CBS's Smith: Can Military 'Handle the Truth' on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'?
Quoting from the film A Few Good Men, on Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith asked openly gay Army Lieutenant Dan Choi if the U.S. military was prepared for the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy to be overturned by the Obama administration: "Older members of the military are not very interested in seeing this policy changed at all....Do you think the military can handle the truth?"
The policy, created by Bill Clinton's administration in 1993, allows homosexuals to serve in the military as long as they do not publically come out. Choi, who is facing discharge from the Army for doing just that, replied to Smith's movie reference: "Well, I think that there are some people in the military that might have grown up in a different era, and they have fear, obviously, with the change they might think that it's too difficult for them....Don't assume that because you might be uncomfortable or certain people might be uncomfortable that that translates to unprofessional or lack of discipline."
Smith began the segment by proclaiming "the beginning of the end" of the policy as Defense Secretary Robert Gates began to reexamine it. A headline on-screen read: "Do Ask, Do Tell? Pentagon Plan To Be Unveiled Today."
Here is a full transcript of the segment:
HARRY SMITH: The beginning of the end for 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'? Defense Secretary Gates announces plans today that could end the ban of gays serving openly in the military. We'll talk to an Army lieutenant who is fighting to keep his job.
HARRY SMITH: The military's controversial 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy could be phased out. At a Senate hearing today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates will unveil plans that could mark the beginning of the end of the policy that bans gays from serving openly in the military. He will also reportedly announce that third party outings will no longer be grounds for dismissal. Joining us now from Washington is Lieutenant Dan Choi, who currently faces discharge for publicly announcing he's gay. Lieutenant, good morning.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Do Ask, Do Tell? Pentagon Plan To Be Unveiled Today]
DAN CHOI: Hey, good morning, Harry.
SMITH: You're a graduate of the U.S. military academy at West Point. Did you - were you aware of your own sexual orientation when you were at West Point?
CHOI: I was. At my very first day at West Point, I learned that the honor code says a cadet will not lie and will not tolerate those who lie. They didn't say that a cadet who was gay could lie, whereas straight cadets didn't have to lie. I think that when somebody makes a decision to join the military, they don't join the military because they're gay or they're straight or to be more straight or to be more gay. They do it because they believe in the values of our country, that it's worth protecting, and that's the reason why I joined.
SMITH: You came out publicly. Why was that such a dangerous thing to do?
CHOI: Well, I don't think it's a dangerous thing to do. I think it's a very healthy thing for people to be able to tell the truth and to come to terms with who they are. I think it's a sign of maturity. For me, I started a love relationship right when I got back from Iraq. I finally understood what everybody meant when they said a committed relationship, maturity and growth, and sacrifice and love. I finally understood that. It made me a better person. It made me understand my soldiers when they said that they fell in love. It made me understand romance novels or some of the things that people sing about in pop culture. It made me a better officer. And it made me a better person. So why should I hide that? Why should I lie about that?
SMITH: It's interesting, because you look at the polls, older members of the military are not very interested in seeing this policy changed at all. Younger members of the military seem to - it doesn't seem to matter to them that much. Here's the interesting question. You talked about telling the truth. Do you think the military can handle the truth?
CHOI: Well, I think that there are some people in the military that might have grown up in a different era, and they have fear, obviously, with the change they might think that it's too difficult for them. But my message to anybody in the military or anybody who's waking up and realizing that this might be a little bit scary for them, don't bet against our military. Don't assume that because you might be uncomfortable or certain people might be uncomfortable that that translates to unprofessional or lack of discipline. Our soldiers are the best in the world and we look all around the world and we see even in Israel and all of our allies in NATO, they have no problem with this. And I think we're just as good, we can show leadership and we're disciplined and there's no reason to discount our soldiers that are serving.
SMITH: Lieutenant Choi, we thank you for your time this morning.
CHOI: Thanks, Harry. Have a good day.
SMITH: You bet.
-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.