On Sunday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) refused to accept the findings of the Pentagon’s Working Group review of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and insisted that the Department of Defense conduct an entirely new study on “the effects on morale and battle effectiveness.” McCain made this claim despite the fact that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ specifically asked this review to “assess and consider the impacts, if any, a change in the law would have on military readiness, military effectiveness and unit cohesion, and how to best manage such impacts during implementation.”
McCain’s vacillation on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been well documented, but a thorough review of the Senator’s public statements throughout the policy’s 17-year span (from 1993 to 2010) reveals that the self-styled maverick of the senate has held at least 11 different positions on the issue. For instance, McCain was initially skeptical of the policy and feared that it would become a “fodder for legal challenges.” During one Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in 1993, McCain questioned then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Colin Powell about how DADT would treat soldiers dressed in “transvestite clothing” and had even proposed a compromise that would have extended DADT only to new recruits, but preserved the ban for existing servicemembers.
He eventually voted for the policy, however, and since then has taken a number of different positions about whether or not it should be repealed, reviewed, or debated. What follows is a chronology of McCain’s evolution of thought on the policy:
1. McCain doesn’t think Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will work, proposes alternative compromise.
“Already the homosexual community has announced, it’s in all the newspapers, that they will take this all to court and they will get their justice, in their view, in court, and what you have done is duck the issue. And frankly — well, I have no further questions, Mr. Chairman, except to say that I think that there is very little doubt as to what you have done here has muddied the issue to an incredible degree. Perhaps you have made some advance, in your view, some improvement, in your view, but clearly, this is fodder for legal challenges. I suggest that you come in with a supplemental appropriation for increases in the JAG corps.” [Senate Armed Services Committee, 7/20/1993]
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, how about, General Powell, if they went in transvestite clothing?
GEN. POWELL: I think that would be something that I as a commander would find troubling and I would begin to wonder about that situation, but just the attendance solely at the parade –
SEN. MCCAIN: This policy says marching in a gay rights rally in civilian clothes will not in and of themselves constitute credible evidence that would provide a basis for initiating an investigation.
GEN. POWELL: I would still take a hard look at it to see whether the costuming that was used started to slop over the good browns of ordered discipline.
SEN. MCCAIN: According to this regulation, you can’t.
GEN. POWELL: But Senator, this is the problem we’ve had with the regulations that exist now. We are in court now, and as the Attorney General says -
SEN. MCCAIN: I’m not — (inaudible word ) — the present regulations; we’re examining the proposed regulations. [Senate Armed Services Committee, 7/20/1993]
However, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a Vietnam veteran, thinks that eliminating the questioning of recruits, but continuing to exclude the openly gay, could be “”a compromise the military leaders can live with, a reasonable compromise,” an aide said. [The Houston Chronicle, 5/13/1993]
2. McCain voted for the Defense Authorization Act, which included the measure.
3. McCain served alongside gay servicemembers and can recognize their “lifestyle.”
“On Monday, McCain reaffirmed the United States’ ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy about gays in the military, explaining that he served with gays in the Navy. When asked how he knew that some of his fellow servicemen were gay, he said, “I think we know by behavior and by attitudes. I think that it’s clear to some of us when some people have that lifestyle.“” [Hannity and Colmes 1/19/2000]
RUSSERT: Senator McCain, did you ever serve with a gay person?
MCCAIN: Sure. Absolutely. [Republican Presidential Debate, 1/20/2000]