Gillibrand bill on military sexual assaults gets GOP backers

Gillibrand bill on military sexual assaults gets GOP backers
Gillibrand bill on military sexual assaults gets GOP backers
Associated Press

As the scourge of sexual assaults within the military garnered more attention, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation intended to change the way the system works, pushing for a new policy that would place sex assault cases in the hands of prosecutors, not military commanders, who would decide which cases to pursue.

The effort, not surprisingly, has faced resistance, including opposition from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), but Gillibrand hasn’t given up. Indeed, this week, she’s picking up some unexpected allies – Politico reports that Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), ambitious and high profile Republicans, have signed on to Gillibrand’s bill as co-sponsors.

And while that’s interesting, I was struck by the response from the right. Bill Kristol, for example, blasted the GOP senators for joining “the anti-military caucus.”

The Obama administration has worked diligently to shrink, underfund, and demoralize the military. Now, Politico reports, two Republican senators, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, are joining an effort led by New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand that goes beyond where even the Obama administration is willing to go in weakening the military.

Sens. Paul and Cruz are signing on to Sen. Gillibrand’s proposal to undermine the military’s chain of command on behalf of the pseudo-crisis of military sexual assault.

Look, this isn’t necessarily the kind of issue that falls neatly along partisan or ideological lines. Some Republicans oppose it, some support it. Some Democrats have endorsed it, some Democrats, including many Obama administration officials, have raised concerns.

But whatever your take, Kristol’s reaction is ridiculous. To support the Gillibrand idea is not to be “anti-military” – an ugly charge under any circumstances, and one that seems especially tasteless when lawmakers are trying to prevent sexual assaults among active-duty military personnel – and the notion that the Obama administration has tried to deliberately “demoralize the military” is absurd. As for this being a “pseudo-crisis,” a recent Pentagon survey found that an estimated 26,000 assaults took place last year, up from 19,000 the year before.

Kristol’s nonsense notwithstanding, the debate will continue. Gillibrand’s measure is likely to come up on the Senate floor again next week.