Congress' long struggle over Don't Ask, Don't Tell concluded on Saturday with a 65 to 31 Senate vote to repeal. But that Democratic victory came after many long months and years of one political battle after another over the Clinton-era policy banning openly gay servicemembers from the military. Looking back over Saturday and before, pundits and activist groups are not hesitating to call out what they see as the heroes and the villains of this struggle. Here's who they're naming.
- Hero: Obama and His Supporters The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan writes, "Like 2009's removal of the HIV ban, which was as painstakingly slow but thereby much more entrenched, this process took time. Without the Pentagon study, it wouldn't have passed. Without Obama keeping Lieberman inside the tent, it wouldn't have passed. Without the critical relationship between Bob Gates and Obama, it wouldn't have passed. It worked our last nerve; we faced at one point a true nightmare of nothing ... for years. And then we pulled behind this president, making it his victory and the country's victory, as well as ours."
- Hero: Sen. Joe Lieberman The Washington Post's Greg Sargent writes, "Lieberman was tireless in his efforts to cajole the handful of GOP moderates to come on board, despite extraordinary pressure on them to maintain GOP unity and block the measure. Lieberman prodded the process along with well-timed public statements, laying down a road-map for the Dem leadership to follow that led to success." As for opponents such as McCain, "Lieberman's independent status and Beltway reputation as a hawk made him perfect for the lead role in undercutting McCain's arguments."
- Hero: The Military Leadership Spencer Ackerman gives "a nod to the leadership of Bob Gates and Admiral Mullen. Popularity of repealing DADT in the country notwithstanding, without them, repeal would be a disruptive move forced on the military. ... You can call me an apologist and you can call me a clueless, straight civilian reporter insufficiently attuned to the emotional realities at stake on all sides. But Gates and Mullen haven’t just been focused on repeal as an event, they’ve been focused on repeal as a process, making sure it proceeds as a nonevent."
- Villain: 'Benedict Arnold' Republicans The American Family Associations' Bryan Fischer fumes, "We are now stuck with sexual deviants serving openly in the U.S. military because of turncoat Republican senators." He calls out "Republican renegades Scott Brown, Mark Kirk, George Voinovich, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. If these traitors to national defense had voted in line with the Republican Party platform, the cloture motion would have received just 57 votes and would have failed."
- Villain: Sen. John McCain Politico's Manu Raju dubs McCain's "new role" as "GOP agitator," writing, "McCain is inserting himself into the biggest issues of the day, acting as a power player again in the Senate and angering Democrats along the way." The Atlantic's Garance Franke-Ruta calls this McCain's "last standing" and says this "is not the first time he's found himself swimming against the tide of history." The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates shakes his head. "All talk of patriotic sacrifice and the true nature of the senators heart is vaccuous. You are what your record says you are. In this business, here is the record of John McCain."
- Villian: Sen. Joe Manchin Many observers puzzled over Manchin's decision to skip Saturday's historic vote, which it turns out was for a family Christmas party. The New America Foundation's Steve Clemons chides, "This is a bad punctuation point to his new Senate career - and while there will no doubt be many votes he takes with which I agree with the Senator, this tilt towards perpetuating bigotry rather than service with honor will stain his reputation and his electoral donations for a long time."