The lead headline in today’s Washington Post was “‘Don’t Ask’ Is Repealed In Historic Vote.” For the Post, “historic” means something it really, really likes.
The Post likes DADT repeal so much, it worked to bring it about. As I pointed out here, the Post turned its pages over to an unidentified source to spin the Pentagon’s report in favor of repeal before it was released. The Post did so even though the source told it that the purpose of the leak was to fire the first shot in the impending public relations war.
The repeal effort was a classic case of our elites collaborating to paper over facts that should have prevented a result whose consequences they won’t have to live with. A hot-shot liberal lawyer (Jeh Johnson) wrote a report that brushed aside the views of the people who put their life on the line fighting for their country; the Post rolled out the liberal spin on the report before anyone had a chance to analyze it independently; and President Obama, who has no first-hand knowledge of the military, kept his thumb on the scale throughout.
This process left John McCain unhappy. So the Post’s Dana Milbank, writing on page 8 of the front section, seeks to ridicule and then defame the Senate’s leading expert on the military and the father of a Marine who is going to have to live with the consequences of DADT repeal.
Milbank claims that McCain’s forceful opposition to repeal is “driven less by policy consideration than by personal animosity.” According to Milbank:
A decade ago, his antipathy toward President George W. Bush led him to seek common cause with Democrats to thwart a Republican president. Now his antipathy toward President Obama has made him a leading Republican hard-liner.
But when McCain sought common cause with Democrats against Bush (on a few issues), I don’t recall Milbank, or any other Post writer, claiming that McCain was doing so because he’s a sore loser. In those days, the MSM portrayed him as a principled maverick.
The important point, though, is that Dana Milbank has just accused John McCain of taking a position on a crucial issue involving the intersection of national security and individual rights based on pique. Before making that accusation against anyone, and certainly against an American hero, one better have good evidence.
Milbank’s evidence is his claim that McCain said in 2006 that “he would support repeal once military leaders recommended it.” McCain’s exact statement, as reported by the Post, was “the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it.”
Milbank, then, has failed to tell his readers the truth about McCain’s statement. The Senator didn’t say he would support repeal once military leaders recommend it. He said we ought to seriously consider changing it at that point.
In any event, the leadership of the military did not tell McCain that DADT should be repealed. Instead, the leadership was divided. Some leaders expressed serious reservations about repeal. In particular, the Commandant of the Marines made it clear he thinks we ought not change the policy.
To be sure, the head of the joint chiefs, Mike Mullen, thinks repeal is a good idea. But he doesn’t constitute “the leadership of the military” by himself. And even if he did, his view would only commit McCain to serious consideration of repeal, while the views of other military leaders would provide him with reasonable grounds to support current policy at the end of the day.
Accordingly, there is no inconsistency between McCain’s 2006 position and his position now. And there certainly is no basis to accuse McCain of basing his current position on sour grapes.
It’s no scoop that McCain isn’t always a gracious loser. But considering the stakes of this issue and the way proponents of repeal gamed the process, McCain’s anger is understandable. In any event, Milbank has again shown himself to be something worse than an ungracious loser; he’s an obnoxious winner.