'This Week' Transcript: Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Transcript: Don't Ask, Don't Tell

ByABC News
December 5, 2010, 4:00 AM

WASHINGTON, Dec 5, 2010 — -- AMANPOUR (voice-over): Welcome to viewers here and around the world. I'm Christiane Amanpour. And at the top of the news this week, culture wars in the United States military.

CARTWRIGHT: Being more inclusive improves the institution as a whole.

AMOS: My recommendation would be that this is a bad time, Senator.

AMANPOUR: Is "don't ask/don't tell" on its last legs?

MCCAIN: We shouldn't be exercising a rush to judgment.

AMANPOUR: Or will gays continue to serve in silence? We'll hear from all sides, as we go behind the headlines.


OBAMA: You're going on the offense. Tired of playing defense.

AMANPOUR: ... the start of an ABC News special series on Afghanistan. Nine years into the war, is there light at the end of this tunnel?

And damage done.

CLINTON: This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community.

AMANPOUR: We zero in on policy and personalities exposed by WikiLeaks. A special roundtable with former Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, Sakena Yacoobi, an Afghan women's rights activist, and ABC's George Will.

And the Sunday funnies.

BAYH: In all likelihood, there were gay Americans serving at Valley Forge.

STEWART: Evan Bayh expressing surprise that, despite clear reproductive disadvantages, gay people have somehow been around for hundreds of years.



ANNOUNCER: From all across our world to the heart of our nation's capital, ABC's "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour starts now.

AMANPOUR: Hello again.

Back in 1993, the top military brass testified before Congress that homosexuality was incompatible with military service. At Senate hearings this week, none of the military leaders testified that to be the case.

Seventy-five percent of Americans approve of gays serving openly in the military. And in the Pentagon survey of the troops that was released this week, 70 percent of those who responded said having a gay person in their unit would not have a negative effect on their unit's ability to work together to get the job done.

Still, time to act is running out. Congress has other priorities in this lame-duck session. And some in the military say that changing the policy now would distract them from their focus on fighting two wars. In a moment, we'll debate ending "don't ask/don't tell" with our guests here this morning.

But as ABC's John Donvan first reports, the issue of gays in the military is as old as the nation itself.


DONVAN (voice-over): Hear that sound? That's how General George Washington dealt with it. Informed that one of his officers had an interest in sodomy -- that was the charge -- Washington kicked the man out. Correct that: He had him drummed out, literally, a policy at least with clarity.

Today, on the other hand, we have our oddly-named rule.

MCCAIN: "Don't ask/don't tell."

(UNKNOWN): "Don't ask/don't tell."

COLBERT: "Don't ask/don't tell."

(UNKNOWN): "Don't ask/don't tell."

DONVAN: And a debate only now reaching its crescendo...

PROTESTERS: "Don't ask/don't tell" has got to go, hey, hey.

DONVAN: ... where not just the senators were arguing this week.

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): Incompatible.

(UNKNOWN): Incompatible.

(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.


AMANPOUR: Joining me now, General Wesley Clark, former NATO supreme allied commander. He supports the repeal of "don't ask/don't tell."

Lieutenant Colonel Bob Maginnis, he served in the U.S. Army for 24 years. He was an adviser to the 1993 military working group that examined gays in the military, and he opposes the repeal of "don't ask/don't tell."

Elaine Donnelly is founder and president of the Center for Military Readiness, which is also opposed to gays serving in the military.

Clarke Cooper is active Army reservist who served in Iraq. He's also executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, which is challenging "don't ask/don't tell" in the courts.

Tammy Schultz is the director of national security and joint warfare at the Marine Corps War College. She studied the Marine Corps for 15 years and believes that "don't ask/don't tell" should be repealed.

And former Sergeant First Class Stacy Vasquez served in the Army for 12 years before being outed and discharged in 2003.

We welcome all of you to this panel to discuss this really important issue at hand.

First, if I might go to General Wesley Clark, my old sparring partner from the Balkan wars, General, let me ask you -- thank you for being here -- you have heard now what the service chiefs have said in the testimony on Capitol Hill the last couple of days. What do you make of where they stand and their -- their call that it shouldn't happen at a time of war?

CLARK: Well, actually, they didn't all say it shouldn't happen at a time of war. The basic stand -- what I got out of the testimony is, if you're going to make the decision, make the decision, get it over with, take us out of the middle of the game, and then give us six months or so to do the training and education and get ready so the leadership can handle this.

On a scale of 1 to 10, the report said this was about a 2 in terms of degree of difficulty and degree of disruption. Yes, it does add complexity, but not nearly as much complexity as the continuing uncertainty. The president said it's going to be done. I think, one way or another, what the chiefs were telling you, while they were trying to be loyal to all the people that serve under them, what they were telling you was, let's make this decision and move forward.