Former president Bill Clinton told CBS News anchor Katie Couric that he regrets the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy created in 1993 under his administration but that Colin Powell, his chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, misrepresented how the policy would work.
President Clinton spoke with Couric hours after an attempt to repeal the policy in the Senate failed to overcome a Republican filibuster.
"Do you ever regret it as a policy?" asked Couric.
"Oh, yeah," Clinton responded. "But keep in mind, I didn’t choose this policy."
The president said he resorted to “don’t ask, don’t tell” when it became apparent that both houses of Congress would enact an absolute ban on gay people serving in the military unless he did something else. He also said that Powell misrepresented how the policy would work.
"'Don't ask, don't tell' was only adopted when both Houses of Congress had voted by a huge veto-proof margin to legislate the absolute ban on gays in the military if I didn't do something else," said Clinton. "So there's been a lot of rewriting history, saying 'Bill Clinton just gave in to that.' That's just factually false. I didn't do anything until the votes were counted. Now, when Colin Powell sold me on 'don't pass, don't tell,' here's what he said it would be. Gay service members would never get in trouble for going to gay bars, marching in gay rights parades, as long as they weren't in uniform. That was what they were promised. That's a very different 'don't ask, don't tell' than we got."