Thursday, January 20, 2011
"The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is an important step in America’s march toward justice. Our country has moved past the prejudices of the past."
Senator Dick Durbin (Democrat-IL)
“This is a landmark day in the history of the United States of America. Today, we finally ended this damaging, discriminatory policy.”
Cong. Jan Schakowsky (Democrat-IL)
Illinois Democrats were positively giddy with the news that the lame duck Congress on December 22, scrapped the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy which limited overt homosexuals' involvement with the U.S. military.
In the future, the U.S. military will embrace the same acceptance of homosexuality as the armed forces of such other, more enlightened superpowers as Holland and Belgium.
Democrats pointed with pride to their trailblazing on this matter and heaped scorn on benighted Republican bigots like John McCain who tried to block the march of historical progress.
Yet it is a little known fact that that icon of Democrat progressivism (to whom Obama himself is often compared) Franklin D. Roosevelt, actually tried to entrap homosexuals in the U.S. Navy in a scandalous affair that almost wrecked his political career.
Here, from page 48 of the excellent 2006 biography of FDR's early career, "The Defining Moment," by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter is an account of what came to be known as the "Newport Scandal":
"The problem was what came to be known as "the Newport Scandal." In 1919, while Navy Secretary Daniels was in Europe, (Assistant Navy Secretary) FDR apparently signed off on an undercover investigation in which enlisted men were engaged by a secret Navy unit to entrap homosexuals around the Newport, Rhode Island, naval base, where complaints had surfaced of widespread solicitation.
"Astonishingly, these enlisted men were actually ordered to perform oral sex on suspected homosexuals in the Navy and others in their circle including a prominent clergyman. After the Providence Journal broke the story of "vicious practices in the U.S. Navy," Roosevelt, claiming memory lapses about the whole thing, said in a May 1921 hearing that he couldn't remember approving the operation and, more plausibly, that he had not known the graphic details of what would actually be done to crack down on homosexuality in the ranks.
"A Congressional committee found that Roosevelt was either a knave or a fool, a moral reprobate or totally incompetent -- he had either known of and approved "the most deplorable, disgraceful and unnatural" activities or "he did not inquire and was not informed" in which case "he was most derelict in the performance of his duty." The report concluded that a man of Roosevelt's intelligence must have known of the activities of the unit performing the sexual entrapment.
"The July 20, 1921, New York Times carried a front page story about the former vice-presidential candidate in which the scandal was laid directly at his feet:
"LAY NAVY SCANDAL TO F.D. ROOSEVELT
SENATE NAVAL SUBCOMMITEE
ACCUSES HIM AND DANIELS
IN NEWPOERT INQUIRY
"The "unprintable" details quickly circulated in Washington, but because reporters were more interested in the new Harding administration than in the old Wilson crowd, the story faded."
So now, not only can the Democrat party point to its historical legacy of support for slavery, Jim Crow segregation and internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps, but it can point with pride to its legacy of hard-core queer bashing.
I wonder if Jan Schakowsky will bring this up next year when she goes sashaying down Halsted Avenue, hand-in-hand with some campy drag queen during the annual Chicago gay pride parade?