A spokesman for John McCain said on Tuesday evening that the Republican senator opposes allowing gays to serve openly in the military, despite increasing political support for repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
At Tuesday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the policy, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mike Mullen said he believes gays should be allowed to serve in the military. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he has appointed a team at the Pentagon that will have until the end of this year to study a possible repeal.
“Speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do,” Mullen said.
McCain responded that he was “disappointed” in Mullen’s testimony and said now is not the time to overturn the policy. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported McCain has shifted his stance, since Mullen is a part of military leadership and has voiced support for repealing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan pointed out that Mullen repeatedly emphasized that he was speaking for himself and not on behalf of the military leadership during Tuesday’s hearing. She said McCain’s stance remains unchanged and that until the Pentagon team finishes its policy review there will be no official recommendation from military leadership.
“Sen. McCain believes that DADT works. But if the military leadership decided that it would be beneficial to repeal DADT, he would obviously listen to leadership,” Buchanan said. “He respects Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates, but would like to withhold judgment on the repeal by waiting for the conclusion from policy review.”
She noted that Secretary Gates is a member of the Obama administration, which made repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell an important part of their political platform.
“Repealing the policy is their goal, but it was also their goal to close Guantanamo and that has yet to happen,” Buchanan said. Gates has said it will take as long as two years before any action is taken to change the policy.
If the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell review finds that repealing the policy would be advantageous to the military, Buchanan said McCain would consider it. But first the military must address a host of concerns through the upcoming series of hearings and discussions.
“It’s a moot point, we haven’t even gotten to that state yet,” Buchanan said. “At this point he’s not going to chance his stance based on one admiral who was speaking as individual, not on behalf of military as whole.
McCain has maintained for years that though the policy may be distasteful, it works. In 2006 he said he is open to re-examining that stance if he asked to do so by the military:
“I understand the opposition to it, and I’ve had these debates and discussions, but the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.”