Nonetheless, despite Clinton's and Gore's political opportunism, spurred on by the savage death of Barry Winchell, the Pentagon has no plans to immediately change the code. Defense Secretary William Cohen said last week: "I do not expect the policy to be changed, certainly not during this administration." So much for Clinton's influence within his own presidency.
Let us be clear: the Republican presidential candidates are just as myopic about this antiquated rule. Gov. George Bush, in reaction to Gore's statement, bleated this tepid reply: "We're not going to tolerate abuse. We expect people to be treated with respect." That's a fine and scripted platitude, but he supports the continuation of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." That's a twisted interpretation of "compassionate conservatism."
Sen. John McCain was even more pointed in his views. Speaking in South Carolina last week, McCain said he was "appalled" by Gore's new stance. "I don't understand how anyone who would pretend to lead the country would take a position without consulting the military leaders of the country."
More insane posturing.
What all these politicians don't understand is that homosexuality as an issue is over. Or should be. We believe that any man or woman who's willing to enlist in the military should not have his or her sexuality questioned, or ridiculed, in addition to bearing the stress of a difficult job. Members of the armed forces have something in common: they're Americans whose job it is to defend this country.
Military superiors, instead of looking the other way, in effect condoning the harassment, must weed out the bigots and mete out appropriate punishment.
Murder, or Mistake? Appeals court judges were right to move the trial of the policemen who killed Amadou Diallo out of the city. When P.T. Sharpton and his gang of celebrities forced a murder trial, they also created the situation in which the trial had to be held elsewhere.
Over the past year, Sharpton has very effectively created a context in which impaneling 12 New Yorkers whose judgment has not been tainted by his activities would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. It's no insult to New Yorkers to say we've all been affected by the publicity. If you found 12 New Yorkers who haven't been, they'd have to be so mentally deficient you wouldn't want them on any jury.
The killing of Amadou Diallo was a tragedy and a travesty, but was it second-degree murder? Or a terrible mistake? Perhaps what's needed, rather than a show trial to appease Al Sharpton, is a thorough overhaul of the NYPD, a bureaucracy whose stubborn blindness to its problems of institutionalized racism and violence put both Diallo and those four cops in harm's way.