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Monday, March 15, 2010

Reinventing the Wheel with Healthcare Reform and DADT

Healthcare reform is unpopular. At least, that's what Republicans have been saying. It's the worst thing ever and Americans know it. To listen to the GOP, we're all in agreement here -- everyone hates this thing. But the truth is that's average of polls finds that Americans are split on the issue, 48% anti- to 44% pro-. Not only isn't there a consensus on reform, but there isn't even a majority opinion. Given the Republican campaign of anti-reform propaganda and disinformation, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise -- we have no idea what to think. Further, White House pollster Joel Benenson has pointed out that as much as a third of the antis are supportive of reform, but believe this bill doesn't go far enough. Once the bill is law, he argues, a lot of this contingent will come around to defend it, hoping to use it as a foothold for further reform -- this is a category I already fall into. This shift would likely put the pros in the majority.

No, if you want to find an unpopular program, you'd have to look elsewhere. Like, say, the Republican defended policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Polling shows that 75% of Americans oppose that policy. And why not? It's an absurdity created by compromise. Then-President Bill Clinton wanted to remove the ban on gays and lesbians in the military entirely -- which he could do as Commander and Chief. But the fear was that Congress would legislate the issue and write the ban into law with a veto-proof majority. So a deal was cut, a compromise was made, and a weaker law was passed. DADT was basically something along the lines of "we'll let gays in the military, but we'll pretend they aren't gay. As long as they don't break the illusion, gays are now allowed to serve."

And this Frankenstein monster of a compromise has now brought us this:

Associated Press:

NewsomeJene Newsome played by the rules as an Air Force sergeant: She never told anyone in the military she was a lesbian. The 28-year-old's honorable discharge under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy came only after police officers in Rapid City, S.D., saw an Iowa marriage certificate in her home and told the nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Newsome and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint against the western South Dakota police department, claiming the officers violated her privacy when they informed the military about her sexual orientation. The case also highlights concerns over the ability of third parties to "out" service members, especially as the Pentagon has started reviewing the 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" law.

"I played by 'don't ask, don't tell,'" Newsome told The Associated Press by telephone.

It looks like the police outed her to punish her for not cooperating with an investigation. They found the document while investigating a theft charge against her spouse. Never mind that no one is required to help police with an investigation and, as the suspect's spouse, Newsome can even refuse to testify in court. For their part. Rapid City police say they had to inform the Air Force.

"It’s an emotional issue and it’s unfortunate that Newsome lost her job," said Police Chief Steve Allender, "but I disagree with the notion that our department might be expected to ignore the license, or not document the license, or withhold it from the Air Force once we did know about it. It was a part of the case, part of the report and the Air Force was privileged to the information." Legal experts disagree.

"This is not a federal crime," writes Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley. "Since when are officers compelled to report matters of potential internal discipline to an employer? If the officers hoped for greater cooperation from the gay community, this is hardly the way to secure it."

And, in the end, no one asked and Newsome certainly didn't tell, but she's out anyway. Why? Because of a flawed compromise with crazy people, that's why. This is America and we can never just go ahead and do something. Other nations have lifted similar bans without any problem, but the US has to reinvent the wheel every time we want to change something, because some people think this country is a different planet. We can't look at other countries, see what policies or programs work best, and adopt them. No, Americans are entirely different from every other population on Earth. We can't do things the way everyone else does. We have to build everything from the ground up and, as a result, everything's a hodgepodge of good and bad ideas -- with the good ideas compromised into bad ideas.

I always say that a compromise is an arrangement in which all parties agree to be equally unhappy. I also always say that meeting someone crazy halfway is halfway crazy. And DADT backs both arguments up -- almost no one likes it, it's absurd, and it doesn't work. Sergeant Jene Newsome can get married in Iowa, but she can't even exist in the military.

And this is the problem facing healthcare reform as well. It's compromised into a monstrosity. Good ideas are out, bad ideas are in, because the United States can't just look at other countries, see what works, and do that. No, we've got to come up with something totally different from every other country and ignore what's been tested and proven, because that's just what Americans do.

The good news here is that DADT is on its way out and full acceptance -- what we should've done in the first place -- is coming. It's another thing Americans do. We look at the bad compromise, say, "Well, that didn't work either," then go ahead with something saner. Our uniquely American solutions have to fail before we go ahead and do what other nations have done.

That should give that percentage White House pollster Joel Benenson talked about cause for optimism. If this compromise is as bad as they -- and I -- think it is, it won't last. And we won't go back, either. That's another thing we don't do. What we'll do is change it again.

It's a pity that people like Newsome have to get screwed in the meantime.


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