Dem Senators and Clinton on gays in the military, 1993

by on October 1, 2009  •  In Military

From Joan Walsh at Salon who is reviewing the new Taylor Branch book, The Clinton Tapes:

There are some wonderful windows on policy triumph and disappointment: [Branch] depicts a stormy but funny meeting of Democratic senators to tell Clinton why they'll block any liberalization of policy on gays in the military. Robert Byrd leads off fulminating about the immorality of homosexuality, and Clinton tries to head him off by noting that adultery is immoral (ahem) but we don't dismiss military folks for cheating on their spouses. Sam Nunn raised the unit cohesion argument (there was a lot of discussion of those close quarters, especially on Navy ships!). Clinton observes Sen. Ted Kennedy on the sidelines: "I couldn't tell if Teddy was going to start giggling or jump out the window" as the talk turned to the bawdy, omnisexual practices of ancient Greek and Roman warriors.

But at the end of the day, Clinton said, he was surprised by the fact that he couldn't tell which of the opponents truly believed it was bad to have gays in the military (or anywhere else); all they discussed was the politics of the proposal. That theme would recur. Clinton was the consummate horse-trader, no steely ideologue, but even he was surprised at the extent to which politics trumped policy, or even the silly idea of what's right or what's best for the country, in every single debate.


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