Colin Powell, Episcopalian, chooses his battles carefully. Today he issued this statement on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell:
In the almost seventeen years since the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed. The principal issue has always been the effectiveness of the Armed Forces and order and discipline in the ranks. I strongly believe that this is a judgment to be made by the current military leadership and the Commander in Chief. It is also a judgment Congress must make. For the past two years, I have expressed the view that it was time for the law to be reviewed by Congress. I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I will be closely following future hearings, the views of the Service Chiefs and the implementation work being done by the Department of Defense.
It will be recalled that when it was enacted by executive DADT was a liberalization of the existing policy. Powell’s statement is entirely consistent with what he said in July 2009 on CNN’s State of the Union.
John McCain, on the other hand, appears to have changed his mind in the space of three years. As the Washington Post points out,
“The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it,” McCain said in October 2006 to an audience of Iowa State University students.
That day arrived Tuesday, with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen testifying to senators after President Obama’s announcement that he would seek a congressional repeal of the 15-year-old policy.
In response, McCain declared himself “disappointed” in the testimony. “At this moment of immense hardship for our armed services, we should not be seeking to overturn the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” he said bluntly, before describing it as “imperfect but effective.”
The administration plans to take most of the year studying implementation of the repeal. The gay community has been calling for Obama to fulfill his campaign promises on DADT. There is speculation that movement on the issue was prompted by the prospect of DADT dismissals that would force the administration to defend the policy in court, highlighting the delay in action on the campaign promise.
Relaxing the current restrictions on gays in the military will require action by Congress, specifically the repeal of the Military Personnel Eligibility Act of 1993.