This morning, during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) — the only Democrat to support a Republican filibuster of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — said he supported repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell but voted against it to allow the military to repeal the ban on its own timetable:
MANCHIN: Again, I was only here three weeks…didn’t know much about the issue. It’s something that probably will be, it needs to be repealed and it will be repealed. But I was voting, basically on timeliness. I sat on two meetings of armed services both telling me, ‘it should be on our time table, not legislative time table.’ So I voted to let the military have it on their timetable….I made a decision based on that. [...]
What they were saying was, ‘we got fronts, we got a war in Afghanistan, we got 50 percent of our troops deployed, can you not wait until we get out of this?’
During the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings, however, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen and the service chiefs all made the opposite argument: congressional repeal would allow the armed forces to implement the change on its own terms. If the Congress fails to act, however, a court ruling could force instantaneous change. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates argued after the vote, “If they are unable to do that, then as I’ve indicated in testimony and talking with you all, my greatest worry will be that then we are at the mercy of the courts and all of the lack of predictability that that entails.” Gates described Judge Virginia Phillips’ injunction of DADT in October as a “wake-up call” that the law could be struck down immediately without giving the military time to prepare to implement repeal.
Manchin, who prior to the election promised to support the ban if “battlefield commanders can certify it doesn’t hurt unit cohesion,” has had a hard time explaining his position. Following the vote, Manchin issued a statement apologizing for his opposition, “I would like to make clear that my concern is not with the idea of repealing DADT, but rather an issue of timing,” he said. “I truly understand that my position will anger those who believe repeal should happen now and for that I sincerely apologize.”