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Maddow: McCain listened to military leaders until they disagreed with him

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The leaders of America’s military have concluded that repealing the policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is “the right thing to do” — but Senator John McCain (R-AZ) isn’t prepared to go along with that advice, no matter what he might have said in the past about respecting their opinions.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and testified that the current policy preventing gay Americans from serving openly in the military needs to be repealed because “devaluing them in that regard just is inconsistent with us as an institution.”

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In response, a furious McCain told Secretary Gates, “I’m deeply disappointed in your statement. … Your statement obviously is one which is clearly biased, without the view of Congress being taken into consideration.”

“You are embarking on saying it’s not whether the military prepares to make a change” McCain continued, “but how we best prepare for it, without ever hearing from members of Congress.”

As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pointed out, however, when McCain was asked about DADT during a radio interview last year, he replied that if he had been elected president, “On the day I was sworn in, I would have asked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to conduct an in-depth study and come up with recommendations for me.”

McCain was equally emphatic at a college appearance in 2006, when he stated “I listen to people like General Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and literally every military leader that I know, and they testified before Congress that they felt that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was the most appropriate way to conduct ourselves in the military. … 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.”

Even General Powell has now issued a statement supporting the repeal of DADT. “In the almost 17 years since the ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed,” Powell stated. “I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”

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It appears, however, that McCain was prepared to defer to the military leaders only as long as they told him what he wanted to hear. In 2007, for example, he stated, “I don’t think there’s any doubt that there are evolving attitudes in America about many issues, including this one, but every military leader that I talk to, I say ‘Should we change it?’ They say, ‘It’s working.’ … And so I think it’s logical to leave this issue alone. I really do.”

But now that those leaders have decided the policy is not working, McCain apparently no longer finds it logical to agree with them.

This video is from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Feb. 2, 2010.

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