Meck. Dem chair: a ‘clear need’ for DADT repeal

Chair Joel Ford clarifies statements from 'Flashpoint' appearance

CHARLOTTE — The chair of Mecklenburg County’s Democratic Party is clearing the air after he made some confusing remarks on the anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) military policy on a local talk show last weekend.

Party Chair Joel Ford and former Mayor Pat McCrory appeared on WCNC’s weekly broadcast of “Flashpoint,” a local “Meet the Press”-like politics and current affairs program, on Sunday, Feb. 6. Anchor Dave Wagner asked both men about their views on DADT and the current push for repeal being heard by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee this month.

“I’m not sure what was wrong with the old policy,” Ford answered. “I’m a little surprised that the president is going out on this particular initiative.”

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Wagner noted President Barack Obama’s move on DADT was a “campaign promise,” to which Joel then replied, “I understand a campaign promise but again, personally, I don’t agree with it and I’m trying to figure out what was wrong with the old policy.”

Ford continued, “I think it is more political than anything else. It’s unfortunate that we have to go through these political issues when we are dealing with the men and women in uniform.”

McCrory said military commanders calling for repeal were “doing what their boss says” and called the discussion “divisive” as the nation continues to fight two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In follow-up conversations with qnotes, Ford admitted his comments were likely the result of not knowing much about DADT. Provided fact sheets and other figures, Ford said he had a better understanding of the issues.

“I understand better now the need for repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” he told qnotes. “Clearly there is a need for a change. Any sensible human being…recognizes the need for a change in the policy..”

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Ford said local citizens should pay attention to and take action on national issues like DADT, or others like healthcare or foreign policy debates.

“Ultimately, it’s what is good for the country, and anybody who’s stood in politics knows all politics is local,” he said.

Originally passed and signed into law in 1993, DADT took effect in 1994. Since then, more than 13,500 openly gay or lesbian servicemembers have been discharged from the military. An estimated $360 million or more has been spent enforcing the policy and training replacements for those dismissed. Of all NATO nations, only two — the U.S. and Turkey — prohibit openly gay citizens from serving in uniform.

Obama has vowed to repeal DADT this year and recently addressed the issue in his State of the Union. During Senate Armed Services Committee hearings, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates unveiled plans to undergo a year-long study on the issue with steps toward a repeal. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen also testified that he personally feels the law should be repealed.

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.