Q: These guys... say: Wait a minute. We're the toughest on ourselves there is. Our review boards are unbelievably hard. Our captains, our admirals who sit and say, "All right, Stumpf. If you want to stand for promotion, you've got to pass muster. We all know that Congresswoman Schroeder is out there and everybody else is out there, and ... PC police are waiting for us, and we're going to be really careful. And Bob, you pass muster." He passed muster twice, two different things. He says, "All right, we're going to promote this guy." And still, he doesn't make it, because of a little bit of Tailhook taint. They say that's because you're playing politics with their process.

SCHROEDER: I have nothing to do with their process. Their process is all internal. The Navy runs their process. The House of Representatives doesn't do anything about their process. We do not select. Navy officers select. So while they want to make it my fault, what's really happening is, the Navy leadership is raising those questions. Not me, and not Senators.

Now, there may be some Senators, when you get high enough, there's a high enough level that sometimes it goes to the Senate. Well, it does go to the Senate Armed Services Committee to get out. So some Senators may be raising it then. You know what? Any time anyone's up for anything and goes for Senate confirmation, somebody raises it. Nanny-gate, Tailhook, I mean, you can name a thousand things. Didn't pay their taxes. What do they-- And what does the person do? They either decide they want the job bad enough that they go down and talk to the Senators and explain it, if they think they're being unfairly, brushed with this; or they say, "I don't think I want to be whatever that position is, bad enough to deal with it. Forget it." And you've seen people deal with it two different ways.

But the interesting thing has been, when Senators have asked that question once a promotion gets high enough, people just scream. They don't go down and really confront it and talk about that. And it's a free country. You can do that. The Senate doors are open. They can go there.

But until it gets there, the choice is all internal in the Navy. They control it. Not me.

Q: Tell me what you think Jay Johnson the new CNO, faces, from your point of view?

SCHROEDER: Well, I think Jay Johnson's got a very tough road ... . I was very saddened to see some of the types that did everything they could to bring down Admiral Boorda, and I think, for all the wrong reasons, because Admiral Boorda was trying to go forward with the Navy. And they were yapping, they wanted to go backwards. They then tried to take his very tragic death and spin it. I mean, I still sit here and shudder when I think about somebody trying to spin a tragic suicide. But they tried to spin it, that: See, they're right. "See? You really should have gotten rid of those women. And you should have done this, and you should have done that. And arararara!" And they're out there, still rumbling about all of that.

So when the new CNO takes over, you're going to have some of these retired guys feeling all the more empowered to come out there and just continue to raise Cain, although they shouldn't at all. And meanwhile, you have got a Navy that desperately needs leadership for the modern world, moving forward. And every single day we get through, it's going to be better.

I was talking to Jay Johnson today, and I said, "I hope ten years from now, things will finally be normal, that women will no longer be like a science project that you study every 5 minutes, and that, they will be accepted and they will be part of the team." And he said his feeling from the real troops was that it was probably going to happen more like in five years. Well, we don't know when we're going to be there. The interesting thing is that he sees what I see, that really, an awful lot of people just would like to be normal. Could we just get on with all of this stuff and stop the finger pointing and the screaming and the yelling and all the other stuff that comes along? But they're going to stop, because of this tragic suicide. And they're trying to spin it that they were right, and they're going to just keep jumping up and down. They don't have anything to do but make noise. They're retired. What the heck! So here we go! And I just hope he gets enough strong support from the outside to say, "Okay, you had your day. Forget that." They get their day, and we're going to build this thing to be a solid, unified team.

Q: Who was pressing Boorda, from your point of view?

SCHROEDER: Well, I think all the harpies that were out there were people such as, prior to Secretary Lehman and some of the prior secretaries that were yap yap yap yap yap. And people keep forgetting why they left, or went out of their office. And then you had a lot of retired--not all, because many retired do go on and have a life, and understand that the Navy, like everything, is organic. It has to keep changing to fit circumstances. But as I say....There's some who can't get over being captain of the ship, and they know everything that they know is right, because when they were in the Navy and were captain of the ship, it was right. Probably because they were captain of the ship, not because they were necessarily right. But they therefore surmise that they will always be right in their life, forever and ever, amen. "And who is this new little CNO? And who is this new Secretary of the Navy?" And they have all the time in the world to organize each other, talk to each other, work themselves into lather about how it isn't like it used to be, and write letters to the editor, and scream and holler and take pot shots. And nobody likes to get those kind of pot shots. Nobody likes to read that kind of stuff.

We in politics get used to in. Another day, another 15 pot shots. So what? But in the military, you're really not used to it till you get to that level. And all of a sudden you're up at that level, and then suddenly you realize everybody's firing at your head! And you thought being head of all this was going to be wonderful. You didn't realize it was going to be incoming, incoming the whole day. (laughs) Well, the guys who were doing all the incomings of Boorda are rubbing their hands, I'm afraid, and getting ready to go again. And what they're trying to do would be very devastating if they did it.

Q: Did you ever talk to Mike Boorda about these problems?

SCHROEDER: No. I think he was the kind who really tried to suck it up and keep going forward, and it ate him up internally. I was always very moved by how he talked about personnel issues. My entire history with the Navy have been trying to get the Navy to focus on families and child care and all the things that they were way behind in--housing, all of those things. If you visited a Navy base and an Air Force base, you wouldn't believe that they work for the same government, because the Air Force had much better facilities and was way, much more progressive on these issues, because the Air Force really pushed on that. The Navy was really focused more on ships and planes. And you know--pfft!--what went on ashore or families, those were something you waved good-bye to for three months or whatever. Been a long history in the Navy of not focusing on it, and not making that front and center.

Now, that's part of what these old admirals hate. Here they had Admiral Boorda, who really cared about those kind of issues. "Well, real men don't care about those issues. You know. If we wanted you to have a family, we would have requisitioned one. So who's this guy talking about family policy? What's his problem?" You know. "And what's this stuff? He came from Personnel. Real men don't come out of Personnel in the Navy."

And I used to find it all the time. I'd visit bases, and I'd have commanders tell me their biggest problem was day care, or their biggest problem was housing. They'd appear in front of the committee, and you'd say, "What's your biggest problem?" And they'd say, oh, ships or ammunition. You say, "Are you the same person?" They'd say, "I know. But if I say that publicly, they'll think I have lace on my boxer shorts. You don't understand. That's a career ender." So you had a whole tradition of that in the Navy, that was much stronger than the other armed forces. And suddenly you have a guy who really cares about that, and it made these guys nuts. You know.

Q: So have we gone too far? Has the Navy learned its lesson? Was Tailhook valuable? What's your summary of it all, five years out?

SCHROEDER: Look. The Navy's a huge institution. And there are very many people in the Navy, including my husband, who came out of the Navy, who are very fine people, who get it. Nobody can ever say my husband was sexist or anything else. He certainly treats people with dignity and understands. There's always going to be some who fight and scream and holler and yell, and are really retro. (laughs) There's nothing you can do about that. They're retro. And the problem at the top is to figure out how you keep moving the Navy forward, and how you get the best qualified, the people with the highest morale, that are going to keep the top quality this country demands for its defense. That's what the bottom line is. And it doesn't mean coddling a bunch of old retired pooh bahs who think that the Navy is theirs and no one else can talk-- And it doesn't mean becoming overly sensitive to every little single thing. You don't want them to become political in that way. It means being responsive to your troops, and making sure that at the end of the day you're training, how you're treating your troops is perceived as fair. And when you do that, then you build the morale that you need to get you there. And that's really what it's all about. And nobody could really measure that, hour by hour. There's no thermometer. But it's terribly important that be very clear as the goal, and everybody else ought to get out of the way.

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