Robert Knight

Elaine Donnelly reported for duty Wednesday. She went to a battlefield where most men who agree with her were AWOL.

Like her mentor, Phyllis Schlafly, she did not let others’ cowardice or indifference interfere with what she needed to do. Mrs. Donnelly, President of the Center for Military Readiness, told the truth at risk of ridicule or worse, keeping the faith that telling the truth matters no matter what.

Donnelly was one of two witnesses testifying before a House subcommittee in support of the military’s ban on homosexuality. The other three witnesses were pro-gay, as were most of the questions from the lawmakers.

Surrounded by hostile faces in the gallery, hostile faces of the liberal congressmen who dominated the “hearing,” and the skeptical faces of reporters from liberal media, Mrs. Donnelly listened stoically while other witnesses trashed her personally during their testimony.  Because of the rules, she was not able to respond until called late in the proceedings for her own testimony.

When she got her turn, Mrs. Donnelly carefully laid out the case for the law that Congress passed in 1993 and which has been upheld by multiple courts. She explained that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not actually the law, but a watered-down policy dreamed up by Bill Clinton’s Pentagon staff, something the media continue to get wrong. She also explained why allowing open homosexuality in the military would have a multitude of effects, up to and including a probable increase in sexual harassment and sexual assaults, and a profoundly detrimental effect on the morale of service people who hold traditional values.

Amid the scribbling scribes was Dana Milbank, a Washington Post columnist who specializes in character assassination of conservatives and even Democrats who get in the way of his preferred political figures. (Ask Hillary.)

In the July 23 edition, he used his entire Page A-3 column, “Sorry We Asked, Sorry You Told,” to paint Mrs. Donnelly as a clownish figure who “amused” lawmakers.  He wrote, “It was tempting to think that Donnelly had been chosen by Democrats to sabotage the case against open military service for homosexuals. But Republicans had consented to the witness panel….”  He might also have mentioned that Donnelly has a sterling reputation earned over years of public service, but that would have conflicted with his purpose:  to discredit political adversaries through ridicule.

Speaking of the GOP, the most outspoken Republican on the panel was Christopher Shays (Conn.), a reliable water carrier for homosexual activism.  Shays denounced the military’s DADT policy as “unpatriotic” and even “absolutely cruel.” Milbank reports this comment while noting that Shays’ voice was “rising with Yankee indignation.”  That must make pushing open homosexuality on the military a righteous cause.

Milbank began his column by sarcastically introducing Mrs. Donnelly only as someone “who has been working for years to protect our fighting forces from the malign influence of women.”

Donnelly, who served on the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Armed Services and a presidential commission examining the role of women in the military, has worked for years promoting policies that support military families, and resisting the liberal campaign to lift the combat exemption for women. To Milbank, who apparently wants to shove our daughters into harm’s way as soon as possible, that’s “maligning” women.

Milbank goes on to describe Donnelly’s testimony and responses to questions as “an extraordinary exhibition of rage.” Anyone who has seen Mrs. Donnelly under fire knows that she does not do “rage.” What she does do is to demolish the other side’s arguments with logic and documented materials. She also went out of her way to recognize the service to their country by co-panelists on the other side. Every inch a lady, albeit a lady tough as nails, Mrs. Donnelly does not sink to the level of her opponents.

Milbank even criticized the way Donnelly dressed, saying she was “severe in a black jacket with a flag pin.”  Well, at least he got the flag pin right. The suit was Navy blue. And she wore pearls and a pink blouse. Now that’s severe.   

Then Milbank quoted a number of liberal Democrats who were aghast at Donnelly for  daring to disagree with their plan to homosexualize the military: “Just bonkers” and “dumb” (Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark.), “embarrassed” (Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.), “shocked” (Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif.)  It’s the constituents of these “congresspersons” who should be shocked and embarrassed. 

Milbank also threw in: “At the witness table with Donnelly, retired Navy Capt. Joan Darrah, a lesbian, rolled her eyes in disbelief.” The Hill, a newspaper that specializes in covering Capitol Hill, also reported in its far superior story on the hearing, “Lawmakers grill critic of gays in military,” that Tauscher repeatedly rolled her eyes during Donnelly’s testimony.

Well, of course. Eye-rolling is standard procedure for some gay activists and their allies confronted with inconvenient truths. And projecting hysteria and anger on to conservative opponents is also par for the course.

I’ve experienced this sort of projection myself.  A few years ago I was debating the topic of “gay marriage” at an Ivy League college with a prominent lesbian activist. At one point, she lost her cool, got off message and started loudly denouncing the Bush Administration’s Iraq policies and people like me. Finally, the moderator reigned her in.  I never raised my voice. I stayed on point. Afterward, when we talked in a student lounge, she exclaimed that she didn’t know what had happened, but that “both of us just started yelling at each other.” No, she had been yelling at me. She projected her anger on to me, which is something I see certain gay activists doing quite often, accusing their opponents of hate where there is none.

The Post’s Dana Milbank projected on to Mrs. Donnelly the “rage” felt by gay activists at the hearing.

This is what military personnel who oppose homosexuality as immoral can expect to face in a new climate of politically correct enforcement of pro-homosexual sentiments if the ban is lifted.

After the hearing, Mrs. Donnelly took Milbank’s and her opponents’ comments in stride.  “I know what it’s like to be bullied by powerful men. I kept my composure,” she said. “What they’ve done is to make my main point, which is that if the ban is lifted, people who believe in traditional sexual morality will be abused and have no recourse, no defenders.”

That pretty much sums up the hearing itself, at which most of the Republicans fled and none challenged the assertions of the pro-gay witnesses and the liberal lawmakers who attacked Donnelly.  Other than her co-panelist, retired Army Ranger Brian Jones, who also did a creditable job in his testimony, Donnelly stood alone.

Other commitments prevented my attending the hearing on Wednesday.  I figured I would later write a piece on how the media have behaved. In retrospect, I should have carved out time for the hearing. Peter Sprigg, a Family Research Council vice president, found time in his schedule to be there. Given the gravity of this issue, lots of people should have been there.

A brave lady like Elaine Donnelly should not be left to the tender mercies of Christopher Shays, Ellen Tauscher and Dana Milbank.

Then again, it’s Shays, Tauscher and Milbank who might feel the need to stack the deck against people as formidable as Mrs. Donnelly and Sgt. Jones.


Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.