Log Cabin Republicans call him on it:
For Immediate Release
January 18, 2008
President Bill Clinton Tries to Re-Write History of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
(Washington, DC) – Log Cabin Republicans sharply criticize former President Bill Clinton for his latest attempt at re-writing history—this time offering a new explanation for his failed 1993 "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law. "President Clinton should be embarrassed," said Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon. "Bill Clinton's political games are insulting to voters. He needs to take responsibility for the legislation he signed, instead of trying to blame others. What will he do next—blame 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' on a 'vast right wing conspiracy'?"
On the campaign trail Thursday for his wife, presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), former President Clinton said, "'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' as articulated as I worked it out with Colin Powell, who was then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meant literally that...that people would be free to live their lives as long as they didn't go march in gay rights parades or go to gay bars in uniform...in uniform...and talk about it on duty, they would be all right. Now, as soon as he [Colin Powell] left, the anti-gay forces in the military started using it as an excuse to kick people out." Watch a video clip of Clinton's comments.
"President Clinton's latest attempt to re-write history and deny the reality of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is an insult to the thousands of gay and lesbian service members who have been kicked out of the military because of the failed law he signed in 1993," said Sammon.
"President Clinton either didn't understand the legislation he signed or he's lying," said Sammon. "If he actually thought the military wasn't correctly implementing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' why didn't he do anything about it for the seven years he served as President after signing the legislation? Clinton apparently forgets he was Commander-in-Chief," said Sammon.
A 1993 Department of Defense release announcing the new policy explicitly stated that one of the reasons for separation from the armed forces would be "statements by an individual that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual."
"From the very beginning of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' there was no doubt what the law meant—gay and lesbian Americans could only serve if they lied about their sexual orientation or kept it a secret," said Sammon.
"This is another example of the Clintonian excuses and re-writing history that we've come to expect from this president—a man who gladly took support and money from gays and lesbians and then delivered 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and the so-called 'Defense of Marriage Act,'" said Sammon. "And in 2004, he encouraged then presidential candidate John Kerry to support anti-gay state constitutional amendments. President Clinton's record illustrates how important it is in this election year for LGBT Americans to hold both parties accountable when it comes to fundamental issues of basic fairness."
Log Cabin Republicans is the nation's largest organization of Republicans who support fairness, freedom, and equality for gay and lesbian Americans. Log Cabin has state and local chapters nationwide, full-time offices in Washington, DC and Sacramento, CA, a federal political action committee and state political action committees. www.logcabin.org
Here's the tape.
Pam Spaulding's post on this was cross posted to Alternet. There were clearly some comment astroturf on that site.
I haven't looked this up, folks, but do you remember anything about gay folks being able to go out and be out when off duty in civilian clothing when he was selling this policy? I'm certain the homophobes on the Hill would have had none of that. If Clinton wants to say his hands were tied and he was "forced" to accept DADT as compromise with a hostile Congress (the prior excusarama), that we've heard before, but it seems disingenuous to try to spin it today as he didn't think the witchhunts and discharges would be the end result of such a bone-headed policy.
As you might recall, it was Bill Clinton who told John Kerry to toss gays under the bus and support the various state marriage amendments on the ballot in 2004 in order to rope in swing voters uneasy with the thought of gays and lesbians daring to ask for the same civil rights in their relationships as those enjoyed by opposite-sex couples.
The long legacy of triangulation and the Clintons is too familiar not to make this new statement sound like another bit of Bill revisionist history going on; he says the firewall protecting the private lives of gay and lesbian service members was Colin Powell, and that when he left office, it was a bum rush to investigate and bounce homos.
Chris Crain wrote to SLDN for comment. They were curiously silent on this matter. He got a response.
As you point out, there were, indeed, some factual inaccuracies in President Clinton’s statement about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Indeed, regardless of the intention behind the law, the reality is that it has not served the best interests of service members, our country or our national security. Since its implementation, nearly 12,000 men and women have been dismissed under the law. Since 2001, that number has declined significantly, as it historically does during a time of war. During the years 1994-2000, a total of 6741 service personnel were dismissed under the law. Between 2001 and 2006, that total declined to 4988. Still, an average of two people are fired under the law every day… which is two too many.
President Clinton’s comments also miss a key part of serving under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Military members cannot be out to anyone, at anytime, while serving under the law. Statements to friends, family members or anyone else are grounds for dismissal from the armed forces, as they have been since day one. The law, indeed, practically prevents any gay American, who is out in anyway, from serving in the military. And, as Senator Clinton and the other Democratic presidential candidates have said, the law does not work, and should be repealed. Our next commander-in-chief should work with Congress to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
SLDN has, of course, made all of the candidates aware of our views on the law, and the reality of serving under it. In this particular case, we have made sure that Senator Clinton’s campaign is aware of our concerns regarding the president’s remarks. And, as always, we are committed to making sure that the facts about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and the very compelling reasons to support its repeal, are at the forefront of our elected officials’ minds.
Chris Crain comments:
If anything, I would hit Clinton even harder. His recollection of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has things completely bassackwards. In fact, the policy makes a point of saying that service members can go to a gay bar or march in a Gay Pride parade without violating the policy. What they cannot do is acknowledge that they are gay or, as Clinton put it, "live their lives." Because if they had a same-sex boyfriend or girlfriend -- even kept in private -- then they violated the policy.
Why? Because Clinton and Defense Department lawyers led by Jamie Gorelick portrayed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" as a "homosexual conduct" policy. A soldier or sailor who acknowledges they are gay is in violation not because they are gay -- that's not prohibited under the policy -- but because by publicly acknowledging as much, they are presumed to be engaging in "homosexual conduct" -- i.e., sodomy, same-sex kissing and other gay yucky stuff (protected by the U.S. Constitution).
This fig leaf rationale was employed to hide the real reason for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell": the Pentagon brass knows gays can serve honorably but was worried about the effect on "combat readiness" if bigoted heterosexual soldiers became aware of gays with whom they served. So rather than acknowledge and deal with anti-gay bigotry, Bill Clinton and Colin Powell gave it the effect of law (another constitutional violation), and punished the gays for it.
Not surprising, then, that Clinton is misremembering reality today, as even his wife advocates the repeal of his policy -- albeit while defending its enactment as a necessary "transitional" measure.
This is what you get with the Clintons, folks. Why would we want a repeat?
Crain notes in a different post:
And there is no evidence to support Clinton's claim that Colin Powell's departure from the military in September 1993 had any impact on the way his policy was implemented. For one thing, Bill Clinton remained the commander in chief for the proceeding seven years, and groups like the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network painstakingly documented abuses in the policy, as well as its basic unfairness. The buck stopped with Bill, not simply the Pentagon, to stop the witchhunts. Instead, discharges increased annually until after Bill Clinton left office and the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. The Pentagon's "stop loss" policies allow gays to die during war, even as they would be discharged during other times.
Just so we're clear, I know of what I speak. One of the first things I did after coming out at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Covington & Burling in 1993 was to bring a constitutional test case representing Navy Lt. Paul Thomasson, a decorated pilot working then in the Pentagon for the Navy admiral in charge of enforcing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Even though the admiral testified at Paul's discharge hearing that he was a model lieutenant whose homosexuality didn't bother the admiral or any of Paul's coworkers, the panel ruled against Lt. Thomasson and his military career came to an abrupt end. The point of Thomasson's case was two-fold: that the policy was unconstitutional and that the Clinton Defense Department was irrational to conclude that merely stating, "I am gay" was presumptive evidence that a service member was violating policy by engaging in "homosexual acts."
I left Covington and Washington at the end of 1994, but the firm continued to represent Paul, whose case was the first gays in the military challenge to be rejected (without comment) by the U.S. Supreme Court.
It would be one thing for Bill Clinton to argue that he was sandbagged by the pushback he got on his promise to end the ban on gays in the military, so he agreed to a "compromise" that in retrospect was wrong and discriminatory. That would at least be closer to the truth, although it wouldn't capture just how little Clinton tried to defend himself and gay service members at the time.
But Bill Clinton under pressure is not a pretty sight. So like his shifting positions on Iraq (and those of his wife), he tries instead to weasel his way out of responsibility, rewriting history and, no doubt, doing some damage control on his own legacy.
It is incumbent on the media and gay rights groups, whatever their presidential candidate affiliation, to call Bill Clinton out on his misrepresentation of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and correct the record once and for all.
I agree. It is incumbent on the media to do so. The Obama campaign would be well served to push this story.