McCain: I Would Have Ordered DADT Review

Ana Marie Cox interviewed John McCain this afternoon and reports via Twitter that “if he were POTUS, he would have already ordered Joint Chiefs of staff to investigate efficacy of DADT.”

DADT is, of course, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gays in the military that has been in place since the early days of the Clinton administration, replacing the old policy whereby potential recruits and security clearance seekers were directly asked if they were homosexual and denied if they answered in the affirmative.

If this is correct, he’s done a 180 in the last two years.

At the 2007 GOP debate at Saint Anselm College on Jun 3, 2007, McCain said, “We have the best-trained, most professional, best- equipped, most efficient, most wonderful military in the history of this country, and I’m proud of every one of them. There just aren’t enough of them. So I think it would be a terrific mistake to even reopen the issue. The policy is working. And I am convinced that that’s the way we can maintain this greatest military. Let’s not tamper with them.”

Here’s the video.

Cox writes, ” I believe McCain on this. I think one of the reasons he got so testy was that he knows he’s arguing the wrong side.” Could be.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Military Affairs, US Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    I thought we’ve had some military studies on DADT during the last several years. I don’t know if directing a study (or another one) is the same as reopening the issue, particularly if framed as “efficacy” and to be performed by the military.

  2. Furhead says:

    There were a ton of us potential McCain voters who were befuddled by these types of switcheroos. We didn’t know if he was just pandering to the base, or if he had really changed his mind.

    I guess with politicians, the answer is usually “pandering”.

  3. Anthony says:

    ‘Cox writes, ” I believe McCain on this. I think one of the reasons he got so testy was that he knows he’s arguing the wrong side.” Could be.’

    Could be indeed. So… what? Are we supposed to giving him credit for stating his true position now he’s in no position to do anything about it and runs no real risk of it hurting him? I find much to admire in Senator McCain but given all the above he’s hardly in any position to trump Obama on the issue, given that Obama is, at worst, merely working to very similar standards as McCain in terms of telling it “how it is” when it’s convenient and not when it isn’t. Both men have been in favour of repeal when talking it up doesn’t being any political costs and have fudged when it gets tricky (in office for Obama, when seeking the support of conservatives for McCain). Big whoop.

  4. “if he were POTUS, he would have already ordered Joint Chiefs of staff to investigate efficacy of DADT.”

    The problem is “study the efficacy” doesn’t mean anything, and what would constitute evidence that it isn’t “working.”

    Some number of dismissals? Hardly … having any policy that provides any grounds to dismiss anybody will, by definition, produce more dismissals (and therefore “not work”) than not having that policy.

    I agree with PDShaw … a “study” of this issue is meaningless and will do nothing more than dig up what the finders themselves already buried. The reasons cited to keep homosexuals out of the military — either as a moral absolute and as a threat to the software of unit cohesion and fraternal love — are not “hard” matters that submit easily to any kind of empirically rigorous study.

  5. DL says:

    James, a 180? I’m afraid you confuse principle with mere political machinations. There is no fixed truth – there are no absolute rights or wrongs -each person decides for him or her self what’s right (Obama wishes excepted)or as McCain has told us in so many ways -reach across the isle -they are just as right as are we.

    I also enjoyed Huckabee’s call to keep moderates out of the GOP (or something close to that)Not bad from someone whom many considered a moderate at best.

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    reach across the isle

    I didn’t realize that D.C. was completely surrounded by water. [/grammar nazi]

  7. just me says:

    This is one issue that I think I can easily see changes in position on.

    There has been a lot of movement from the social conservative positions to the more socially liberal/libertarian positions on the issue of gays both in marriage and military service over the last 10 years. I think it is fine if a politician changes his mind.

    The real question here is did he change it because he believes in the new position or because he saw some political advantage to it.

  8. Franklin says:

    I didn’t realize that D.C. was completely surrounded by water.

    LOL, sometimes we wish it was. Or perhaps covered by water.

  9. Franklin says:

    just me-

    Good point.

    A quick Internet search reveals that McCain told gay & lesbian media outlet Washington Blade just before the election that “he would leave it up to military leaders to decide whether the DADT law should be retained or repealed. But he suggested that he would support a review of the policy.”

    This was in an article dated Oct. 1st, 2008. While again, he may have been pandering, it is possible that his position has shifted gradually (which one might take to be an honest change of heart). Basically:

    June 2007: I support DADT
    October 2008: Maybe the generals should think about reviewing it
    June 2009: Yeah, we should definitely review it

  10. An Interested Party says:

    No matter how he came to this position, McCain’s view still seems awfully convenient…after all, he’s not the president and doesn’t have to try to implement or face he consequences of his new, enlightened view…

  11. […] do? Well, they’ll take stock of the polls, they’ll let GOP congressmen start to voice support of a review of the policy, they’ll let military leaders (former) voice their support and they’ll let military […]