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Public Statements

MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript

Interview

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Joining us now is Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Senator, thanks very much for coming in. It"s nice to see you.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): It"s my pleasure.

MADDOW: Nice to have you here. Can you give us any sort of preview about what you"re expecting at the hearing tomorrow?

GILLIBRAND: Well, I think Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates will lay out some of the strategy for a repeal policy. I think we will get testimony that this policy does undermine the military readiness of our armed services. So I"m looking forward to it.

MADDOW: In terms of the Pentagon"s options for implementing this, a number of proposals have been made by people who advocate getting rid of the policy, including an immediate moratorium. That"s something that you tried to introduce legislation, calling for a moratorium, implementing the policy until a full repeal could be arranged. Why do you think the White House hasn"t pursued that?

GILLIBRAND: Well, I think it"s been focused on a lot of things, but I do think now is the time to act. And I think Congress can take its own action and repeal the policy. And during that time, the president can also issue a stop-loss or do a moratorium.

So there"s a number of measures we can take immediately to stop the enforcement of this very, very corrosive policy. It completely undermines the military readiness and strength of our armed services. And it"s something that degrades and undermines the trust and integrity of our entire armed services.

MADDOW: As a senator who"s taken a keen issue in this subject, though, do you have a preference on whether this is done slowly or quickly, I guess?

GILLIBRAND: I would like it to be done quickly.

MADDOW: Yes.

GILLIBRAND: We have two wars. We have terrorism threats everywhere in our United States. And we have to make sure that we have all the best and the brightest that are able to serve.

As you said, in this past year alone, we"ve lost over 600 personnel. We need to keep all the best and brightest. And as you"ve covered in the past, we"ve lost, you know, 10 percent of our foreign language speakers in Arabic and Farsi languages that we really need in fighting terrorism.

We"ve also lost over 800 personnel in mission-critical areas, meaning they cannot be easily replaced. So now is the time to repeal this policy, because we have urgent security concerns that we need all the best and the brightest serving.

MADDOW: This is going to be one of those issues in which the issues of - in which the issue of the relationship between the military and the political world has to be addressed overtly. I"m trying to be sort of sensitive about this, but essentially, what I mean is that there will be questions as to whether or not the military knows what"s best or politicians know what"s best, in terms of how to proceed here.

When you hear from Admiral Mullen, when you hear from Secretary Gates tomorrow, is there a line for you? Is there a bright line where you think that what they"re saying isn"t - won"t be fast enough, won"t be enough, which you will push them to go faster than they my want to go?

GILLIBRAND: Well, I hope that they lay out their plans about how they will repeal this policy and how they will implement a repeal.

MADDOW: OK.

GILLIBRAND: Congress can act individually to do the repeal. And in other countries, if you look at the U.K., for example, Britain repealed a similar policy in 1999, and it took only less than a year, the following year, to implement their repeal, their policy, and so no suffering of military readiness or moral in their armed services.

So it can be done. It doesn"t have to take a long time. I trust the military to make a decision about what the best way to implement is. But Congress can take action now and provide the leadership that"s necessary to repeal this policy immediately.

MADDOW: In terms of building support for a repeal and highlighting the harms of this policy, as you see, I know that you"ve been trying to highlight the stories of people who have been kicked out of the military. You"ve got a Web site - linked to your Web site are the stories of some of the people who have been kicked out. Why did you do that and how does that work?

GILLIBRAND: It"s not my Web site. It"s "DADTStoryProject.com."

MADDOW: OK.

GILLIBRAND: And we have about 12 stories highlighted of individuals, about what happened to them and how this policy affected them. For me, it all started when Lt. Dan Choi came to me and told me about his personal story.

And this is a man who has accomplished so much in our military, one of our greatest heroes. And he talked about how he was being asked to lie every day about who he fundamentally is, who he loves, who he spends his free time with, and the corrosive effect that has on the basic command structure.

And so his story is so moving and powerful and inspiring to me, personally. I thought that the more stories we could bring to bear into the public discourse, it will move this debate forward to a place where we will earn the 60 votes we need to repeal it.

MADDOW: Well, after Dan Choi came out on the show, I can"t tell you the number of people that we heard from, both in the military and people who were moved by his story and wanted to do something about it. So at least in his case, I can tell you from personal experience, it moves people, absolutely.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, it"s really nice to have you here in person and good luck tomorrow. See you at the hearing, huh?

GILLIBRAND: See you at the hearing. Take care.

MADDOW: Great. Thanks. Still ahead, men in shorts with a president in the broadcast booth. Kind of amazing tape of something the president"s been doing in his extracurricular time.

And also men in skirts, hundreds of them on parade in New Orleans. It is a celebration of football that"s not at all what you think. That"s all coming up, stick around.

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