The Cable

Skelton: Voters don’t care about gays in the military

House Armed Services Committee chairman Ike Skelton said Tuesday that his constituents aren't interested one way or the other in the congressional drive to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, but he's going to keep opposing it anyway.

During the congressional recess, Skelton toured his home state of Missouri, made numerous speaking appearances, met with several veterans groups, and only one person even mentioned it ... in passing.

"I was everywhere in my district, everywhere. It just wasn't raised," Skelton said. "There are other things on people's minds, like jobs and the economy."

Nevertheless, he pledged to continue to oppose repealing the 1993 legislative language, of which he was the original sponsor, despite the fact that a large majority of Congress has voted to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military. "I oppose it, period," he said.

Not only is Skelton not talking to his voters about his crusade to preserve the ban, he's not talking to the military people his committee represents, either.

"The only feedback I've gotten is from the secretary himself. I have not talked about it with folks in the military at length," he said.

So why is Skelton so determined to keep the law in place, above the objections of the White House, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, the House of Representatives, and the Senate Armed Services Committee? It's about the kids, apparently.

"What do mommas and daddies say to a seven-year-old child about this issue? I don't know," Skelton said. "I think it would be a family issue that would concern me the most ... What they might see in their discussions among the kids."

He also linked the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to the administration's fight to end development of a second engine model for the F-35 fighter plane. Obama and Gates have promised to veto Skelton's defense policy bill if Congress insists on adding more than $400 million for the engine, which the military says it doesn't need.

If Obama wants to repeal the law, he won't want to follow through on his very clear threat to veto the bill over the fighter engine, Skelton suggested.

"It's rather interesting, because there's an item in the bill called 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' that the president thinks keenly strong about. Now will he veto a bill that has that in it?," Skelton wondered aloud. "I'm sure that goes through the creases of his mind."

Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images

The Cable

Briefing Skipper: Lima, Wikileaks, Yemen, Gaza, Iran

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department's daily presser so you don't have to. These are the highlights of Monday's briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley:

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Lima, Peru on Monday, attending the general assembly of the Organization of American States. She also had meetings with Peruvian President Alan Garcia, Mexican Foreign Ministers Patricia Espinosa Castellano, the foreign ministers of Panama and Bolivia, as well as the deputy foreign minister of Brazil Antonio de Aguilar Patriota. She urged the OAS to readmit Honduras, over the objections of Brazil and others. The OAS is going to study the issue.
  • Clinton heads to Ecuador Tuesday to meet with President Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado, the man who shut down the U.S. base that was a major drug interception hub there.
  • The State Department sent a note to Canada informing them they we will accept their offer 300 meters of ocean boom to help out in the Gulf oil spill. Still no word on the over a dozen other offers of international assistance. The U.S. government is going to pay, but "We anticipate that BP will in turn reimburse the government for this expenditure," Crowley said.
  • No real comment on the reports that 250,000 plus diplomatic cables were leaked to the website Wikileaks, allegedly by a young, disgruntled Army intelligence analyst named Bradley Manning. "Everywhere there's a U.S. post, there's a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed," Manning wrote. "It's open diplomacy. World-wide anarchy in CSV format. It's Climategate with a global scope, and breathtaking depth. It's beautiful, and horrifying."
  • The State Department is aware that Yemeni authorities have arrested some people linked to al-Qaeda, including 12 American citizens, but "I'm not going to talk about specifics," Crowley said.
  • The State Department is hoping to head off Iran's effort to bring relief supplies into Gaza. "We certainly are looking, ourselves, at trying to find ways of increasing the amount of assistance that goes to the people of Gaza," Crowley said, adding, "I don't think that Iran's intentions vis-a-vis Gaza are benign." State also is not objecting to Egypt's opening of their border with Gaza.
  • Iran sanctions vote in the UN Security Council will be "this week," Crowley said. Clinton is warning that Iran might pull another "stunt."