Lane Hudson on Taking Clinton to Task
BY Michelle Garcia
August 14 2009 12:00 AM ET
Activist Lane Hudson, attending the Netroots Nation convention, took on former president Bill Clinton about two pressing issues languishing in Washington: the Defense of Marriage Act and the military's ban on openly gay service members. Each law was enacted by Clinton during his 1990s administration, and each has since caused legal problems for gays and lesbians across the country.
When it became clear there wouldn't be a question and answer session during Clinton's address to the progressive blogosphere's annual conference, Hudson shot out of his seat to go toe-to-toe with him. He tells us why he did it, and whether Clinton properly answered his question.
Advocate.com:Was it your plan to speak with President Clinton?Lane Hudson: I thought they were going to have a question period, so I spoke to a couple of friends about what would be a really good question. And we decided to get him to repudiate DOMA and "don't ask, don't tell." It could have potentially started moving the ball forward. When we got there, it became pretty apparent that they wouldn't be taking questions. I didn't plan to stand up and yell out a question, but I got caught up in the moment. He was talking about all the great things that have changed in America, how we're in a new progressive era, and how we need an honest and open dialogue. I was just like, "I'm going to do it." It was kind of the right time. What he was saying was just asking for it.
I asked him, "Mr. President, would you support the repeal of DOMA and 'don't ask, don't tell'?" His initial response was very defensive. I don't think he heard the first part of the question, asking if he would support a repeal.
He's heard so much grief from activists that he probably gets defensive about it. The first thing he said was, "You need to go to one of those health care town halls. They would be glad to have you." I wasn't sure what he was saying, but I remembered from when I was a delegate at the 1996 Democratic Convention, I was at a speech he was giving, and someone stood on a chair and was yelling to him about welfare reform. He at first tried to ignore it, but you could see this thing click in his head where he couldn't ignore it anymore, so he started answering it. In my mind, I was thinking, He's going to answer this. I've seen it before, and I can't see him resisting it.
The point of my question was not to hash up something from 1993 or 1996. It was to talk about now. He was talking about how America has changed since 1993, and I thought it was appropriate. I mean, here we are today, talking about the repeal of these two laws. He did talk about how "don't ask, don't tell" was a failure, and that he didn't want to do it, and he was forced into it. He called for its repeal, in the strongest wording he probably has to date, I think, and discussed it far more publicly than ever, to my knowledge.
On the DOMA question, he didn't spend as much time talking about it, but the reasoning for DOMA. He hasn't really talked about it too much.