In October 2006, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that “the day that the leadership of the military comes to” and says the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy “ought to change,” he would “seriously” consider changing it. In an interview with the Washington Blade in 2008, he said he would “defer to our military commanders” on the issue.
But in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, McCain bristled when the Pentagon’s top military and civilian leaders, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, announced they were in favor of overturning the policy. “I’m happy to say we still have a Congress of the United States that would have to pass a law to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, despite your efforts to repeal it in many respects by fiat,” said McCain.
In an interview on Bill Bennett’s radio show today, McCain claimed “the policy is working” and repeated his opposition to repealing, but claimed that he would “be glad to listen to the views of military leaders”:
MCCAIN: Look, the policy is working. I talk to military all the time. I have a lot of contact with them. The policy is working and the president made a commitment in his campaign that he would reverse it and the president then made the announcement that wants it reversed. And it is a law. It has to be changed. So Admiral Mullen said, speaking for himself only, he thought it ought to be reversed and of course Secretary Gates said that. I do not. I do not know what the other military leadership wants. I know that I have a letter signed by over a thousand retired admirals and generals that said they don’t want it reversed. And so, I will be glad to listen to the views of military leaders. I always have. But I’m not changing my position in support of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell unless there is the significant support for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. And I would remind you that we’re in two wars. You know that and our listeners know that. And do we need, don’t we need a serious assessment of the effect on morale or battle and combat effectiveness before we go forward with a reversal in a campaigning, carrying out an Obama campaign.
On Fox News last night, McCain also said that he was hoping “to get the opinion from our military leadership,’ saying that “If they can show me the evidence that it needs to be changed, obviously, then I would give that serious consideration.” McCain says that he has “respect” for Mullen’s view, but he dismisses it as simply an “individual opinion.”
But McCain has previously said that the “individual opinion” of military leaders for whom he has “respect” influenced his views on military policy. In June 2009, he told Ana Marie Cox that he originally supported the policy because General Colin Powell had “strongly recommended” it and he hadn’t “heard General Powell or any of the other military leaders reverse their position.” Powell released a statement yesterday saying he now opposes the continuation of DADT because “attitudes and circumstances have changed.”
So basically, McCain is willing to “listen” to military leaders on DADT — he’s just not going to let their expert opinions get in the way of what he already thinks.
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