November 14, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
McCain: More hearings before ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal

U.S. Sen. John McCain (Blade photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Sen John McCain (R-Ariz) on Sunday said congressional hearings are necessary on an upcoming Pentagon report on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before Congress moves forward to lift the military’s gay ban.

The Arizona senator also blasted the study — which reportedly will be favorable to open service — for focusing on how to implement an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as opposed to the impact repeal will have on battle effectiveness.

During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” McCain said he doesn’t think lawmakers should repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before adjourning for the year and maintained hearings should come first.

Asked by host David Gregory whether it’s fair to stay to ban won’t be lifted in lame duck, McCain replied, “I don’t think it should be because I think once the study comes out in the beginning of December, we should at least have a chance to review it and maybe have hearings on it.”

With the 2010 election bringing a Republican takeover of the U.S. House and a reduced Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, waiting for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until next year is expected to make the task significantly more difficult — if not unattainable.

The Arizona senator reiterated that the scope of the Pentagon working group — developing a plan to implement repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – isn’t what’s necessary to examine the issue properly.

“I wanted a study to determine the effects of the repeal on battle effectiveness and morale,” McCain said. ”What this study is designed to do is to find out how the repeal could be implemented. Those are two very different aspects of this issue.”

McCain emphasized that the four military service chiefs have expressed reservations about lifting the military’s gay ban before a comprehensive study is complete. Last week, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos said now isn’t the time for Congress to enact repeal.

“I respect and admire these four service chiefs who have expressed either outright opposition or deep reservation about the repeal,” McCain said. ”They’re the ones who are in charge.”

During a recent trip to Afghanistan, McCain said an Army master sergeant expressed concerns to him about lifting the military’s gay ban.

“I was in an outpost in Kandahar,” McCain said. ”An Army master sergeant – 19 years in, fifth deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan – says to me, ‘Sen. McCain we live eat, sleep and fight together in close proximity. I’m concerned about the repeal. I’d like to know more about it.’ That’s the view that I’ve got from chief petty officers and sergeants all over Afghanistan.”

Media reports have said the Pentagon report will reveal that more than 70 percent of U.S. service members don’t care if gays serve openly in the armed forces, but McCain dismissed this reporting.

“I have not seen that study, and this study was directed at how to implement the repeal, not whether the repeal should take place or not,” McCain said.

In a statement, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, lambasted McCain for the senator’s positions ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and the Pentagon study.

“Obviously the senator doesn’t like the preliminary findings of the Pentagon’s ['Don't Ask, Don't Tell'] survey, which found a clear majority of U.S. service members are okay serving with their gay and lesbian comrades,” Solmonese said. ”The senator has known all along the study developed by the Pentagon Working Group was looking at how to repeal ['Don't Ask, Don't Tell'] — not whether to do so.”

Solmonese noted that McCain previously said he wanted to hear from military leadership on the issue, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said he favors open service.

Then the senator said he wanted to hear from rank-and-file troops, and, according to media reports on the Pentagon report, they say they’re OK with gays serving openly as well.

“The truth is McCain is increasingly alone in his irrational opposition to open service,” Solmonese said. ”Sixty-four percent of Republicans disagree with McCain and favor lifting the ban. No matter the evidence, McCain will use whatever tactics at his disposal to not only stop repeal from moving forward, but will hold hostage the most critical military defense bill to do so.”

Also during McCain’s “Meet the Press” appearance, the positions on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” among members of the senator’s own family also came up.

Last week, Cindy McCain, the senator’s wife, appeared in a NOH8 campaign ad and denounced how current laws mean gays “can’t serve our country openly.” In a later Twitter posting, she clarified she supports the NOH8 campaign but also stands by her husband’s position on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In response, McCain maintained his position that a study on the effects of repeal on battle effectiveness and repeal is necessary before moving forward.

“By the way, I respect the First Amendment rights of every member of my family,” McCain added.

Watch a video of McCain’s remarks here:

The transcript of the exchange between Gregory and McCain follows:

Gregory: Are you going to stand in the way — you personally — in the way of this ban being lifted?

McCain: I will stand that I want a thorough and complete study of the effect on morale and battle effectiveness of the United States military. I will listen — as I’ve said for years — to our military leaders and not a study that is leaked as we know…

Gregory: …that said seven in ten members of the military think it would be just fine to have it lifted.

McCain: I have not seen that study, and this study was directed at how to implement the repeal, not whether the repeal should take place or not.

But very importantly, we have people like the commandant of the Marine Corps, the three other — all four service chiefs are saying  we need a thorough and complete study of the effects — not how to implement a repeal — but the effects on morale and battle effectiveness. That’s what I want, and once we get this study, we need to have hearings and we need to examine it, and we need to look at whether it’s the kind of study that we wanted.

It isn’t in my view because I wanted a study to determine the effects of the repeal on battle effectiveness and morale. What this study is designed to do is to find out how the repeal could be implemented. Those are two very different aspects of this issue.

Gregory: In a lot of households, this is a subject of debate, including your own apparently. Your wife, Cindy McCain, has put up an ad, a public service announcement with NOH8, a group that promotes lesbian, gay and transgender rights, and this is portion of it.

[Plays clip with Cindy McCain saying gays "can't serve our country openly."]

Gregory: …referring to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She did clarify this on her Twitter page. You’re both so active on Twitter. She said this. She said, “I fully support the NOH8 campaign and all it stands for and am proud to be part of it. But I stand by my husband’s stance on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”

McCain: …which is, a complete and thorough study and review of the effect on battle readiness and morale, and by the way, I respect the First Amendment rights of every member of my family.

Gregory: But, you know, what’s interesting about this, I mean, a debate in family, is there is kind of — you talk about waiting for the study — there is an appeal to honor, I mean, to your honor. You have the chairman of the Joint Chiefs saying, ‘Look, it’s just not right to have people lying about who they are just to be able to protect fellow citizens.”

McCain: You have the commandant of the Marine Corps who says — whose people he’s directly responsible for — is saying this could hurt our ability to win.

Gregory: Do you believe that?

McCain: I’m paying attention to the commandant of the Marine Corps. I’m paying attention to the chief of staff of the Air Force.

Gregory: You’re so close to the military, senator. You know these people. You know the issue. Do you have a sense of it in your gut about what should happen?

McCain: I have a sense that I respect and admire these four service chiefs who have expressed either outright opposition or deep reservation about the repeal. They’re the ones who are in charge. Now the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I agree, the president and the secretary of defense, have all come out for repeal.

But I really would — I was in an outpost in Kandahar. An Army master sergeant – 19 years in, fifth deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan – says to me, “Sen. McCain we live eat, sleep and fight together in close proximity. I’m concerned about the repeal. I’d like to know more about it.”

That’s the view that I’ve got from chief petty officers and sergeants all over Afghanistan.

Gregory: The ban’s not going to be lifted in the lame duck session. Is that fair to say?

McCain: I think that we should at least — I don’t think it should be because I think once the study comes out in the beginning of December, we should at least have a chance to review it and maybe have hearings on 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

15 Comments
  • Chris, what I find most interesting is the fact that McCain is saying the commandant of the marine corps and the other 3 are in charge ad not the civilian government, or the chairman of the joint chiefs or the SecDef. I think that is a more profound angle to look at this.

  • When is this senile idiot going to retire? He has been nothing but an embarrassment for a long time.

  • As a wounded warrior from the Iraq war, I support the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. There were at least 2 or 3 guys that I had worked with that everyone knew was gay. Not one person let it change how the mission got done.

    I also support John McCain slowing this down. Simply because there is likely to be a influx of sexual harassment cases shortly after it’s repeal. The military will need time to get the manpower trained up and in place to deal with this new demand.

    Once the initial complaints get weeded through, the problem is likely to impact the capability of the military very little. Clearly, without don’t ask don’t tell, the military will be able to retain some very intelligent and specialized people that it would ordinarily be losing. Aside from publicity seeking cadets, there are some Brave medal winning pilots that are in the process of or already have been forcibly removed from service. The loss of their proven skill is a hard blow to our country in a war that relies so heavily on these individual’s precision and expertise.

    Republicans should ultimately back this and prove they rely believe in what they preach. Their most common message is ‘This is America, where anyone can be anything they want to be’.

    Republicans need to prove they can make smart decisions and actually try to help the country. Or they could just campaign for the next 2 years creating further division in a society that must have unity to overcome the problems today.

    Repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But have a training and manning plan in place before hand.

  • This is about evangelical domination of the Republican party, and some of those “Democrats” calling them selves blue dogs. McCain has been told to stop the repel of DADT at all cost. He sold his soul to them and is now paying up. Look at all the different stands he has had on social issues in the last 20 years. The guy has more sides to his face then a Dungeons & Dragons die.

    We also need to remember evangelicals do not have what’s good for American on their agenda, quite the opposite. The agenda the evangelicals are pushing will destroy this country as we know it today and leave us with an Evangelical Theocracy. They will then march all open gays to their death, the Mormons will be forced to march right behind us babbling to them selves something about them thinking they were the true religion and only they could take rights from other people. Of course, the Mormons will have brought it on them selves. We are at risk, maybe we’re there now, of not being a great country, but only being a powerful one.

  • I am mystified by Sen. McCain’s total lack of connection to reality. His arguments and dodges to direct questions suggest he continues to govern from a place of sinking sand, insisting that he is on terra firma. To take a position that directly increases the level of violence in this country toward citizens who are LGBT by extending a debate of their worthiness – whether in open service or as family, neighbors, and friends – is not Republican or Democrat – it’s sad. Just sad that someone who once had such promise is now willing – out of bitterness at a lost election or believing this will get him votes – that he is willing to accept the hate crimes and disctrimination toward LGBT folk as reasonable collateral damage for his personal views and campaign intentions. What happened to Sen. Mc Cain? Where did he go? Who is this guy left behind? As an openly gay minister in the Presbyterian Church – I could care less about the politics. I care about the people he is discarding, and I see nothing worthy in any of this nonsense called “study.” It’s just another word for discrimination.

  • I definitely don’t think they should lift DADT. I have no desire to live with homos. Nor does anybody else that I’ve talked to.

  • Really, what is there to study? Many countries allow gays to serve in the military and their armies are doing okay.

  • Tell Senators to vote to repeal tell them on http://site.umbrella-q.net/issues.html tell them on Facebook Twitter email phone & fax

  • To think that over a quarter of LGBT people voted for this homophobic nutcase in ’08. What were they thinking?

  • Its just another way to buy future votes and spend more money… career politicians are always thinking ahead to the next election.

    I mean really, does he even believe this will change the military at all.

    Give me a break old man. Go retire and write a book. It’s your turn.

  • McCain is an ass. There will be no effect on lift the ban on troops or the defense dept. When are the fools going to get it. In MA they said that gay marriage would ruin marriage, it didn’t. Our allies have been telling the Pentagon for years now there were no negative effects of allowing gays to serve openly! How much more informaiton can you get. Take all these protesters to Israel or GB and put them in the ranks and see what happens when one of them states something anit-gay ans see what happens. I be a big ass kicken take place for being so ignorant. John McCain go home!

  • Served A Long Time Ago

    McCain would have us study this to death. A typical bureaucrat. His wife is the smart one. She must hate his guts. He knows he’s wrong so he’s digging in like a child. I watched this ‘Meet The Press’ episode and he looked angry. He’s only got four allies left in this battle and those four look pretty bad right about now. How long will it take for him to actually realize that he can’t win? Of course he lived at the Hanoi Hilton for five years so he’s probably seeing North Vietnamese everywhere he looks now. David Gregory probably looked General Vo Nguyen Giap.

  • McCain is really nothing more than an angry old fart suffering from homophobia and senility. I’m sure he will use some kind of twisted logic to justify his continued bigotry, despite the study he wanted showing the opposite of what he expected it to say. Would someone please put this old fart out to pasture and prevent him from doing any more harm to America.

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