"Gay Question" General Linked To Clinton

Retired Brig. Gen. Keith H. Kerr from last night's republican debate
This story was written by Kenneth P. Vogel.

The retired general who asked about gays and lesbians serving in the military at the CNN/YouTube Republican debate on Wednesday is a co-chair of Hillary Clinton's National Military Veterans group.

Retired Brig. Gen. Keith H. Kerr  was named a co-chair of the group this month, according to a campaign press release.

He was also active in John F. Kerry's 2004 campaign for president.

Kerr asked candidates "why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians."

After the debate former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, said on a CNN panel that he was being told Kerr was involved with the Democratic presidential campaign of Clinton, a New York senator.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who moderated the debate and the panel, said that if that was the case, CNN should have identified Kerr as such.

David Bohrman, a CNN senior vice president and executive producer of the debate,  later said: "We regret this, and apologize to the Republican candidates. We never would have used the general's question had we known that he was connected to any presidential candidate."

Kerr told CNN that he had not done work for the Clinton campaign, and CNN verified before the debate that he had not contributed money to any candidate, the broadcaster said in a blog post after the debate.

Kerry told CNN he is a member of the Log Cabin Republicans and was representing no one other than himself, CNN said.

A Nov. 11 press release retrieved from the website of the non-partisan magazine Campaigns & Elections lists Kerr as one of nearly 50 co-chairs of "Veterans and Military Retirees for Hillary."

Clinton's campaign did not respond to an e-mail asking about Kerr's role in her campaign or whether he was acting on behalf of the campaign.

Kerr also was on 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's National Veterans Steering Committee, according to a campaign press release retrieved from the website of George Washington University.

And Kerr appears to be an active opponent of the U.S. military's current stance on gays and lesbians serving the military, the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

He appeared on the now-defunct CNN partner network CNNfn in Dec. 2003 to discuss the tenth anniversary of the policy. According to a transcript, he called it "a tremendous waste of personnel, a tremendous waste of financial resources for the United States."

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, got first crack at Kerr's question. He said he thought having openly gay men and lesbian women in the military "would be bad for unit cohesion."

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, answering next, basically agreed.

Cooper then singled out former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who in 1994 said he looked forward to the day gays and lesbians could serve openly in the military.

Romney said times have changed. Though he said he laughed when he first heard talk of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and didn't think it would work, he said: "You know what? It's been there now for 15 years and it seems to have worked."

Cooper then turned to Kerr and asked whether he felt he got an answer to his question.

Kerr responded: "With all due respect, I did not get an answer from the candidates. American men and women in the military are professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.... Today, don't ask, don't tell is destructive to our military policy."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a decorated Vietnam veteran, got the last word on "don't ask, don't tell."

He said high-ranking military officials "almost unanimously, they tell me that this present policy is working. That we have the best military in history, we have the bravest, most profssional, best-prepared and that this policy ought to be continued because it's working."