At the Netroots Nation conference in Pittsburgh yesterday, former President Bill Clinton delivered the opening day’s keynote address. In his speech, Clinton declared that it is “imperative for the Democrats to pass a health care bill now,” telling the bloggers and activists that “the president needs your help and the cause needs your help.”
About 20 minutes into his speech, however, Clinton was interrupted by blogger Lane Hudson, who asked about the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that Clinton implemented. “Hey, you ought to go to one of those congressional health care meetings,” Clinton joked before defending his actions as president and claiming that “nobody regrets how this was implemented anymore than I do”:
CLINTON: I hated what happened. I regret it but I didn’t have, I didn’t think at the time, any choice if I wanted any progress to be made at all. Look, I think it’s ridiculous. Can you believe they spent, whatever they spent, $150,000 to get rid of a valued Arabic speaker recently? You know, the thing that changed me forever on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was when I learned that 130 gay service people were allowed to serve and risk their lives in the first Gulf War and all their commanders knew they were gay, but they let them go out there and risk their lives because they needed them. Then as soon as the first Gulf War was over, they kicked them out. That’s all I needed to know. That’s all anybody needs to know that this policy should be changed.
At the Huffington Post, Hudson wrote that he interrupted the speech because “it became clear there would be no questions,” so when President Clinton said that “We need an honest, principled debate,” he stood and asked his question. Hudson said he was satisfied with Clinton’s answer on DADT, writing that “he made the strongest objection to DADT he has ever made to the best of my knowledge.”
The Obama White House has committed to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but is waiting to see “congressional action” first. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) and Sen. Kristian Gillibrand (D-NY) are taking the lead on repealing the provision in Congress.