by Max Brantley
Bill Clinton regrets the don't-ask-don't-tell policy on gay service in the military, but said he was boxed in by congressional action and that the policy didn't work as Gen. Colin Powell had said it would.
Asked if he regretted it, Clinton — who helped get the policy through Congress in 1993 — said, "Oh yeah, but keep in mind, I didn't choose this policy."
"Don't ask, don't tell was only adopted when both Houses of Congress had voted by a huge veto-proof margin to legislate the absolute ban on gays in the military if I didn't do something else," he said. "They would never let me order, by executive order, allowing gays in the military."
"I got beat ... so there's been a lot of rewriting history saying Bill Clinton just gave into that. That's just factually false. I didn't do anything until the votes were counted," he said. "Now, when Colin Powell sold me on don't pass, don't tell, here's what he said it would be. Gay service members would never get in trouble for going to gay bars, marching in gay rights parades as long as they weren't in uniform, getting gay materials, for any of the places they went or any of the things they did, as long as they didn't talk about it."
"That was what they were promised. That's a very different don't ask, don't tell than we got," he said.
Regrets, he has a few, but he did it their way.