President Bill Clinton still doesn't get "it." He never has gotten "it."
The "it" in question is the struggle for LGBT civil rights and full equality. He has always missed the essence of our fight for freedom. Otherwise he never, ever would have said what he said to Lane Hudson in Pittsburgh last week. As I watched his defense of Don't Ask, Don't Tell ( DADT ) at the public forum, I almost had to ask the nurse for more blood-pressure medicine I was so shocked at his response.
The president, in an almost heated exchange, proclaimed loudly it was the LGBT community's fault that we got DADT because we didn't get enough letters to Congress. In a mind-boggling "you guys" defense, he continued to refuse to accept responsibility for his lack of strength, courage and leadership back in 1993 that led to the passage of DADT. Instead, he allowed Sen. Sam Nunn to lead him around by the nose including into the private quarters of the USS Roosevelt to show how endangered straights would be by gays in such close quarters. The resulting photo of that sorry excursion made the front page of every newspaper in the country.
If he had met from day one with General Colin Powell and the Joint Chiefs and said "I am Commander-In-Chief and this is the policy and if you can't enforce it, give me your resignations," we wouldn't be where we are today. Powell, who now advocates a full rethinking of DADT, admits not one of them would have resigned and given up their careers over this issue. The entire debate could have been diminished if President Clinton had just done what many of us asked and signed an executive order with a stroke of a pen on Inauguration Day like President Carter did with amnesty for draft evaders who went to Canada.
Despite his weakness and equivocation during the entire sad and tragic six months, what he really didn't get is that freedom is not gained by those who can get the most postcards and letters to Congress. It is not "American Idol" where everyone calls in and votes yes or no for equality. The President's job was to protect an unpopular minority from the tyranny of a majority mob and he failed to do it. He gave in to the mob and then blamed us. His failure to grasp that this is a civil-rights movement and not a lobby in Washington is indicative of his lack of understanding of this struggle.
President Clinton blaming us for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is simply wrong, insensitive and outrageous. He should step up to the plate, accept responsibility for this huge mistake and then he can lead with dignity the battle to repeal it.
David Mixnera civil-rights activist, writer and political strategistblogs at www.davidmixner.com .