Those who've served in the Army probably ran across a drill sergeant in basic training who was quick to remind recruits in brassy language, "If you have an opinion, I'll tell you what it is."
It's also a truism that command decisions are made, right or wrong, by people with the most rank and with or without the approval of those that carry them out.
So, what's the purpose of the poll that President Obama and the Pentagon are conducting among 400,000 U.S. military personnel to determine their feelings about serving with gay men and women?
This isn't the sign of a commander-in-chief at the helm. The poll can be interpreted as President Obama's uncertainty about ending the "don't-ask, don't-tell" policy on gays in the military. Or, it's a sign he believes in a participatory, democratic military, an oxymoron. Or, he's conditioning the military for a change in policy. Or, he's buckled to political critics who want to "study" the effect of gays serving openly. Or, his decision hinges on how 400,000 answer the survey questions.
Any of which undermines Obama's image as a decision-maker.
Consider past tougher decisions involving the military.
No polls were conducted by President Truman before he ordered racial integration of the armed forces.
No polls were conducted when women were allowed to enter the military academies.
No polls were conducted when women were assigned to combat Air Force squadrons.
No polls were conducted when women were placed in command of ships, aviation units and major Army commands.
And, of all tough decisions, no polls were taken to gauge public acceptance when major league baseball integrated the sport in 1947 with Jackie Robinson at a time when racist Jim Crow laws were fully in effect.
The White House and Pentagon were chagrined to learn the gay poll was leaked to media. Did the president and geniuses at the Pentagon believe 400,000 questionnaires to military men and women could be kept secret? Duh.
Banning gays from the military is an abominable denial of civil rights, a waste of valuable military manpower and an invidious intrusion of religious zealotry on public policy.
Lest he earn the reputation of a hemming-and-hawing, wishy-washy commander in chief, President Obama should dispense with this silly poll and get on with ending the "don't-ask, don't-tell" policy and endure consequences as President Truman did with his far tougher, but more far-reaching, courageous order ending racial discrimination as policy.