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    January 20, 2008

    Bill Clinton hoisted on his own petard

    Posted by: Chris

    BillclintondadtThe video clip of Bill Clinton misstating the legal effect and history of his "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy has turned up over at PageOneQ. CNN's Situation Room broadcast the excerpt, and here's exactly what the former president, stumping for votes for his wife in Nevada, had to say:

    "Don't Ask Don't Tell" as it was articulated, as I worked it out with Colin Powell, head 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 left, the anti-gay forces in the military started using it as an excuse to kick people out.

    The impression from the video is that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was limited to a service member's conduct "in uniform," and they were free to "live their lives" out of uniform, in private. That is a gross misstatement of the policy, as I outlined in a post yesterday, which makes no meaningful distinction between conduct in uniform and out.

    As constructed by Bill Clinton's Defense Department lawyers, led by Jamie Gorelick, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was falsely cast as a "homosexual conduct" policy that far from allowing gay soldiers and sailors to "live their lives," required that they actively lie in inevitable banter about personal lives and engage in absolutely no "homosexual acts," which includes not just sodomy but kissing, holding hands or anything indicating romantic interest in someone of the same gender.

    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.

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    1. Log Cabin Faults (Bill) Clinton for Attempting to Rewrite History of Dont Ask/Dont Tell from Gay Patriot on Jan 21, 2008 11:51:42 AM

      Just as his wife attempted to rewrite the reasons for her husbands support for the Defense of Marriage Act in the Logo Debate (claiming it was to stave off an amendment enshrining the traditional definition of marriage in the federal constituti... [Read More]


    1. Andoni on Jan 20, 2008 1:06:04 PM:

      I am shocked, -- shocked to learn that the Clintons lie and misrepresent when politically expedient.

      Look, the media can hold the Clintons' feet to the fire all they want, but I don't think it will make much difference. The public has already judged the Clintons. To some they can do no wrong and to others they can do no right.

      Another example of misrepresentation and distortion is the Clintons' response to Obama saying Reagan put the country on a new trajectory and that the Republicans had the new ideas for the past 15 years. Both Bill and Hillary have said almost the exact same thing about Reagan and the Republicans in the past, but you wouldn't have known it from their condemnation of Obama on his Reagan comments.

      This pair are sleaze. Lying, distorting, misrepresenting, re-writing are their specialties, and they are shameless.

    1. Craig Ranapia on Jan 22, 2008 1:53:13 AM:

      Could someone also suggest to Bill that he stop wagging his finger when scolding some uppity individual for badthink. I keep hearing "I did not have sexual relations with that woman", which can't be the intended effect.

      And sorry if that strikes some readers as a low-blow, but when you're accusing others of being, shall we say, lacking good judgment it helps if your record on that score is a little tidier.

    1. Haloti Ngata Jersey on Oct 31, 2011 9:58:28 PM:

      drive me crazy so hard to reply your blog,which system you use?

    1. Monster Beats Sale on Nov 30, 2011 2:03:02 AM:

      acking good judgment it helps if your record on that score is a little tidier.

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