In his quest to win the Republican presidential nomination, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has made reinstating the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy a key part of his campaign. In December, he told anti-gay radio host Bryan Fischer that he “would support reinstating” Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Yesterday, Pawlenty took the cause even further, telling ThinkProgress’ Igor Volsky that rescinding funds to implement the policy’s repeal would be “a reasonable step” that he would support.
Pawlenty, however, is not backing down in his attacks on gay rights. In a separate, recent interview with ThinkProgress, Pawlenty refused to tell us whether gays should be allowed to serve in the military at all:
TP: You were in the news this week saying that you would like to reinstate, or if you were president you would reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Do you think gays should be allowed to serve in the military at all, or do you think it’s detrimental to unit cohesion?
PAWLENTY: I really defer to the military leaders to a large degree on this issue. I supported maintaining Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The military civilian leaders came forward and said they think it’s time to revisit the issue and they took a survey of how the military rank-and-file felt about it, and a majority of the survey thought it would be okay to lift Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. However, the thing that gave me cause for concern which fueled my opposition to repealing it is when they did a survey of combat units and the members of the combat units and combat commanders, they didn’t support repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and they had specific reasons why as it related to possible effects within those combat units. So that’s the basis for my opposition for repealing it.
TP: So you would be comfortable with gays being able to serve in the military as long as they aren’t public with their orientation?
PAWLENTY: I really would defer to the military leaders and military more broadly. We rely on these men and women to do extremely difficult things in extremely difficult circumstances, and I think the leadership of the military is genuinely trying to evaluate this issue on the impact of men and women in uniform, but as it relates to the combat units and combat leaders, they still have it seems a significant concern and I’m not comfortable just ignoring and pushing aside that concern.
In a poll taken last December, 77 percent of Americans wanted to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy ended. Despite overwhelming public support for gays to be allowed to serve openly in the military, Pawlenty wants to ban gays from serving openly and won’t say whether he believes they should even be allowed to serve their country at all.