WALLACE: Let me move to another subject. The Senate voted yesterday to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," the ban on gays serving openly in the military.The rest of the conversation was also interesting, and worth a watch once it is posted later. Durbin predicted that there will be 67 votes to ratify the START Treaty; Kyl refused to counter-predict.
Senator Kyl, you voted against the measure. Do you really think that it is going to hurt the ability of the U.S. military to fight in the two wars they're -- we're currently involved in? And what's the difference between this and racial integration of the military 50 years ago?
KYL: Well, from a constitutional standpoint, this is not a constitutional right or a constitutional issue, as was the issue of racial segregation.
On the first question, I frankly have to follow the lead of people like the commandant of the Marine Corps, like my colleague John McCain, who say that when it comes especially to the small units who do the fighting on the ground -- the U.S. Marine Corps, the Army combat troops, who, according to the survey taken by the Pentagon, were 60 percent opposed to this -- it could disrupt unit cohesion and, as the commandant said, cost lives. That means a lot to me.
WALLACE: What about, though, on the issue of fairness? You point out the Constitution. But on the issue of fairness, what's the difference between this and racial integration? And Lord knows, back then in the '40s there was plenty of objection, and had been for decades, about what this was going to do to the military if you let black and whites serve in the same units.
KYL: Well, that may have been, and they were wrong, obviously. But the question of fairness is one which we would deal with in a school or in a community group or in some kind of organization that -- where fairness is a big issue.
With regard to the U.S. military, it's got one function, and that is to fight and to fight well and maybe to die. And the people who are responsible for that need to make the judgment about whether this will inhibit their ability to carry out that ultimate job that we ask them to do.
And as I said, I look at those who are on the -- who have been surveyed relating to the combat fighting, the units on the ground, not the guy sitting behind a desk here in Washington, but the guys on the ground, and they say this could cost lives.
WALLACE: Senator Durbin?
DURBIN: Each political generation has very few, but a few, opportunities to extend justice in America. That was our chance yesterday in repealing "don't ask, don't tell." And I am proud that my political party and eight really strong and courageous Republicans stood up and said, "We'll join you." This should be bipartisan.
It is beyond a question of fairness. These are men and women who are willing to risk their lives in defense of their country. And the fact that their orientation -- sexual orientation's been held against them is a blot on our nation's reputation.
And I'll tell you this, Chris. This administration, this president, went to great lengths before they moved to implement this. They surveyed and found that 70 percent of those military and families asked said they were prepared to accept this.
The number, incidentally, when those in the military were asked about integration some 60 years ago, was 20 percent. This shows me that America has come to a point where it understands that sexual orientation should not be used against you. And honesty in the service of our country is going to make us a stronger nation.
By the way, speaking of the Treaty debate, it is going on live now on C-Span 2, and can be watched online here. The Senators are scheduled to vote on another amendment (regarding tactical nuclear weapons) at approximately 1:00pm (Arizona time). They are running a bit late, though.
Also, there was just an interesting discussion about the timing of this debate, cloture motions, and amendments that will be attached to a ratification vote (apparently to advise the administration on post-ratification steps); we may be looking at a vote to ratify late on Thursday, December 23 with lots of stern-sounding advice for the future.
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