Guest Blogger

I Was There: Clinton, Don't Ask Don't Tell, & Wiggle Room

Filed By Guest Blogger | August 20, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Bill Clinton, Brian Bond, Don't Ask Don't Tell, Elizabeth Birch, Jeff Soref, Kerry Lobel, Kevin Cathcart, Kevin Jennings, Lori Jean, Lorri Jean, Martin Ornelas-Quintero, President Bill Clinton, Tim Gill

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Gloria Nieto lives in San Jose, Cal with her spouse and pack of animals. She is waiting anxiously for hockey season to start.

Photo 43.jpgWith all the latest discussions about the history of Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), I wanted to offer a viewpoint that is not from the orchestra seats but from the balcony seats of the Clinton Administration show.

During the Clinton years I had numerous opportunities to participate in a variety of political events, including conventions, meetings in the Senate and White House and membership on the Democratic National Committee. The fabulous Sean Maloney even asked me to breakfast at the White House one morning! For a gal from (at the time) Santa Fe, New Mexico that was pretty heady stuff.

Today, I live a different chapter of my life. It is not so heady but equally satisfying like getting to take my six year old cousin to his first hockey game. These don't make headlines in the press but they are memories for a boy who was, as he called it "the ring man" for our wedding.

During those heady days, I was invited to a small meeting with lesbian and gay leaders and President Clinton at the White House.

Organized by lesbian and gay outreach director Richard Socarides, other participants included Elizabeth Birch, Kerry Lobel, Lori Jean, Kevin Jennings, Kevin Cathcart, Jeff Soref, Tim Gill, Brian Bond, Martin Ornelas-Quintero and myself. My apologies for not being able to remember the representatives' names from PFLAG and Hetrick-Martin!

Some notable portions of those conversations as I recall them:

  • Lorri Jean opened the meeting with a request for Clinton to use his bully pulpit to include us. When he says African American, Latinos, and women, he should include us as part of America.
  • Jeff Soref raised the issue of DADT. He pointed out that Clinton was taking positions the lesbian and gay community had to oppose, giving DADT as an example.

Clinton responded that he had made a mistake raising this issue and thinking he could just change the policy with a signature. He was new to DC and said he didn't understand the resistance he would get on this.

He said he should have studied Eisenhower's integration of the armed forces. There was a model of how to reach a desired goal and work within the culture of the military. This would have created much less resistance and gotten to the finish line intact without the loss of political capital.

So while there has been finger pointing and blaming, many claiming a historical revision, I wanted to point out that Clinton knows he made a mistake on DADT. While I am not one to sit quietly on the sidelines hoping for a crumb, I also wonder how we can create some political wiggle room so everyone can work together to end DADT?

Including former President Clinton.

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They just let anyone blog here these days. :)

Welcome to the fam!

Ah those were the days! Thanks for putting perspectives in place and how the heck are you? Gotta catch up on blogs now huh? Hope to hear more from you!

Paige Listerud | August 21, 2009 7:17 PM

I'm still not impressed. But the past is the past. I think this is going to take LGBT who are currently serving to come out en masse. We're in the middle of two wars. Even the military can't be so stupid as to throw all LGBT out at once.