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DADT and Presidential Politics

This Saturday’s Washington Post offers up an important reminder that in this year’s presidential elections, there are serious policy (as opposed to personality) differences between John McCain and Barack Obama. In an editorial, the Post’s writers sound off on one of the major policy differences between the two men: repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

During last week’s ServiceNation Presidential Forum, both candidates chastised Columbia University, the host of the forum, for not allowing the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) to recruit on campus. Columbia, like many of its sister schools in the Ivy League, bans ROTC training as a result of the Congressional “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. The law, banning openly lesbian, gay and bisexual students from participating in ROTC, falls afoul of the university’s guidelines governing inclusiveness in all university sponsored organizations. As a result, ROTC programs are forced off campus. Schools, students, and community all suffer when young men and women are denied an important avenue to financial assistance and public service.

Recent Congressional hearings into the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law reveal a ban which has forced commanders to discharge nearly 12,500 service members since the law was first enacted in 1994. Testimony also suggested that if “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” were repealed an estimated 41,000 gay men alone would enlist. Furthermore, repealing the law and replacing it with a non-discrimination policy would eliminate the conflict many universities, including Columbia, have with the ROTC and allow this important organization back onto college campuses.

The American people support repealing the law. A Washington Post poll, conducted in July 2008, suggests 75% of Americans support the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” However, of the two men running for president only Sen. Barack Obama has indicated his administration would support repealing the measure. Sen. John McCain has said he believes the policy is “working.”

As the media, and the American people, prepare for the last two and a half months of presidential campaigning it is important to focus on the important policy differences between Obama and McCain. There are serious differences between the two men, and their visions for America.

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Victor Maldonado

Victor Maldonado