Late last month, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House of Representatives approved identical amendments to the Defense Authorization bill that would begin the process of repealing the Don’t Ask, Dont’ Tell policy. Under the agreement, repeal would not occur unless President Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen certified the Pentagon’s on-going review to ensure that repeal did not undermine military effectiveness.
On Saturday, during a town hall in Queen Creek, Arizona, a DADT repeal activist confronted Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) about his pledge to filibuster the entire defense authorization measure if it included the DADT repeal amendment. McCain first claimed that he opposed the measure because it repealed DADT without permitting the Pentagon to finish their study of the policy:
MCCAIN ANSWER 1: I have a big problem with repealing a piece of legislation, that’s the law, without assessing and surveying the effects on the ground, battle effectiveness, recruiting and retention of men and women in the military. I have a big problem with it.
But when the activist explained that the military and the President would have to certify the study, McCain acknowledged the existence of an assesment, but complained that it excluded the service chiefs. Still, he erroneously insisted that the study would occur only after the policy was repealed:
MCCAIN ANSWER 2: It does not include the four service chiefs….it does not sir. I’ll show it to you in writing. It cuts out the service chiefs. It says the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall make that decision and the repeal would take place and then the assessment would take place.
The activist on the video notes that at the end of his answer, McCain called on his own staff member to change the subject to immigration. But with his mind still on DADT, he doubled down on his fictitious characterization of the amendment and said, “Sir, if you give me an email address, I will send you the text of the legislation that was passed in the Senate Armed Services Committee this afternoon.” The activist responded by saying that McCain’s office already had his email address, since he had been arrested for protesting DADT outside of the Senator’s Phoenix office.
Q: Why do you have a problem with people who want to serve this country and serve in proudly and serve it openly in an institutuion that’s supposed to be about honor and respect and openness and you have a problem with them being open about who they are.
MCCAIN: I have a big problem with repealing a piece of legislation, that’s the law, without assessing and surveying the effects on the ground, battle effectiveness, recruiting and retention of men and women in the military. I have a big problem with it….and I have a big problem with not surveying and analyzing and studying the issue and what that effect is. And that’s also the view of the four service chiefs. The Chief of Staff to the Air Force, the Army, the Commandant and the Chief of Naval Operations. That’s their view as well, that we need to survey the impact of it. We’re in two wars. It’s not that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy isn’t working, my friend. It’s all about a campaign promise made by President Obama, then candidate Obama, to the gay and lesbian community. That’s what it’s all about. We have the highest moral, the highest retention, and the highest recruitment in the military today than we’ve had in the entire history of the all volunteer force. So, because of a campaign promise, made by President Obama, we’re going to change that policy without even assessing the affect on the man and women of the military, what needs to be done to implement it, whether or not it will affect battle effectiveness or moral or not. All of those things are being preempted by the Obama administration. I want a study done, a serious study done, to assess the impacts. That’s my position. You’re not going to change it, my friend.
Q:The amendment that was put on the floor says the study has to be done, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have to sign off on it, Admiral Mullen has to sign off on it and Obama has to sign off on it before…and if the effects that you say, it cannot be implemented.
MCCAIN: Sir, I’d be glad to provide you with the language. It does not include the four service chiefs….it does not sir. I’ll show it to you in writing. It cuts out the service chiefs. It says the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall make that decision and the repeal would take place and then the assessment would take place. So we have a fundamental difference of opinion. Sir, I don’t question your facts. But I know the facts, because I was there. You’re not. And so I can tell you that it cuts out the four service chiefs and I want to know what the impact on moral and battle effectiveness is before we change this policy. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask. …Sir, if you give me an email address, I will send you the text of the legislation that was passed in the Senate Armed Services Committee this afternoon.
Q: Your office has my email address because they arrested me for trying to talk to you.
Q: Because we were sitting in your office in Phoenix, waiting to talk to you and you refused to speak to us, we just had a servicemember who was discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
MCCAIN: When were you in my office?
Q: It was, about six weeks ago.
MCCAIN: I’ll be glad to send you the information.