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Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell: Reichert, Rossi give similar responses

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Oct. 18, 2010 at 1:19 pm with No Comments »
October 20, 2010 10:25 am

In debates Thursday and Sunday with Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, Republican challenger Dino Rossi provided questioners with a similar response, when asked during each event where he stood on efforts to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” policy.

Like he did in Spokane Thursday, Rossi said during Saturday’s debate in Seattle that he would wait to see the results of a survey of military personnel before taking a position on the issue:

I would make sure we have input before I cast any kind of yes vote on something like this. This is an issue that needs to be thought out thoroughly. It’s not something to rush to

(According to this blog post from the Everett Herald’s Jerry Cornfield, Rossi seems to have changed his answer, depending on the audience.)

Rossi’s responses during the debates echo how three-term Republican Congressman Dave Reichert recently defended to me his vote against a House amendment to repeal Don’t Ask in May.

During recent interviews with each, I asked both Reichert and his challenger, Democrat Suzan DelBene, to briefly respond to where they stood on three hot button issues — abortion, civil marriage and DADT — as a way to help distinguish them as candidates.

All of the responses were fairly short:

TNT: ProLife/Pro Choice?
DelBene: I’m pro choice. I think it’s a woman who should decide what’s best for their bodies. They should make their own health care decisions.

TNT: Gay Marriage?
DelBene: I support civil marriage. I think that the government should not be in the position to denying rights to committed couples.

TNT: Don’t ask/Don’t tell?
DelBene: I think we should repeal don’t ask don’t tell. I think that we have created a situation where we’ve asked folks to not be able to be forthright and honest, and I think that that’s not the appropriate policy for our government to hold.

And from Reichert:

TNT: ProLife/ProChoice?
Reichert: I believe in the sanctity of life.

TNT: Gay marraige?
Reichert: I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Finally, we got to the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell question, which drew a rather lengthy explanation from the Congressman. Here’s the text of that exchange:

TNT: Don’t ask/Don’t tell?

Reichert: That one is not a (hot button) question, because you know, I happened to be in Afghanistan –again very soon after my (brain) surgery. I had a chance to talk to soldiers over there, and I asked them about what they thought about it, because they were supposed to be part of the process. And they were angry. And it was more than one camp that I was able to visit with people. They weren’t angry about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Their thing was – `I don’t care what the person does on their own time, in their own personal life, As long as they can shoot a gun and back me up and keep me alive, I’m good.’

But their problem with the whole thing was, they were promised they were going to have input, they would be, have a chance to go to the Internet, be anonymous and provide input and ask questions. Most of the soldiers I talked to didn’t have any idea, first of all, that this process was going on. But in each meeting there was at least one person who said, `Oh yeah, I’ve tried to get on (the Internet survey), and I’ve tried to ask the question and tried to get on anonymous, but they asked for my name, rank and serial number.’ So that ticked off some of the guys.

What they’re really concerned about is — `Look, how does this affect my pay, how does this affect my benefits, how does this affect my ability to get promoted, are they going to have to build new barracks, are there separate facilities that are going to be needed, how much is it going to cost,’ — that’s the kind of questions they were asking me.

The other piece of it, they don’t care about – and I’m with them. As long as people want to serve, they should have the right to serve. And as long as people can do the job, they should be allowed in the military to do their job.

TNT: Did you vote against a repeal of that — policy?

Reichert: (pause) I don’t remember a vote on it — Oh, yeah, you know what, I did because of what we just talked about. Because I think that part of that was — I’ll have to take a look on that, because that was so long ago — I think I voted no on that as a result of the, the, the — I’m trying to remember the facts around that. Secretary Gates was in the middle of a process of conducting the survey, and the survey had not been completed yet. And so what I said was `Look, if you say, if you promised that you are going to conduct a survey, and that members of the military would have the opportunity for input, then you should hold to that and keep your word.’

They were going to move ahead with the policy without finishing the input and not honoring their promise to the men and women, who serve in the military.

TNT: It’s not that you’re against —

Reichert; Nope.

TNT: — people serving openly however their sexual orientation?

Reichert: Nope. Right, absolutely.

TNT: It’s just that you felt the survey was necessary just to —

Reichert: Well, I felt that the promise — to keep the promise — was the necessary piece.

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