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Reporters Distort McCain's 2006 DADT Remarks (Updated)

He hasn't flipped his position.

5:47 PM, Feb 2, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Left-wing bloggers and mainstream reporters are accusing John McCain of flipping from his 2006 position on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. The Washington Post's Michael Shear writes: "McCain said [in 2006] he would support ending the ban once the military's top brass told him they were okay with it." The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder writes that "given today's developments," with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen endorsing a repeal of DADT, "McCain should support the DADT repeal. He does not."

The Post and Atlantic reporters both quote McCain's 2006 remarks but badly misrepresent what he actually said. McCain said four years ago:

And I understand the opposition to it, and I've had these debates and discussions, but the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.

Two points: (1) McCain said we ought to "consider" changing the policy--he never said he would automatically support a policy change; and (2) the "leadership of the military" extends not just to Obama's defense secretary and joint chiefs chairman, but presumably also to generals like Petraeus and McChrystal, as well as others like the commandant of the Marine Corps.

Update 9:50 p.m.: The Atlantic's Ambinder has heavily edited his post without indicating that he has done so. For instance, Ambinder originally wrote: "Given today's developments, McCain should support the DADT repeal. He does not." That now reads: "Given today's developments, it would seem as if McCain should support the DADT repeal." His original assertion that McCain "did change his mind" is now edited to include the phrase "or so it seemed." All of the rebuttals from McCain spokesperson Brooke Buchanan, as well as the acknowledgment that "at least one top Marine general James Conway opposes repeal," were included by Ambinder after this post was first published. Good for Ambinder to walk back the distortion. Now if only the Washington Post would do the same.

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