Analysis: Barrow tiptoes past 'Don't ask; don't tell'

Sunday, June 6, 2010 7:05 AM
Last updated 7:13 AM
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When the U.S. House voted recently to take the first step toward repealing the ban on gays in the military, Jack Kingston voted no.

Barrow during an Augusta Tech visit last week  Augusta Chronicle/ file
Augusta Chronicle/ file
Barrow during an Augusta Tech visit last week

The Savannah Republican fired off a press release accusing Speaker Nancy Pelosi of "a reckless and blatant political power play."

Kingston said rescinding the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" rule would "change the dynamic in the barracks and the morale in the field."

Meanwhile, the region's other congressman, Democrat John Barrow, voted for the bill but issued no press release.

That has more to do with election-year politics than the workload of his communications staff. More about that shortly.

Several days later, a reporter's inquiry elicited the following prepared statement from Barrow, whose 12th district represents a portion of Augusta.

"The military," he said, "is about to complete a study regarding the effects of 'don't ask, don't tell.' If that study shows that the policy should be repealed, then I think it absolutely should be.

"I've always said that we need to defer to the military commanders in matters like these, and that's what this bill does."

That statement is remarkable more for what it doesn't say than what it does.

Note that Barrow doesn't actually take a stand on whether the policy ought to repealed. He merely defers to the results of some yet-to-be conducted study.

He also seems to overlook the underlying context of the legislation. It's clearly intended to - sooner or later - do away with "don't ask, don't tell."

That's supposed to happen after a military study and after President Barack Obama and others sign off. But the obvious question before the House wasn't whether the policy should be repealed, but when and how.

In ducking the question of whether repeal is desirable, Barrow appears to be trying to have it both ways.

That is, he has voted to start the steamroller toward repeal, which - in theory - ought to placate gay-rights advocates.

But he has done so without endorsing their cause in principle, which - in theory - might spare him the wrath of social conservatives.

If all of this sounds vaguely familiar, it probably should.

It's all about his 12th Congressional District, where he is seeking re-election in this year's rabidly incumbent-hostile environment.

He has a July 20 primary rematch against former state Sen. Regina Thomas. And, should he be renominated - which seems likely but hardly inevitable - he may face a well-funded GOP candidate on Nov. 2.

As he apparently has in the past, Barrow seems to suspect there are fewer gay-rights advocates than social conservatives in the 12th.

The problem is the former tend to vote mostly in Democratic primaries, while both groups likely will do so Nov. 2.

So, until after July 20, the two groups are like treacherous reefs a helmsman should steer between. For now, Barrow has charted that course.

And why should any of this sound familiar?

Flash back to 2004, when Barrow, running in the district for the first time, was in a four-way Democratic primary.

He actively courted people in the gay community. And, however one might parse his words at the time, he convinced them he opposed banning same-sex marriages.

But after he won the primary, he ducked taking a stand on a state ballot measure on the issue. And he later supported a federal measure that would bar such unions.

So for the moment - that is, at least until July 20 - Barrow seems to be trying to avoid rubbing salt into old wounds.

Will it work?

Or might it turn out to be too clever by half? That is, will it feed ammunition to his general election foe?

And does it matter?

We'll see.

Comments (8) Add comment
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johnston.cliff 06/06/10 - 07:36 am
The gay community is HUGE in

The gay community is HUGE in both Augusta and Savannah and they'd rather have a part time advocate than a Repub. He'll not lose the gay vote.

disssman 06/06/10 - 08:18 am
I can guarantee Barrow that 6

I can guarantee Barrow that 6 members of my family, who voted for him last time, will not vote for him this time. I don't vote for partys anyway, I would rather vote for an individual. This guy is nothing but a double talking republican in sheeps clothing, so I may as well vote republican (I will not vote for Regina, which is nothing but a P.C. vote).

Riverman1 06/06/10 - 09:06 am
It's heck trying to be a

It's heck trying to be a Democrat, I bet.

jason robertts
jason robertts 06/06/10 - 11:16 am
Barrow needs to go and I will

Barrow needs to go and I will do my part to help him pack his bags!

geordiewhelps 06/06/10 - 11:22 am
ANYONE willing to fight and

ANYONE willing to fight and die for their country should have the opportunity to do so. Whether you like them or not. The same thing happened with blacks and women. When people are excluded, it puts a strain on recruitment in time of need, which puts even more strain on the soldiers serving. And in your assumption that gay men/women lust after straight men/women, it seems that you are either extremely conceited, or confused about your own sexuality. The "mandatory to be gay" thing also shows that you'd be better served to get your "news" from more than one source.

grinder48 06/06/10 - 11:24 am
dichotomy is precisely

dichotomy is precisely correct in the statement "the vast majority of the straight soldiers do not want to share sleeping, showering, and toilet facilities with ... homosexuals." Showering and toilet facilities for men and women have been separated for eons. Just like women not wanting men to be "oggling" over them in shared showers or toilets, hetrosexuals don't want - and should be forced to allow - homosexuals to be oggling over them in showers and toilets. If we're going to have this, let's just completely do away with "male" and "female" showers and toilets and all join in the same facilities. Everyone knows why we don't do that, b/c there'd be bedlum and chaos. Since we're required to be more tolerant in today's USA (grrrr), "don't ask / don't tell" is about the best we can hope for ... that is, everybody just shut up about it and do your job. There's no reason to be even discussing sexual orientation. Removing "don't ask / don't tell" will - at a minimum - encourage "asking and telling", which will then lead to sexual harrassment issues. I'm a man in a civialian work place. If I asked my female co-worker "are you gay or hetrosexual", then tell her I'm hetrosexual, I'd loose my job immediately for sexual harrassment. Why put all this bull strap in the military? Just shut the heck up and do your flippin' job, talk about sex, you're fired! ! !

geminibuddha 06/06/10 - 12:27 pm
I am a veteran. I was on a

I am a veteran. I was on a nuclear submarine. I was and now am gay. Everyone knew this except the top brass. None of my fellow patriots cared less whether I was showering, sleeping, or working with them. We had a job to do. This decision is a matter of fairness and getting rid of antequated thinking.

Brad Owens
Brad Owens 06/06/10 - 04:43 pm
Much ado about nada. Barrow

Much ado about nada. Barrow lives in a district that is conservative but with a slight Democratic majority. He does what he has to do to represent us well and get re-elected.

This is nothing more than an attempt to stir up a story where there isn't one. Don't support gays in the military? Too bad, they are already in it. I know that the neo-cons get their panties in a bundle over gay folks but that scare tactic is just that, a TACTIC.


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