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Tauscher: ‘A Lot Has Happened Since 1993,’ Time Is Right To Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

By Matt Corley  

"Tauscher: ‘A Lot Has Happened Since 1993,’ Time Is Right To Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell"

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Earlier today, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) proposed repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which prohibits gay men and women from serving openly. Speaking at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Tauscher said that “there is one last, final barrier that we need to tear down.” “We need to end the `Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ policy,” she said.

In an interview with ThinkProgress after her speech, Tauscher responded to skeptics who think that working to repeal the ban is a “knife fight” that “no president wants to get into,” saying that “times have changed dramatically” and that “a lot has happened since 1993,” when the policy was enacted:

TAUSCHER: So, I think that there’s, a lot has happened since 1993 and I think that even though the atmospherics look the same, a brand new president, you know, at a time when the Republicans are critical of whatever he’s doing, I think that what our job is is to inform people about the current state of affairs. And that is that 75 percent of the American people believe that this is the wrong policy. And that we have a lot of people behind us. And I think Colin Powell, you know that we know that Colin Powell has changed his mind, so I think if we put our package together of information, we do a good job of doing that, I think that people will move along with it.

We asked Tauscher if her legislation would be a “test” for Republicans like Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), who said on ABC yesterday that “the Republican Party has to return to be one of inclusion, not exclusion.” Tauscher responded that “they’re tested every day,” but that she’s “not sure that they’re doing well.” She added that they’re locked in by their “their very rigid far right” who push arguments that “look more like bigotry and fearmongering.” Watch it:

Tauscher added that she believes proponents of the repeal have “amassed a critical argument about not only the benefits for the American people, just on the moral and civil rights issues, but also the benefits for our military to have more people that are absolutely qualified for every reason other than currently their sexual orientation wanting to serve.” “I think that it puts us in good stead with fair minded people around the world that have already changed their policy,” said Tauscher.

Transcript:

THINK PROGRESS: There seems to be a conventional wisdom that this is going to be a very tough political fight. For instance, the Politico in writing up your plans to introduce legislation, described it as a “knife fight” that “no president wants to get into.” But the popularity of repealing the ban has increased significantly since the early nineties. Why do you think, do you think, why do you think there’s such this disconnect between the conventional wisdom in Washington and the opinions of the American people?

TAUSCHER: Well, I think that people still smart from what happened in 1993 and that President Clinton, the atmospherics for 2009 and 1993 are very similar. A brand new president, a Democratic president after a long time of Republican rule. Lots of opposition from the far right religious community. And, you know, this is one of those hot button issues. But I do think you’re right. I think that times have changed dramatically. Back in 1993, the military leadership did not support this. Colin Powell was the physical embodiment of opposition and he had a tremendous sway in the country and among his colleagues in the military. Fifty percent of the American people were for it and the other 50 percent were against it, so it was an evenly split country. And we didn’t have the progress that we have with our allies. We now have 26 countries, our most prized allies, you know, England, Israel, France, Germany — some of our biggest allies in the world all have gotten rid of a policy like this and have gays and lesbians serving openly. So, I think that there’s, a lot has happened since 1993 and I think that even though the atmospherics look the same, a brand new president, you know, at a time when the Republicans are critical of whatever he’s doing, I think that what our job is is to inform people about the current state of affairs. And that is that 75 percent of the American people believe that this is the wrong policy. And that we have a lot of people behind us. And I think Colin Powell, you know that we know that Colin Powell has changed his mind, so I think if we put our package together of information, we do a good job of doing that, I think that people will move along with it.

THINK PROGRESS: On ABC’s This Week yesterday, Congressman Eric Cantor said that “there is no question the Republican Party has to return to be one of inclusion, not exclusion.” Do you think that your legislation and other moves to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will be a test for that idea among the House Republicans and other conservatives?

TAUSCHER: I think they’re tested every day and I’m not sure that they’re doing well. I think that it is very unlikely, although we would welcome their support, it’s very unlikely that many of them will support us. You know, this is still for their very rigid far right, a hot button issue. And I think they don’t want to be informed by the facts. They certainly don’t want to deal with what I believe is one of the last civil rights issues that we have to fix in this country. And, I’m sorry that they’re on that side, I think that those are arguments that are without fact-based and are, look more like bigotry and fearmongering. They will make those arguments and we have to deal with them. But I think that we have amassed a critical argument about not only the benefits for the American people, just on the moral and civil rights issues, but also the benefits for our military to have more people that are absolutely qualified for every reason other than currently their sexual orientation wanting to serve. And I think that it puts us in good stead with fair minded people around the world that have already changed their policy.

‹ The WonkLine: March 3, 2009

McCain fumes over 9,000 earmarks in omnibus budget: ‘If it seems like I’m angry, it’s because I am.’ ›

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