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Members of the government in Washington, reviled by the majority of the American public as a pack of petty partisan do-nothings, took action this weekend. Democrats and Republicans joined together in an inspired last-ditch effort that succeeded in repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy banning gay soldiers from serving openly. The 17-year-old policy reflected a confused transitional moment in U.S. history. It was written by military brass referencing no serious empirical data. It asked soldiers to lie to each other and to their commanding officers. It resulted in tens of thousands of discharges and hundreds of millions of wasted dollars on education, combat training and legal fees. Even though the policy's end came too late to prevent the career disasters that befell gay service members such as CU Boulder Air Force ROTC Cadet Mara Boyd, maybe it came in time to see many of those careers resurrected.
Solicitor General Elena Kagan will be President Obama’s second Supreme Court nominee. The emerging conventional wisdom is that Kagan, a rare nominee for the high court who hasn’t been a judge, is a very smart blank slate. On at least one category of issues that Kagan will face — the intersection of national security and law during a time of war — that conventional wisdom looks correct. But there’s a proxy for that set of issues, however inexact, that offers a few clues in advance of her confirmation hearings: Kagan’s deference to executive power.