In today's edition of The Hill, Byron York analyzes Ted Kennedy's top priority for the nation's military--ensuring that federal hate crimes legislation applies to them. The Massachusetts driving instructor has added language to the defense authorization bill that includes "gender identity" in the definition of protected classes under hate crimes laws.
Mr. York was scratching his head over that one (and we were, too), wondering what gender identity and hate crimes have to do with defense spending. Not surprisingly, Teddy had an answer for that one. As York explains:
“This amendment will strengthen the Defense Authorization Act by protecting those who volunteer to serve in the military,” Kennedy said on the Senate floor Wednesday.How, exactly?
Because our military men and women commit hate crimes, Kennedy explained, and this would protect others from them.“The vast majority of our soldiers serve with honor and distinction,” Kennedy said. But “sadly, our military bases are not immune from the violence that comes from hatred.”
Kennedy listed a few examples — he had to go back to the early 1990s to find some of them — of alleged hate crimes in which members of the military were involved.There was the recent case in North Carolina in which, Kennedy said, two members of the 82nd Airborne Division allegedly sold military equipment to FBI agents posing as white supremacists.
There was a case last year in which a Coast Guard officer posted on a white supremacist site.There was a double murder at Fort Bragg in 1995, and another murder in 1992.“These examples clearly demonstrate the relevance of this amendment to the military,” Kennedy said.
“We can’t tolerate hate-motivated violence and must do all we can to protect our men and women in uniform.”And it could get worse. Kennedy charged that military recruiters, struggling to meet quotas, are enlisting extremists these days, “putting our soldiers at higher risk of hate-motivated violence.”
Even if you believe all that, the odd thing is, if you read Kennedy’s amendment, you won’t see anything about the military. How his bill would affect the military, which has its own code of justice, is unclear.
Obviously, Senator Kennedy isn't concerned about such trivial details. With his measure--co-sponsored by Oregon Republican Gordon Smith--Teddy manages a sop to his gay constituents, while painting the U.S. military as seething mass of racists and hate-mongers. A two-fer, you might say.
Not that we'd expect anything more from Mr. Kennedy. The senator's view of defense matters is shaped by two goals--doing whatever he can to undermine the Bush Administration (and the war on terror), while preserving military pork for the folks back home.
For example, Senator Kennedy has directed more than $1.6 billion for a jet engine the Air Force doesn't want, but because it's built by GE (which has a plant in Massachusetts), Teddy's all for it. Additionally, Kennedy has led Senate efforts to prevent the Air Force from retiring some of the oldest (and worst-performing C-5s) in its inventory. Turns out that some of those jets are based at Westover AFB in Kennedy's home state. In fact, the Pentagon recently established a depot-level maintenance facility for C-5s at that installation, with a clear nod toward the Bay State's senior senator.