October 13th, 2010
12:49 PM ET

Letters to the President: #632 'Don't ask, don't tell…don't judge?'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: A federal judge has struck down the controversial military rule called “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I, meanwhile, have put down another letter to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

If I were gay and in the military (versus straight and in the news media) I might be very happy today. This court ruling that overturns “don’t ask, don’t tell” is something that rights advocates have wanted for a long time, so they have reason to pop some champagne and celebrate.

But you’ll notice that I used the word “might.” That’s because I can also see how this could infuriate some people, straight, gay, or otherwise - not the action itself, but the way in which is was accomplished.

Related: Judge orders military to stop enforcing 'don't ask, don't tell'

For some time we’ve seen a growing storm in this country over the power and influence of the courts. In a nutshell, some people think the courts are being used far too often to push political agendas and that activist judges are making an end run around the democratic process. And, simultaneously, other folks think the courts absolutely must take such actions to tamp down what they see as abuses of social, economic, and political power that minority groups cannot and should not endure.

I suppose if you are a partisan and you naturally embrace one side or the other, this is just a fight to be won or lost. But for many moderate voters (and there are more of them than anything else in this country) this is a sticky wicket as the English might say.

Sure, we want our courts to have teeth. Without that, we could be subject to the whim of the mob, which is quite different than democracy as we have known and loved it in this country. But, that said, we also want our votes to matter. And if our election of leaders and the policies they create can be negated by the ruling of one sympathetic court, then what is the point of voting at all?

I’m not picking sides in this one, and I realize there are still plenty of potential turns on the legislative and legal fronts. But I suspect this ruling will reignite the fuse on that particular stick of dynamite…and some day I fear it will explode, and who knows what the result will be? Suffice to say that there are plenty of people in the nation who, whether they care about this particular issue of gay rights or not, are growing itchy about the power of courts.

On other topics: How about those miners being pulled up down in Chile? Imagine being stuck in a tiny chamber like that, thousands of feet below the surface for more than two months. I’d never make it. If I get stuck in a middle seat on a two-hour plane ride I wake up screaming for weeks.

If you have some spare time today give me a call. Oh wait, make it tomorrow. My schedule is jammed. Ha!


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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