When Sen. Carl Levin and the Senate Armed Services Committee begins hearings on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell on Tuesday, one man who won’t be attending is Gen. James Conway, the Commandant of the Marine Corps (the guy in charge), who’s a supporter of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Is his absence curious?
As the chief of the Marines, Conway also servces as one of President Obama’s top military advisers. (He was part of the Bush administration’s original charge into Iraq in 2003.) And it was only in November that Conway, in “private conversations” that were leaked to the Washington Times, was running his mouth about how Don’t Ask Don’t Tell shouldn’t be repealed. Killing the policy would be “disruptive.”
Conway’s military equivalents include Army Secretary John McHugh, who has said publicly he wants to see DADT repealed.
Is Conway’s absence from the Senate hearings that bizarre? Hard to tell. It’s unknown whether he was even queried about testifying — whether Sen. Levin wants to hear from him, or whether the White House is purposefully keeping him off the record.
But his superiors will be there: Defense Sec. Robert Gates (who, if we understand it correctly, is Conway’s immediate boss, before the president) and Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, who is literally the most senior member of the armed forces; Obama and Gates, a cabinet member, hold executive branch positions. (Then again, the DADT hearing is really just Part Two of a Defense Department budget hearing, which Gates and Mullen would attend anyhow.)
Sec. Gates sees a far off timeline for DADT’s removal. And as for Mullen? He says we need to wait at least a year to repeal the law. So maybe it doesn’t matter that Gen. Conway and his fellow lower-level discrimination endorsers aren’t part of the process.
From there, it’s a matter of whether Washington’s lawmakers will listen to military leaders, as they often default to, or go their own way and risk pissing off the Pentagon.