Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Sunday that the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy he helped craft should be revisited, but he would not go so far as to call for a full repeal of the compromise.
"The policy and the law that came about in 1993 I think was correct for the time," Powell said in an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union." "Sixteen years have now gone by, and I think a lot has changed with respect to attitudes within our country. And therefore, I think this is a policy and a law that should be reviewed."
"I was withholding judgment because the commanders of the armed forces of the United States and the Joint Chiefs of Staff need to study it and make recommendations to the president, and have hearings before the Congress before a decision is made," he added. "It is not just a matter of old generals who, you know, are just too high-bound. There are lots of complicated issues with respect to this, and I think all of those issues should be illuminated. And I hope that the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commanders working with the secretary of defense will give this the greatest consideration and make their recommendation to the president and to the Congress."
Powell, as much as any congressional figure, played the foil in President Bill Clinton's efforts to follow through on a campaign promise that all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, should be able to serve openly in the military. In recent months, he and other key players from the first battle (notably, former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn) have argued that political realities have evolved to the extent that the armed forces should take a closer look at the policy's purpose and effectiveness. In December 2008, Powell told CNN that it was time to "definitely re-evaluate" "Don't Ask Don't Tell."
By not calling for full repeal, the former Secretary of State and prominent Obama endorser doesn't really do the Obama administration many favors. During the campaign, the president called for overturning "Don't Ask Don't Tell." But he has been slow to act since taking office, even as 250 military servicemen have been dismissed for disclosing their sexuality. Having a prominent figure like Powell provide the cover for a sweeping policy reversal would be a gift to Obama and a boon to gay-rights groups, which have grown increasingly frustrated with the president for dragging his feet on this issue.