President Clinton said today that his wife was right in declaring that his administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy has failed at ending discrimination and harassment for gays in the military.
"It's out of whack now," Clinton said in an interview with CBS News shortly after he spoke to the Democratic State Convention meeting here. "I think there's a greater awareness now it's not being implemented as it was announced and as it was intended."
But White House spokesman Barry Toiv said that Clinton, who in speeches during the past two days has laid out the issues he plans to tackle in the last 14 months of his term, does not intend to reopen discussions about a new policy on gays in the military before he leaves office. Instead, he will continue to push the Pentagon to better implement the policy that allows gays to serve in the military so long as they do not announce their sexual orientation.
"His view is that this is not a Congress that is likely to do that," Toiv said. "Perhaps the next Congress or the next president will give it a try."
A potential successor in the White House, Vice President Gore, said in Iowa on Friday that he agrees with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton that "don't ask, don't tell" hasn't worked. "I don't think it has been implemented correctly, because it hasn't reached the stated objective," Gore said.
Clinton said he agreed to the policy as a compromise with Congress and the Pentagon, which resisted the newly elected president's efforts to ban discrimination against homosexuals in the armed forces. As a candidate, Clinton promised gays that he would fight for their acceptance in the military.
Last week, Hillary Clinton, who is seeking a Senate seat in New York, told gay supporters that she does not believe the compromise policy has worked. "The policy was the result of a political assessment that it was the best that could be done at the time. . . . It has not worked," she said.
"I don't have any problem with what she says," Clinton said in the interview today. "What I'd like to do is focus on trying to make the policy we announced back in '93 work the way it was intended to."
During his speech to Florida Democrats, Clinton said he had been deeply troubled by the beating death of a young gay soldier, allegedly by another soldier. "Both these young men put on the uniform of our country, and I could have sent them someplace to die," Clinton said. "And I was aching for the young man who died and for the young man whose life is now destroyed, who wasn't born hating that way. Somebody had to teach him to do that."
Later, Clinton told CBS: "I can only hope that this last brutal beating death of a gay soldier will give some sobering impetus to a reexamination of how this policy is implemented, and whether we can do a better job of fulfilling its original intent. Its original intent was that people would not be rooted out."