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Ted Kennedy on Clinton, Byrd, Sex Slaves, and Gays in the Military

There's a passage in Ted Kennedy's new memoir True Compass in which he talks about attending a meeting in the White House regarding gays in the military. Here it is:

Tedkennedy “I’ll never forget one of my first meetings with Clinton in the White House. He had walked into a firestorm over the question of whether gays should be allowed to serve in the military. He’d invited all the Democratic members of the Armed Services Committee to this gathering. He went around the room, asking everyone’s opinion about gays in the military. Some senators gave long answers. Some were terse. Some were flowery and revealing, and others held their cards close to their vest. It added up to a very lengthy meeting. I remember it well partly because Vicki and I had tickets to the ballet that night. Baryshnikov was dancing at the Warner Theatre. I’d told Vicki to go ahead and that I’d meet her there when I could. But the meeting went on and on, for more than two hours – extraordinary by White House standards. Finally, my turn to speak came. I made a brief comment in support of allowing gays in the military, in which I mentioned that all the arguments against such a policy had already been made…

...Well, I was wrong about that. Almost all the arguments had been used before. The last senator to speak was Robert Byrd, and he came up with a new one on all of us…..He informed us, with many ornate flourishes, that there had been a terrible problem in ancient Rome with young military boys turned into sex slaves. I don’t remember the exact details, but I think the story involved Tiberius Julius Caesar being captured and abused and used as a sex slave. He escaped and then years later he sought vengeance and killed his captors. Anyway, it was something like that. The room fell silent. The senator continued. Then President Clinton stood up. His response was short and sweet. ‘Well,’ he said. ‘Moses went up to the mountain, and he came back with the tablets and there were ten commandments on those tablets. I’ve read those commandments. I know what they say, just like I know you do. And nowhere in those ten commandments will you find anything about homosexuality. Thank y’all for coming.’ He ended the meeting and walked out of the room.”

(via politico, which has many more excerpts)

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  1. I've always liked Bill Clinton, but I wish people would stop trying to mix religion with politics.

    Posted by: sparks | Sep 14, 2009 9:12:44 AM

  2. So Senator Byrd was a sex slave under emperor Tiberius! Who knew?

    Posted by: KevinVT | Sep 14, 2009 9:15:58 AM

  3. Your best guide to running the modern world: a series of weird, lurid anecdotes about various cultures from the distant past.

    Posted by: Distingué Traces | Sep 14, 2009 9:48:32 AM

  4. Sparks, sometimes you have to speak to people in their own language, no matter how distasteful it may be. I only wish the American constituency could have seen President Clinton's reaction so they could have understood LONG ago how, no matter how good one's intentions may be, there are always enough black-hearted, half-witted congressmen in this country that would do anything to take away or reduce the rights of a minority and to damage the integrity of a bill by legal entanglement. That's the true face of evil.

    Posted by: FizziekruntNT | Sep 14, 2009 9:52:07 AM

  5. And I will always, always love Bill and Hillary Clinton for what they tried to do.

    Posted by: Jeff NYC | Sep 14, 2009 9:53:30 AM

  6. Fantastic!

    Posted by: AERES | Sep 14, 2009 9:57:09 AM

  7. Clinton apparently thought early on that simply talking down senators would get them to change their minds. That was naive.

    Posted by: anon | Sep 14, 2009 12:29:04 PM

  8. Remember, weird shit takes places in those back rooms where the laws are made.

    Posted by: Glenn I | Sep 14, 2009 2:30:42 PM

  9. It's people like Byrd who've ruined this country legislatively. Sure, he's a Democrat (barely,) but in essence he's a senile racist twit. And through his seniority - another overrated value in this country - he wields huge power in the Senate. Which has long allowed him to shape things such as the DADT situation disproportionately. He's from a state with barely any people, etc...but until he dies they will elect him because he brings gazillions of dollars into WV. Everything there is named after him!

    Term limits and campaign finance reform. Nuff said.

    Posted by: Ben | Sep 14, 2009 2:34:40 PM

  10. Anon, where did you read that Clinton "thought he could change their minds" by simply talking down to senators? I doubt this was ever stated by Clinton as being one of his strategies. Quit trying to write the history of a man you have never met.

    Posted by: john | Sep 14, 2009 2:36:22 PM

  11. but...but....but....but...this just doesn't fit with the long history gays have written about how Clinton betrayed gays and threw them under a bus or something. clearly ted kennedy is a liar...bill clinton would NNEEEEVVVVEERRRR do that.

    (note sarcasm)

    Posted by: Erick | Sep 14, 2009 4:26:34 PM

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