MCCAIN: I couldn't disagree more. If we think they're mature enough to fight and die, I think they're mature enough to make a judgment on who they want to serve with.
DONVAN: So was the top military brass. The Army's chief of staff...
CASEY: The implementation of the repeal of "don't ask/don't tell" in the near term will, one, add another level of stress to an already stretched force.
DONVAN: ... clashing with Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman.
MULLEN: War does not stifle change; it demands it.
DONVAN: And while it has been one long "don't ask/don't tell" punt by a president, who when he wanted the White House promised this...
OBAMA: ... which is why I will reverse the policy when I'm president of the United States of America.
DONVAN: ... it now appears with language in a Senate bill that would do just that and a report submitted by the Pentagon Tuesday that provides plenty of cover for a rule that was never anybody's idea of a good idea.
B. CLINTON: It certainly will not please everyone, perhaps not anyone.
DONVAN: Good call on that one, because 17 years ago, when he was just learning how to return a salute, he wanted no ban at all on gays in the military. But his generals...
(UNKNOWN): The question is, do you believe that homosexuality is compatible or incompatible with military service?
(UNKNOWN): Open homosexuality would be incompatible.
DONVAN: Admirals, too, of course, who were adamant that in this man's military, whether on ship or on shore, under shell fire or in the showers, homosexuals -- the term the military used then -- could never serve, could never share barracks without undermining U.S. security.
(UNKNOWN): Open sexuality in the unit setting is incompatible.
DONVAN: Then they hit on "don't ask/don't tell," a solution that he called...
B. CLINTON: The right thing to do and the best way to do it.
DONVAN: But the rule was always a logical and moral mish-mash. You can stay if you're gay, but stay in the closet? Number one, that's an inducement to lie, which does what to military honor (ph).
Number two, it made the argument not against gays, but behaving gay in the military. To people on both sides, it wasn't much of a distinction.
Still, the concrete results: some 13,000 service people expelled from the military since 1994.
But look who has switched sides and why.
POWELL: I'm personally of the view now that attitudes have changed, and I think it is perfectly acceptable to get rid of the law and the policy.
DONVAN: We're also at war. And scores of those dismissed under "don't ask/don't tell" could speak the languages native to the places where we are fighting.
But, notably, those closest to combat, like the Marines and others, were significantly less in favor of repeal. This week, the Marines commanding general said, if the law must change, then...
AMOS: And all I'm asking is the opportunity to do that at a time and of choosing when -- when my Marines are not singularly tightly focused on -- on what they're doing in a very deadly environment.
DONVAN: Timing. It depends, of course, on time, of which we've had plenty in the 232 years since Washington ordered that drumming out, plenty to think through what to do about an issue that still divides our military, and likely will for some time to come.
For "This Week," I'm John Donvan.