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Updated: 11:51 a.m.
Sen. John McCain argued Sunday that the ban on openly gay service members has not been a problem for the military and that the effort to repeal it is a political move.
“We should remember where this all started,” the Arizona Republican, who is ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“There was no uprising in the military. There were no problems in the military with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ ... It’s called ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ OK? If you don’t ask them, you don’t ask somebody, and they don’t tell.”
“The fact is, this was a political promise made by an inexperienced president or candidate for presidency of the United States,” he said. “The military is at its highest point in recruitment and retention and professionalism and capability, so to somehow allege that this policy has been damaging the military is simply false.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) echoed McCain’s argument on “Fox News Sunday.”
“This is a political promise made by Sen. Obama when he was running for president. There is no groundswell of opposition to ‘don't ask, don't tell’ coming from our military. This is all politics,” Graham said.
While McCain agreed with a recent statement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that military policy decisions should not be held to a referendum by service members, the Senator said that the military’s system is working and that a proposed repeal of the ban must be assessed for its effect on morale and battle effectiveness. Gates has called upon Congress to repeal the ban.
A Pentagon report on repealing the ban will be released Tuesday, and the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the review Thursday. The Senate is expected to take up the repeal language as part of the annual defense authorization bill, and the House has already passed a defense bill with a repeal provision.
“I don't believe there's anywhere near the votes to repeal ‘don't ask, don't tell’ on the Republican side,” Graham said. “I think we'll be united in the lame duck. And the study I would be looking for is asking military members should it be repealed, not how to implement it once you, as a politician, decide to repeal it. So I think in a lame-duck setting, ‘don't ask, don't tell’ is not going anywhere.”