When former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) endorsed Barack Obama in April and announced he would serve as a national security advisor, pundits naturally began speculating on his vice presidential prospects. The argument in favor of Nunn is that he is a former Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, which would help negate one of the McCain campaign's largest advantages.
Nunn's position is strengthened because he appears to be on the same rhetorical page as Obama. Last year, for example, he helped lead a bipartisan conference at the University of Oklahoma with the goal of ending political squabbling in Washington. In April, the conservative southern Democrat articulated his reasons for backing Obama:
"Demonizing the opposition, oversimplifying the issues, and dumbing down the political debate prevent our country from coming together to make tough decisions and tackle our biggest challenges," said Nunn.
This statement was curious, considering Nunn's crass conduct during the fierce 1993 "gays in the military" battle. Instead of leading in a contemplative manner, Nunn exploited his position of power to cheapen the national dialogue and dumb down the debate - the opposite of what he now says he stands for. This "statesman" brazenly exploited every last negative anti-gay stereotype for political gain and temporarily derailed Bill Clinton's nascent presidency in the process. Nunn's grandstanding was an unforgivable act of bigotry and betrayal and helped set back the GLBT movement for years.
For those who don't remember, candidate Bill Clinton promised to repeal the ban on openly gay service members. As president, he tried to follow through and a national uproar ensued. The opposition from conservative Republicans was to be expected, but Nunn's fingerprints were all over the bloody knife that protruded from Clinton's back.
Nunn called for a public "field hearing" to ostensibly find out what men and women in uniform thought of lifting the ban. In an orchestrated publicity stunt, Nunn escorted the national media into the attack submarine, the Montpelier, and the submarine tender Emory S. Land. A May 11, 1993 New York Times article vividly described the scene:
Under the glare of television cameras in cramped sleeping quarters, mess halls and even shower rooms aboard several ships and submarines toured by the senators here at America's largest Navy base....on the Land, 90 women share four showers and four toilets. On the Montpelier, most of the all-male crew sleeps in triple bunks separated by a corridor two feet wide. There are 117 bunks for 147 men, so crewmembers take turns sharing the same beds.
In a flash, Nunn lowered the tenor of the debate and created visions of promiscuous, unpatriotic gays and lesbians transforming our Navy into a hapless fleet of Sodomy Subs. All people wanted to talk about after this monstrosity was bunk beds.
Gratuitously piling it on, Nunn held a meticulously planned hearing in a 1,100 seat military auditorium. In a typical Nunn effort to be "fair" and "elevate" the debate, fifteen of the seventeen uniformed speakers chosen were adamantly against lifting the ban.
The Nunn Show ensured America heard from people like Petty Officer 2d Class Darlene Harris who said, "I've been in berths where there were a lot of lesbians, and it was terrible."
Nunn's theatrics and fear that gays in uniform would engage in "hand holding" and "kissing" lead directly to the disastrous Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy that has robbed the U.S. military of more than 11,000 service members, including at least 58 Arabic linguists. A GAO report released in 2005 estimated that DADT has cost U.S. taxpayers $200 million and the loss of "valuable personnel over the last decade." Yet, despite his direct role in weakening our military and making America more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, Nunn is considered a defense expert.
When it comes to the idea of Sam as Veep, I'm having Nunn of it. Beyond his DADT disaster, the senator's weakening of Clinton helped enable and propel the Gingrich revolution in 1994 - a huge setback for gay and lesbian equality.
The idea of Obama picking Nunn to run as his vice president is preposterous. John Marble, Communications Director for the Stonewall Democrats, says that selecting Nunn "would depress the vote a bit." (Yeah, we'd all need Prozac, to be sure)
Marble stressed that it is not time to panic because "there is no indication that the Obama campaign is seriously considering it." Indeed, he points out that pundits had considered Nunn as a possible running mate for both Gore and Kerry.
Still, it is crucial that Obama's gay staff members make it clear to the candidate how unacceptable Nunn would be. The campaign shouldn't even float his name unless it is attached to a runaway blimp drifting towards outer space.
Addendum: The thought of the Obama campaign selecting Nunn as VP (or other Cabinet positions) has upset leading activists including David Mixner and Michelangelo Signorile. A chorus of GLBT leaders is speaking up to also say they will have Nunn of it.
Wayne, you are right that don't ask/don't tell was a disaster, but that only shows that the military's ban on homosexuals should never have been tampered with. It was a good policy that should have been left in place.
posted by Anonymous, at
5/27/2008 7:20 PM
What???? A good policy? It was a bad policy from the word go, based as it was on prejudice, sterotyping, and out and out lies. Nunn orchestrated his dog and pony show, and the result is a breach in national security you could drive a suicide bombing truck through.
If Obama were to pick Nunn, I would seriously have to vconsider not voting for the first time in 40 years.
posted by Ben in Oakland, at
5/27/2008 10:27 PM
Please tell me ain't so!
Newt, Barr, Saxby, Isakson, Zell and Nunn -- make it very hard to defend my home State of Georgia.
My only consolation is Atlanta is not really Georgia. Not ITP (inside-the-perimeter) anyway!
If Obama wins the nomination, I only hope he'll ask John Edwards to be his running mate. If not, then appoint Edwards as Attorney General. Nunn of course would be disastrous for the democratic party and Obama's nomination. I've always thought of Nunn as a moderate republican in democratic clothing anyway. If he foolishly picks him, I'll never vote for a democrat again.
posted by Robert, NYC., at
5/28/2008 9:33 AM
For the ZILLIONTH time, Obama is NOT a Muslim! Anon's posting was filled with the half-truths and outright lies that the rightwingers have been circulating on the net. Check on snopes.com to get the facts. And yes polls show that Obama CAN and propbably will win! Even the righwingnuts are not coming out for McCain, they cant stand him. Many of them are already saying they'll vote for the libertarian Barr. He's going to be their Ralph Nader.
posted by Anonymous, at
5/28/2008 1:00 PM
For the record. Anyone who still thinks Obama is a Muslim is really ill-informed.
These days, we have TV, books, radio, newspapers and this nifty new Al Gore invention called the Internet. If you are still clueless - you have no one to blame but yourself. But, please keep in mind your ill-informed self is hurting this nation and is bad for America.
If we have people making key choices out of ignorance - this is a threat to are continued prosperity and national aspirations.
It is quite sad that people don't take advantage of the modern age and choose to live as backwards and ignorant.
posted by Wayne Besen, at
5/28/2008 2:35 PM
What’s the big deal?
The Democratic Party, like the Republican, is a swamp inhabited by lurking bigots. (Think of them as crocs or cottonmouths, don’t get too close, don’t pet them and for all our sakes don’t feed them.) Obama and Clinton oppose same sex marriage. Bill Clinton boasted in paid political ads on right wing Southern christian radio stations of his support for DOMA.
The Democrats stripped the meat from ENDA and tossed the bones in the scrap heap. They dumped the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill. They’ve controlled Congress for two years yet they adamantly refused to repeal DADT and DOMA.
What difference does it make who their VP candidate is if the party as a whole is homophobic to the core? (I’m speaking of the leaders and owners of the Democrats and Republicans, not their supporters who include many decent, if sometimes clueless, people.)
A Republican is a baboon in a people suit, with a theocrat attached at the hip. A Democrat is a Republican in drag.
P.S. Wayne, if you are "having Nunn of it," then you better divorce yourself of Obama altogether. This is just a taste of the idiocy that will part of his agenda for destroying this country.
posted by Anonymous, at
5/28/2008 9:53 PM
Thank you for reminding folks about Nunn's deplorable performance back then. For the record, Nunn's posturing during that debate could have been lifted practically verbatim from the remarks of an earlier U.S. Senator from Georgia, Richard B. Russell. Russell's many years in the U.S. Senate coincided with President Truman's ending segregation in the armed services in 1948. Russell fought that policy change with every resource at his disposal, but fortunately failed. Who knows how much longer we'll have to live with Nunn's legacy, though? And as for Nunn helping Obama carry Georgia: I doubt it would have much of an effect. Nunn hasn't served in public office since Jan. 1997 & since then Georgia's population has continued to explode; there are literally thousands of voters in Georgia who have no idea who Sam Nunn is, let alone that he was once a U.S. Senator from here.
David Boren is a good friend of Sam Nunn and has endorsed Obama for President. With two years remaining on his third term, in 1994 Boren resigned from the U.S. Senate. Although the mainstream press concealed it, the year earlier the gay press had begun to out him and accuse him of sexually harassing his male staff members. Click on my link for scans of gay publications about Boren.
posted by Michael Wright, at
6/17/2008 8:41 PM