do that. You could just have a beer
    with the Senator and talk about football and something easy, but
    you talked to a living, breathing US Senator on the wrong side of
    this thing and connected.
    My mother, father, brothers, grandmother and friends loved
    meeting you and you are changing the world. You really are, and
    I will always be thankful that you are giving people like me and
    you and others an opportunity in the city that counts when it
    comes to our rights.
    We love you Steve — so much. Merry Christmas my friend.


  17. questions says:

    We can represent our greatest fears, our past, our foolishness.
    We can represent our greatest hopes, our future, our intelligence.
    Which is it going to be, at this point, on this issue?
    We’re so ready.
    It’s time.


  18. Steve Clemons says:

    Dan – This note means much to me and many.
    Thanks — and happy holidays,


  19. Dan Kervick says:

    I just want to take a break from my self-imposed TWN hiatus to support Steve’s call for the repeal of DADT. I’ll go back to biting my lip now, but I can’t let it come to pass that I stand silent as zero hour on this historic vote approaches.
    Senator Manchin, let great Americans like Steve come out of the shadows to serve their country with dignity and pride.


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