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Posts for August, 2009

Bill Clinton Talks About His Role On DADT and DOMA

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2009

Former president Bill Clinton spoke yesterday as the keynote speaker at the Netroots Nation conference in Pittsburgh. His speech was interrupted by a question from LGBT activist Lane Hudson, asking Clinton about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act.

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Clinton was definitely put off about being interrupted, but when he finally got around to answering the question, Clinton pointed out that DADT passed Congress by a veto-proof majority in both houses, the result, he said, of inadequate LGBT lobbying in Congress at the time. I think he’s right on this one. He has gotten the blame for DADT’s passage, when it actually came about by a Democratically-controlled Congress acting to block his initiative to allow gays to serve in the military. And indeed, DADT did pass with a veto-proof majority, which removed his role in the matter.

But that doesn’t hold true for DOMA. Clinton says that he “didn’t like signing DOMA,” but did so to head off “a very reactionary Congress” which, he said, was set to pass a constitutional amendment. But he didn’t address why his 1996 presidential campaign purchased advertising on Christian and right wing radio bragging signing DOMA into law as proof of his “pro-family” credentials.

Update: Lane Hudson posted on Firedog Lake about why he interrupted Clinton’s speech:

I love Bill Clinton, but we all make mistakes. Sometimes we even are forced to do things we don’t want to. That’s why I was prepared to ask Bill Clinton a tough question last night as he delivered the opening keynote address at Netroots Nation 2009.

But it became clear there would be no questions. As I sat in the audience thinking about how Netroots Nation is about celebrating the most open forum of discussion ever to exist, it occurred to me that we were nothing more than a captive audience being talked to. One way communication was NOT what we were there to celebrate and advance.

Lane is certainly right about one thing: It’s pretty dumb to expect bloggers to sit down, shut up, and just listen. It’s even dumber when that same message comes from fellow bloggers and activists:

The immediate response shocked me at the time and still does. Those surrounding me yelled at me, booed, and told me to sit down. One elderly lady even told me to leave. While I was among the supposed most progressive audience in the country, they sought to silence someone asking a former President to speak out on behalf of repealing two laws that TOOK AWAY RIGHTS OF A MINORITY. I was shocked.

What was that expression about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable?

Click here to see a partial transcript of Pres. Clinton’s remarks