June 2, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
Kolbe reacts to McCain opposition to ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal

A former out Republican congressman has told the Blade he disagrees with his longtime friend Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) opposition to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” but respects his position.

Jim Kolbe, who served in Congress from 1985 to 2007 as part of Arizona’s federal delegation, said Wednesday he’s “obviously on the other side” of McCain on the issue of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Still, Kolbe maintained he and the senator agree on many issues.

“I disagree with him, but Sen. McCain and I have a long relationship and friendship that goes back a long ways, and we have a history of cooperation on a lot of different issues for Arizona and for the nation,” Kolbe said. “And so, I may disagree with him on this, and do, both professionally and personally, but I respect his position.”

McCain has emerged as one of the chief opponents of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the U.S. Senate. He’s pledged to stop repeal by supporting a Senate filibuster of the defense authorization bill to which the repeal language is attached.

Some pundits have speculated McCain has taken a position in strong opposition to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” because he’s facing a challenge from a conservative J.D. Hayworth in an upcoming Republican primary.

Kolbe declined to offer his opinion on why McCain is opposed to repeal. The former congressman said he doesn’t know if McCain may later alter his position on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but said he hopes the senator will change his mind.

“I certainly hope that he will and be supportive of changing the policy, but I don’t know,” Kolbe said.

Kolbe said he hasn’t had any conversations recently with McCain on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In 1996, after Kolbe publicly came out as gay following his vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, McCain came to the congressman’s defense and said Kolbe’s coming out didn’t cause “much of a ripple around” Arizona.

Kolbe endorsed McCain during the 2008 presidential campaign. In a Q&A with the Blade in October 2008, McCain identified Kolbe as someone he counted as among his gay friends.

The transcript of the exchange between the Blade and Kolbe follows:

Blade: What are your feelings on Sen. McCain being so opposed to repeal?

Kolbe: Well, I’m obviously on the other side of that issue. I disagree with him, but Sen. McCain and I have a long relationship and friendship that goes back a long ways, and we have a history of cooperation on a lot of different issues for Arizona and for the nation. And so, I may disagree with him on this, and do, both professionally and personally, but I respect his position. So, that’s about all I would have to say on that.

Blade: Do you know why he’s so opposed to repeal?

Kolbe: You’d have to ask him. I’m not going to try to speculate as to why.

Blade: Do you think he might change his position later?

Kolbe: I don’t know. I would hope that he would — I certainly hope that he will and be supportive of changing the policy, but I don’t know.

Blade: Have you spoken to him on this issue recently?

Kolbe: No, I have not spoken to him recently about it.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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