In 1993, the military establishment did as much as they could to block President Clinton’s drive to allow gays and lesbians to serve. Chief among those critics was Colin Powell, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who openly disagreed with the Clinton policy and eventually became the architect of the compromise Don’t Ask Don’t Tell solution.

Yesterday, current JCS chair Mike Mullen personally endorsed the plan to repeal DADT. And today, so did Colin Powell.

Gen. Colin L. Powell, who as the nation’s top military officer in the 1990s opposed allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, switched gears today and threw his support behind efforts to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law he helped shepherd in.

“In the almost 17 years since the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed,” General Powell said in a statement issued by his office. He added: “I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”

This really does change the debate around this issue. John McCain got caught yesterday, having said earlier that if the military leadership told him it’s time for a change, he would support it. But yesterday, the military leadership did tell him that, and didn’t budge. McCain is looking like a fossil (well, that’s not hard), especially in light of Colin Powell changing his view. (Remember, John McCain admires Colin Powell more than anyone in the world.)

And so is the bulk of the Republican Party. With the military leadership, who are part of one of the more trusted institutions in America, coming around on this issue, it’s becoming impossible to have a principled objection. Outside of wanting gays punished for doing icky gay stuff.

David Dayen

David Dayen