by Jack Minor
Following two debates between Senator Michael Bennet and Ken Buck one thing is undeniable, there are stark differences between the two candidates.
At the most recent debate in Colorado Springs, two questions concerned amendments to the defense bill that was filibustered by Republicans earlier this month. One of the questions concerned the “Dream Act” which would grant citizenship to illegal aliens who meet certain requirements.
The act would permit individuals to apply for citizenship in return for meeting certain requirements such as promising to serve two years in the military or completing two years of college with the intent to obtain a degree. The act also states that a person over the age of 12 cannot be deported if they are attending a primary or secondary school.
A person who does not follow through on their commitments they will revert back to their status prior to application. The government can waive any of these requirements if an applicant “demonstrates compelling circumstances for the inability to complete the requirements.” Additionally, under the act, qualifying individuals will be eligible for student loans.
When asked for positions on the Dream Act, Sen. Bennet, who co-sponsored the bill, enthusiastically voiced his support while Buck stated he is opposed to the bill. Buck said we should not give people that have come to this country illegally the benefit of the Dream Act. Buck went on to criticize a portion of the bill that would allow an individual with two misdemeanors to still qualify for citizenship. “I consider two misdemeanor sex assaults… two DUI’s or other crimes to be serious, especially if they’re committed by the time they are 18 or 19 years old.”
Buck said he does agree that he wants to give people the opportunity to become citizens, but that citizenship has to be earned.
Another issue that illustrates the differences between Buck and Bennet is the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. When asked about repealing don’t ask don’t tell, Sen. Bennet said he supported lifting the ban, saying opposition to homosexuality was a result of “outdated views of our society.”
Buck said, “I do not support the repeal of don’t ask don’t tell. I think it is a policy that makes a lot of sense.” The don’t ask, don’t tell policy itself was instituted during the Clinton years and prohibits inquiries into the sexual orientation of military members. The Marine Corps recruiting office in Greeley confirmed they no longer ask any questions regarding a person’s sexual orientation during recruitment.
The current policy states that a person who makes their sexuality known is subject to discharge under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Following the Colorado Springs debate, the Colorado Independent, in a story titled “Coloradans mostly agree with Bennet not Buck on don’t ask, don’t tell,” reported that the majority of Coloradans supported lifting the ban. The statement was based on a poll commissioned by Quinlan Rosner/American Viewpoint who asked the question, “Federal law currently prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the military. Do you think this law should be repealed or not?” The poll showed 51 percent in favor of the ban with the rest opposing lifting the ban, choosing not to answer, or saying they did not know.
However, Buck’s opinion appears to be more in line with the majority of generals and service-members. The heads of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have all states their opposition to lifting the ban. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said, “I would certainly have preferred that legislation not be brought forward in terms of the change until we are completed with” a review that is due in December. Army General Chief of Staff, George Casey, said, “I do have serious concerns about the impact of a repeal of the law on a force that is fully engaged in two wars and has been at war for eight-and-a-half years. We just don’t know the impacts on readiness and military effectiveness.” The Air Force Chief of Staff, Norman Schwartz, echoed similar concerns.
Gen. James Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps, opposed the ban, saying if it were repealed he would not force straight Marines to bunk with gay Marines. Gen. John Amos, who has been chosen by President Obama to replace Conway, also had reservations about lifting the ban saying in his Senate hearing, “My primary concern with proposed repeal is the potential disruption to cohesion that may be caused by significant change during a period of extended combat operations.”
The Pentagon conducted a survey which ended Aug. 15 regarding troop attitudes on repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” receiving 115,000 responses out of 400,000 requests sent. The results of that survey have not yet been made public
Supporters of repealing the ban have pointed to other nations that allow homosexuals to serve openly saying that there have been no issues and that under the current policy the military is constantly short staffed in vital fields such as Arabic translators.
Critics of lifting the ban say chaplains would be forced to violate their conscience as speaking against homosexuality would then be contrary to official military policy and that individual soldiers would face pressure to conform to the new directives regardless of religious convictions. These concerns were validated by an editorial in the Washington Times. The editorial quoted Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick , who is involved with a panel charged with shaping military policy on the issue, telling a military audience “these people opposing this new policy will need to get with the program, and if they can’t, they need to get out. No matter how much training and education of those in opposition, you’re always going to have those that oppose this on moral and religious grounds just like you still have racists today.”