What 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal Means To You

President Obama is expected to sign the bill that overturns the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy into law, though the changes won't take effect for months. Many opinion writers welcome it as a great civil rights victory, while others argue that congress is moving too fast and too soon.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

On Saturday, the Senate voted to repeal "don't ask, don't tell", the law that prohibited gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military, and the measure now goes to President Obama, who is expected to sign it on Wednesday. Exactly how and when changes begin remains unclear, but the moment the vote came down will be remembered.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof cheered that it may be the equivalent of Brown versus Board, the landmark Supreme Court decision that struck down separate but equal and eventually forced racial integration.

Others, like South Carolina Senator and Air Force Reservist Lindsey Graham said: To ask our armed forces and their families to absorb these changes in the middle of two major conflicts is unfair and unwise. Its principal opponent, Senator John McCain of Arizona, bluntly warned it could mean more dead U.S. Marines.

We're going to read a variety of opinions from today's blogs and op-ed pages. We also want to hear from you. We encourage members of the military to call, those directly affected, but by extension, this change affects us all.

So whether you heard the news on a military base, at a party or at a basketball game, what was the reaction where you were? Our phone number, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, on our regular Opinion Page, Michael Gerson criticizes both sides in the tax cut debate for shallow arguments on the nature of economic fairness.

But first, the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell". We'll start with a caller, and this is Dan(ph), Dan with us on the line from Naples in Florida.

DAN (Caller): Yeah, hi, Neal, thanks for having me on.

CONAN: Thanks for calling.

DAN: As far as my reaction, I served in the military from 1989, the U.S. Navy from '89 to '93. And I ended up leaving the Navy on July 15th of '93 when President Bill Clinton at that time failed to overturn the ban on gays and lesbians.

Basically, I came out to the military, and they let me go. And I could tell you my personal reaction to this is, you know, at first, I mean, I was ecstatic about it, just knowing that tens of thousands of more young people don't have to go through the torture and abuse that we went through at that time by keeping ourselves in the closet for years.

CONAN: Where were you when you actually heard the news?

DAN: I was actually on Facebook.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAN: I had some friends reacting to the news, some old military friends that actually were ecstatic about it. And it was absolutely wonderful. So the overall reaction from friends and my family, my partner, who is also my spouse, we - his mother called me and told me about it.

And it is just such a wonderful feeling to know again that, you know, so many people won't have to go through this ever again because it was two years into my enlistment before I actually came to terms with my sexual orientation, and it was two more years of basically having to keep myself in the closet and live a double life.

So, you know, actually now, these individuals, their energy, their full energy can go toward serving our country rather than having to keep themselves in the closet at the same time.

So, you know, thanks so much to President Obama for overturning this, this injustice that has actually pushed further up on us for 17 years after President Clinton failed to do so when he promised that he was going to do that.

CONAN: Dan, thanks very much for the call.

DAN: So it's a wonderful thing. Thank you.

CONAN: Appreciate it. This was a comment from Lieutenant Dan Choi to the Huffington Post: Our work has only begun. I call on all soldiers to gain the courage to come out. First come out to yourselves, then tell your trusted friends and family. Tell everyone whom you trust and who deserves nothing less than truth. Stop hating yourselves as your country has signaled so long.

Furthermore, your coming out is not for you. It is for all those who come after. Military service is not about rank, pension or paycheck. Climbing the ladder is shameful without true purity of service and I applaud those who give up the superficial artifacts of career in favor of complete integrity and justice.

President Obama - and again, this is Lieutenant Dan Choi, writing in the Huffington Post - you are not off the hook. The compromise bill passed today puts the moral imperative squarely on your desk.

Sign an executive order instituting a full non-discrimination policy throughout the military. If you do not, if you drag your feet and politicize this with your theoretical calculations as you have these past two years, you will be guilty of abetting those who loudly proclaim homophobia from their platforms and pulpits. Provide them no shelter or safe haven. Institute justice now.

I think Lieutenant Choi also said he planned to try to re-enlist and get back into the military. 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Let's go next to John(ph), and John's with us from Longmont in Colorado.

JOHN (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi there.

JOHN: Well, my only concern about this is when I was in the Navy in the '80s, you would be in so much trouble as a guy if you were caught near women's berthing quarters on a ship. They absolutely kept berthing quarters separate.

Now we're going to have straight guys having to live with homosexual guys and straight women living with homosexual women. If a straight guy doesn't have privacy from a homosexual guy, why are women going to have privacy from men?

CONAN: Well, some would argue...

JOHN: If we don't, if straight guys don't have privacy or straight women don't have privacy, then nobody should have privacy.

CONAN: I can understand your point, but some would point out that there are a lot of lesbians and homosexual men in the military now, and the housing arrangements seem to work out OK.

JOHN: That doesn't make it right.

CONAN: So you would advocate that there should be separation now?

JOHN: Well, yes. If - basically, in a crude way, it comes down to: If I don't get to look at the women, then gay guys don't get to look at the straight guys.

CONAN: All right, John, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it.

JOHN: OK.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to - this is Jim(ph), and Jim's with us from Beaverton in Oregon.

JIM (Caller): Hi, Neal, thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

JIM: I was absolutely ecstatic. I was getting ready for work on Saturday morning and was - had turned on CNN and saw that the cloture vote was taking place. And when it passed, I let out a yell and ran in and woke up my partner and told him that we had just, you know, that they had passed it for cloture, and we would - I knew we would have the 51 votes and started texting all of my friends and was really excited.

But at the same time, it was very bittersweet because I wouldn't trade the last 16 years with my partner for anything, but I'm a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, class of 1988, and in 1992 decided that I could not live a lie. And I had to leave military service instead of live a double life and subject myself to the enormous pressures that that entailed.

But I know in my heart of hearts that I was an exceptional naval officer. My fit-reps, you know, reflected the same. And I had my entire career planned out, through my first star, as to who I was going to work for, where I was going to go and how I wanted to have my career.

But my class motto is Sibi Aequum, which in Latin means be true to yourself, and it finally came down to my having to make a choice as to whether I would put myself in the position of having somebody write one letter and ruin my career or start over when I was young enough to start a new career.

But I am just so ecstatic that the gay and lesbian midshipmen that are at the academy now, starting with hopefully, if President Obama does as Lieutenant Dan Choi and a lot of us are asking him, starting with the class of 2011, no other academy grad who has, you know, sacrificed through four years at the academy and studied to defend our country because they love it that much, will not be denied that right because of who they love.

CONAN: Just to clarify, there were two votes in the Senate, as you mentioned, the cloture vote, which was to cut off debate. That needed 60 votes to pass. And so once that vote had been taken, as you suggest, the measure itself needed a simple majority of 51. In the end, it got 61 votes in the U.S. Senate.

JIM: Yeah, once it passed cloture, I was confident that we would have the 51 votes. I mean, and it was interesting to see who of my friends, you know, were, like, well that was just cloture, it wasn't the final up or down vote. But I was just so excited that we had broken Senator McCain's filibuster.

And it's - the rhetoric that has been going around has been so disappointing. Even though I saw today that General James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, has told his Marines to step up and abide by the ruling, I was very disappointed, I was very disappointed with his remarks in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, when he said he did not want to see Marines, you know, with lost limbs at Bethesda Naval Hospital because they're a distracted, when Staff Sergeant Eric Alva was the first American wounded in the Iraq war, losing his right leg, and he is a gay Marine. I thought that just his position was just very, very insensitive of the general.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Jim.

JIM: Thank you, Sir.

CONAN: Here's an opinion from William Kristol of the Weekly Standard, and he notes that this affects future policies, as well.

Though ROTC was kicked off campuses like Harvard, Yale, and Columbia before gays in the military was ever an issue, DADT became the excuse offered by those universities in recent years for continuing to discriminate against ROTC. The excuse is gone.

One trusts the presidents and trustees of colleges that have been keeping ROTC at arm's length, allegedly because of DADT, will move posthaste to ensure a hearty welcome and full equality for ROTC at their universities.

One would expect that patriotic alumni of those universities would insist on quick action. One would hope that prominent individuals, like Yale alum Joe Lieberman, who played so crucial a role in ending DADT, would lose no time in writing president Richard Levin to urge the reinstallation of ROTC at Yale, that Crimson alums like Chuck Schumer will be in touch with Harvard president Drew Faust, and that Columbia graduate Barack Obama will weigh in with Fair Columbia's Lee Bollinger.

But the Republican House will also have a role here. It can make its views known to the leaders of universities that receive federal funds; it can enforce the existing Solomon Amendment; it may perhaps want to consider new legislation if universities remain obdurate.

Also David Frum, who used to write editorials or used to write speeches for President Bush noted in a tweet that he foresaw the possibility of a ringing line at the State of the Union message from President Obama, calling for reluctant universities to reinstitute ROTC training on their campuses.

We're talking about the end of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. What was the reaction to the Senate vote where you were on Saturday? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Or send us an email, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Just click on TALK OF THE NATION. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

We're talking about reaction to the Senate's vote to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. President Obama is expected to make that law on Wednesday.

One of the most outspoken critics of overturning "don't ask, don't tell", at least right now, Senator John McCain. On Saturday, he spoke on the Senate floor against repeal and warned of distractions for service members and added:

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona): So I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage, and we could possibly and probably - as the commandant of the Marine Corps said and I've been told by literally thousands of members of the military - harm the battle effectiveness, which is so vital to the support, to the survival of our young men and women in the military.

Vice President JOE BIDEN: Look, all of our major allies have, for some time now, provided for all the - the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of the Defense, the vast majority of the American people say you're -whether you are gay or straight does not affect whether you can shoot straight or whether you can speak Urdu.

CONAN: And that, of course, Vice President Joe Biden. He spoke with David Gregory on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

Whether you hear the news on a military base, at a party or at a basketball game, what was the reaction where you were? Our phone number, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. You'll also find a link to many of the op-eds that we're going to mention. Again, npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

This an email from Alison(ph) in Minnesota: Equality, great; equality in the right to kill people, tough call. I still don't know how I feel about this. I think it was Einstein who said the pioneers of a warless world are those men and women who refuse military service.

Let's go next to Ray(ph), Ray with us from Las Vegas.

RAY (Caller): Hello, Neal. I heard the news on Saturday, and it was my girlfriend and I in the truck, and we heard it on NPR. And we were both pretty ecstatic.

When I got to work (technical difficulties) Monday, I work on an Air Force base, (technical difficulties), the feelings were mixed. There were some old-school people and some younger people that were against it and a lot of other people that thought it was a long time coming, and it was about time.

CONAN: So would you say that was, by and large, generational?

RAY: Yes, actually, I would say it was generational. I'm a contractor and work with military civilians and contractors who are normally prior military and retired military. And I would say that those people, although they will admit that they knew gay service members while they were active duty, they still just don't like the management challenge that it's going to present, I believe.

CONAN: And what concerns did you hear from those folks?

RAY: Well, a lot of (technical difficulties), your one caller, as ridiculous as it sounds, is afraid of the billeting arrangements. I've heard that argument presented.

I've hear that - it seems to me that it's always a management issue. We're going to have to crack down. Before, if you heard a gay joke in the break room, you didn't really have to address it because nobody can admit to being gay around you anyway. Now you're going to have to manage it the same way that you had to do women's rights and everything...

CONAN: And racial equality...

RAY: ...every change that has happened generationally.

CONAN: Yeah. All right, Ray, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.

RAY: Thank you.

CONAN: This is for - Ben Adler of Newsweek, who argued that Obama's signing the bill will be historic but probably will not be a watershed moment for gay rights, like the Civil Rights Act or the Americans With Disability Act or that Brown versus Board of Education Supreme Court decision we mentioned earlier.

Unfortunately for gay rights activists, this development is no equivalent of that. Brown was a unanimous decision that overturned the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson precedent, which had found separate but equal facilities to be constitutionally permissible.

Thus, the Court imposed integration in the most sensitive sphere in the public realm, elementary schools, and offered no dissenting opinion to justify opposition.

By contrast, this bill passed with significant opposition from Republicans. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who had said he opposes letting gays serve openly skipped the vote, but all other Democrats voted for it.

It does not establish a constitutional or legal principle that all discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is unacceptable, which can be applied in court rulings to other venues. And it does not allow transgendered individuals to serve.

Let's see if we can go next to Brandon(ph), Brandon with us from Lawton, Oklahoma.

BRANDON (Caller): How's it going today?

CONAN: Go ahead. Very well, thanks.

BRANDON: Yeah, no, I was just calling to say, listening to some of these other callers here, I'm active-duty military, and I've been in the Army for about seven years now. And I guess I'd say baffled earlier - it surprises me what a big deal people have made this.

In the past seven years, I don't think there's a unit I've been in there hasn't been members that are gay or lesbian that are there. And maybe they don't outwardly express it, but when you're outside of work, you see them with their partners, and then at work, they come in and do their job.

With the passage - or with the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell", it's not going to change that. These people are still there. They're great people. They come in; they do their jobs.

Deployed overseas, you have communal shower facilities. I've shared facilities with women alongside men. So I just - I don't think it's going to be a watershed moment. I don't think it's going to change a lot, other than somebody can openly say they're gay or lesbian.

So that was kind of my take, and some of the people that I work with take. We don't think it's going to be a huge issue. The question is: Who's going to be the first person to actually come out and say I'm gay. We already know they're there. Who's first?

CONAN: All right, Brandon, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it.

BRANDON: No problem.

CONAN: Bye-bye. This from Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council: Today is a tragic day for our armed forces. The American military exists for only one purpose: to fight and win wars.

Yet it has now been hijacked and turned into a tool for imposing on the country a radical social agenda. This may advance the cause of reshaping social attitudes regarding human sexuality, but it will only do harm to the military's ability to fulfill its mission.

It is shameful that the Democratic leadership, aided by Republican senators, has forced through such a radical change in a lame-duck session of Congress.

The 1993 law, which is to be repealed was adopted after only months of debate and at least a dozen Congressional hearings, the repeal has been forced through only 18 days after the Pentagon released a massive report, which raised more questions than it answered, on the impact the overturning of this policy will have on our nation's military.

It is clear why this was done: not to enhance the military's ability to accomplish its mission or enhance national security. Rather, it is a political payoff to a tiny, but loud and wealthy, part of the Democratic base. They knew the Congress elected last month would never adopt such legislation, certainly not without a more thoughtful and deliberative process.

Let's go next to Jay(ph), and Jay's calling us from Columbia, South Carolina.

JAY (Caller): Hey, good afternoon. Just wanted to echo, actually, the last caller. But, you know, I served in the Army as an MP for eight years, did two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan. And at no point in time was there any real secret about the fact that many of my soldiers, many of the soldiers that I was serving with or alongside, whether in my unit or others, were gay or lesbian.

And I can't say that they were out, that they would constantly voice that or would ever voice it, but we knew who they were. We accepted them. They fought alongside us. They did everything that we did and then some. And there was -there's no reason that this shouldn't have been repealed Saturday. I mean, there's just - it's just such rhetoric.

And I'll tell you, you know, you see - we fought along and trained alongside other U.N. forces. You know, there's Israelis there. There are British, of course, and then there's Australia. They don't have these - they didn't have these policies while they were there. They were actively, openly gay and lesbian military members there, alongside of the fighting.

If it's not a problem for them, why would it ever be a problem for us? And it's not a problem for us.

CONAN: You were in an MP unit. Do you think the opinion might be different in an infantry unit?

JAY: I can't imagine why. I can't imagine - well, we served alongside infantry soldiers while we were there. And I can't imagine what the difference could possibly be. You know, if it's a gay soldier standing next to you, it's a gay soldier standing next to you.

My wife and I on Saturday were absolutely jumping up and down in joy. It was -we were so excited. There's not going to be a difference. We've seen - if you look at - there was another NPR show on about a week ago that had this gentleman that had done all this research on five other major nations' militaries and how their changes were for the positive when they ended the segregation, when they ended their anti-gay and -lesbian policies, including Israel and the U.K.

CONAN: All right, Jay.

JAY: It changes for the better. It doesn't make it worse. No one's really secretive about it now.

CONAN: Jay, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it.

JAY: Take care, Neal.

CONAN: Here's an email from Dennis(ph) in Gilbert, Arizona: The commanding officer, straight male, and executive officer, straight female, of a U.S. Navy minesweeper were relieved of duty for fraternization. Good order and discipline are maintained by professional behavior, not by discrimination.

Let's go next to Joanna(ph), and Joanna's on the line with us from Savannah.

JOANNA (Caller): Hi. I'm calling just kind of to take the middle ground here. I wasn't jumping up and down for joy. I am an Army officer currently. I went to West Point. I've been to Afghanistan twice. And I'm straight.

But I wasn't - I also wasn't appalled. I really don't think it's a big deal. And I think that one of the good things that may come of it is no more of this sort of bottom-drawer, paper-bag dealing with this issue. It's all out there, and we have to be professional as...

CONAN: Uh-huh.

JOANNA: ...the last caller said and be big boys and big girls about it, so...

CONAN: So...

JOANNA: ...it may cut down on some of the locker room kind of talk that goes on sometimes in the Army when we make jokes or those kinds of unprofessional things.

CONAN: All right. So would that make you more comfortable?

JOANNA: I am completely comfortable. I think I have a pretty high tolerance for that kind of stuff. I don't appreciate it. I don't think it's professional, and I may have a lower opinion of the people who are doing that, but it doesn't, you know, it doesn't affect my performance or my, you know, mental state or anything. But I do think that it's good to have people generally just be honest and professional all the time.

CONAN: All right, Joanna, thanks very much for the call.

JOANNA: Thank you.

CONAN: Let's go next to - this is Kathleen(ph). Kathleen with us from Lebanon in Oregon.

KATHLEEN (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi.

KATHLEEN: Thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

KATHLEEN: I had the privacy issue that came up. I was in the service a very long time ago, and at that time, all the showers and the bathroom facilities were open. And I know that we did have at least two gay girls that were in our barracks, but the - if they had any romantic interest, they would not have expressed them. And so now I'm wondering how that would - how that problem will be addressed? I wouldn't want to have a man for my bunkmate, and I really don't want to take a shower with one. So I'm just wondering if those are the kind of issues that would come up with some others.

CONAN: Sometime ago, you're aware that there are co-ed bathrooms in a lot of college dormitories now.

KATHLEEN: In college dormitories?

CONAN: Uh-huh.

KATHLEEN: Well, you mean everybody goes in at the same time?

CONAN: Afraid so.

KATHLEEN: Well, that would be their choice if they - if you have a choice. But I would certainly want to have a choice.

CONAN: And that's an interesting point - a choice. How would that work out practically, do you think?

KATHLEEN: How it would work out what?

CONAN: How it would work out practically?

KATHLEEN: I'm sorry. I just didn't get that last word.

CONAN: How would manifesting that choice work out as a practical matter? Would people have to be billeted separately?

KATHLEEN: Well, we have - at least when I was in, the women were bunked separately from the men...

CONAN: Yes.

KATHLEEN: ...and, of course, the bathrooms were separate.

CONAN: I believe that's the case now.

KATHLEEN: And even when we were in mixed, we still had separate facilities so -and I don't know how...

CONAN: So...

KATHLEEN: ...that might be for those in combat.

CONAN: All right, Kathleen, thank you very much for the call. Appreciate it.

KATHLEEN: And thank you for taking it.

CONAN: We're talking about reaction to the decision by the Senate. The vote on Saturday effectively it repeals the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that later became law. President Obama will sign the repeal on Wednesday. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

This comment from Andrew Sullivan in The Atlantic: 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. We also know what a McCain administration would have done: nothing. The disgraceful bitterness and rancor and irrationality the senator has shown these past few months reveal just how important it was to defeat him in 2008.

Let's see if we go next to - this is Jeremy(ph). Jeremy with us from Charleston.

JEREMY (Caller): Hey, thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

JEREMY: I really can't say anything that hasn't been said by the previous service members. I was one myself. I worked in the Navy and inside the Marines and infantry. And we knew who was who and had no problem with that. I guess my biggest point would be to the conservative side who continues to equate the gay side with some kind of inhumane difference as if they can't be professional and they just can't be normal. I think it's just time to realize even Jesus taught to be, you know, to accept the prostitute and the weakest among you and learn to love everybody. And they just needed to learn how to deal with that. And that's all I have to say.

CONAN: I wonder, Jeremy, if I could read you this remark that was written by Mitchell Bard in The Huffington Post to get your reaction.

I'm grumpy, he writes, because the positive aspects of "don't ask, don't tell" repeal pale in comparison to the problems that still surround the larger issue of how we treat gays and lesbians, especially when you consider how long it took for the repeal to arrive and how much garbage had to be endured to get there. So you'll forgive me if I'm not risking spraining my ankle jumping for joy over a "don't ask, don't tell" repeal that is 17 years too late.

JEREMY: I would agree with that. It's just a matter of time, and I'd say especially Senator McCain, he just - he basically says no to everything and has been taking the naysay attitude pretty much to any kind of progress, and people just want to get rid of the fluff and get down to business, and this is fluff, so.

CONAN: All right, thanks very much.

JEREMY: Thank you, sir.

CONAN: Let's go next to Sean(ph), and Sean is with us from Minneapolis.

SEAN (Caller): Hi. Yeah. I just have a comment on how - it's not discrimination on the part of Congress and the part of those who don't want gays serving openly in the military. I mean, just because you don't understand something or just because it's a different viewpoint, there's no reason to be fearful of it. There's no reason to be discriminatory. You know, I mean, there were so many laws against mixed-race marriages. There were so many laws against blacks and whites serving in the military and separately, and eventually, people will realize that all those fears were just arbitrary, and that they're only external issues. And once you realize that people have the same goals, it doesn't matter who they are or where they're coming from.

And I don't understand how people can stand up in a public forum and openly discriminate against somebody without any repercussions. And that's what I see John McCain doing, and that's what I see Christian groups who are against this doing, and I don't understand why people aren't being taken to task on it.

CONAN: All right, Sean, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.

SEAN: Thank you.

CONAN: And finally, Cynthia Tucker in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She wrote that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is now assigned to the dustbin of history, along with the racially-segregated armed forces. The overwhelming vote, 65-31, came despite the statements of Marine Commandant James Amos, who insisted that a nondiscriminatory Marine Corps will mean more dead U.S. Marines on the battlefield. That's sheer and utter nonsense, more a testament to his prejudices than to any evidence that gay Marines do not serve with courage and honor.

One of the more interesting and intellectually honest arguments that separates conservatives and liberals is over whether love of country must be unconditional. Many conservatives tend to argue that those of us who are constantly agitating to change the nation - to improve its policies, perfect its justice, broaden its opportunity - aren't real patriots. I could not disagree more. I love my country so much that I'll do what I can to ensure that it lives up to its ideals. Today, the U.S. Senate brought it one step closer to those ideals.

Stay with us. Up next, we'll be talking on the Opinion Page with Michael Gerson about the fairness of the tax compromise. I'm Neal Conan. TALK OF THE NATION. NPR News.

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