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MONDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Dems should put side issues on back burner

The new Democratic Congress must not repeat Bill Clinton’s mistake and become distracted in its opening days by the issue of homosexuals in the military.

Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., intends to hold hearings early in 2007 on reversing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that resulted from a firestorm almost 14 years ago, early in President Clinton’s administration.

Democrats had just seized the White House from Republicans, and they could have used their momentum to attack issues that most Americans considered more urgent. Instead, they got mired in a side controversy.

Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos wrote later that, although the president believed that gays should be able to serve openly in the military and intended to seek a policy change, Americans had elected Mr. Clinton to fix the economy. “Our whole first week was overwhelmed by gays in the military,” the aide wrote.

The Democratic Congress should pay attention to Mr. Clinton’s example. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is a hypocritical position that needs to be revisited — but not now.

Let the Democrats instead focus on issues — such as the war in Iraq — to which most Americans give priority. Handling those issues responsibly will give the Democrats political capital to deal with others.

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