I'm not a fan of litmus tests, or of having single issues rule your decision-making process when it comes to political figures. But sometimes there are topics that speak to a broader capacity for both leadership and sensibility.
When pressed to confront Pace's assertions, Hillary Clinton said that she was "going to leave that to others to conclude." Sadly, Senator Barack Obama punted on the topic as well, first providing a too-clever-by-half answer--"I think traditionally the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman has restricted his public comments to military matters. That's probably a good tradition to follow."--and then with a Bushian muddled one--"I think the question here is whether somebody is willing to sacrifice for their country, should they be able to if they're doing all the things that should be done." Senator John Edwards is the only candidate, thus far, who has been willing to dismiss the notion flat-out. When Tim Russert asked Edwards in February whether homosexuality was a sin, Edwards replied, "No."
After Hillary's and Obama's initial avoidance of the issue, they then issued statements via spokespeople stating that both of them do not, in fact, consider homosexuality immoral.
What worries me about this tiny episode is not the fire in General Pace's pants over the matter--honestly, to compare homosexuality to adultery is a horribly incoherent way to prove your moral mettle--but how the opportunity it provided politicians like Hillary to display some courage was ignored.
Perhaps the adultery concept hit too close to home for Hillary, and she was in no mood to point out that a broken promise made during marriage is simply not morally comparable to one's sexual orientation.
Regardless of whether General Pace was referring to homosexual acts or homosexuality in general, his notion itself is immoral. It's not Christian by any stretch of the imagination. The religious right likes to fashion itself as a moral savior, hiding behind an unethical, lying President and Republican Party, while calling out groups it deems "immoral." It is safe to say General Pace has at one point or another violated some teaching in the Bible (working on Sunday, perhaps) but that is not of our concern. We live in an age where those who use "morals" to attack consider themselves victims of those they assail. These folks never offer proof beyond a bible passage of any harm done to them, aside from their interrupted peace of mind.
What makes Hillary Clinton's response so troubling is that she aggressively seeks money, time and support from gay voters. If she believes those gay supporters of hers are immoral, she should say so and return their money. That is her prerogative. But Hilary's spokesman now says she does not believe homosexuality is immoral. If true, then for her to sit still and allow individuals like Pace to offensively attack a group of citizens in the name of "values" is shameful and immoral. It's almost like having a pregnant, gay daughter and refusing to defend her rights while simultaneously using her to show your unique brand of "tolerance."
Hillary spoke these words in Selma, Alabama on March 4th, using a drawl only the most manipulative of maneuverers could muster: "You know, Dr. King told us -- Dr. King told us our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
I would say defending the rights of a homosexual couple who adopts a child and provides a loving home of character for that child, matters. I would say standing up to words that create an atmosphere where slander and violence against a homosexual teenager is acceptable and warranted by God, matters. Or, I would say simply stating that divisive hatred and outmoded "moral judgment" are not a proper basis for government or military policy, matters.
But I guess that's for others to conclude. Update: Clinton tries again. I wonder why Senator Warner was able to be so clear, so quickly? Or Senator Edwards? Update 2: Clinton had this to say on Bloomberg Television "Well I've heard from a number of my friends and I've certainly clarified with them any misunderstanding that anyone had, because I disagree with General Pace completely. I do not think homosexuality is immoral. But the point I was trying to make is that this policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is not working. I have been against it for many years because I think it does a grave injustice to patriotic Americans who want to serve their country. And so I have called for its repeal and I'd like to follow the lead of our allies like, Great Britain and Israel and let people who wish to serve their country be able to join and do so. And then let the uniform code of military justice determine if conduct is inappropriate or unbecoming. That's fine. That's what we do with everybody. But let's not be eliminating people because of who they are or who they love." It's always like this with triangulating pols like the Clintons, they save their eloquence and passion after it's too late and only after being cornered. This kind of reactionary politics is a core reason why the Democrats lost in 2004. I sure hope we're smart enough to avoid it in 2008.