Q: CNO Select Johnson. Good man?

A: I don't know him personally. But everything I've seen, he's a fine man. And he was at Tailhook.

Q: So if he has something in his package that's akin to what Stumpf had in his packet, is it enough to stop him?

A: The Navy needs to have a Chief of Naval Operations. The Navy needs leadership. We cannot continue with a vacuum. And it's my understanding that Admiral Johnson's involvement in the Tailhook, was that he was simply present at one of the suites or something. I believe that the Department of Defense would not have sent him over if they hadn't believed that he was fully qualified.

Q: Is it almost impossible for an aviator to become CNO, of a certain age group, of a certain set of experiences? Is it almost impossible now?

A: It may be. I hope not.

Q: What do you think about that?

A: I grieve personally for a lot of these people, because those of us who served for a long time in the Navy love the Navy. From my position as a person who's required to attend to our national security, I know we've got to have a strong Navy with good morale. And we've got to have that, because it's still a dangerous world in which we live. And so I think it's almost imperative that once the guilty are punished, that we move forward, and there is a period where events of five or six or 10 or 20 years ago are put behind us.

Q: Is this that moment?

A: Well, I would hope so. I would hope we can move forward. We're a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles. And those principles are embodied in the concept of redemption. We all do things wrong in our lives. And we all make mistakes. I believe that we judge people on their entire lives and their entire record. And we've got to start doing that with a lot of these Navy people, just as we would want our own selves to be judged on our entire record.

Q: Who is not forgiving them?

A: There are elements that are not forgiving them. But there are also elements that say, "Look, it's much easier if we just don't approve of these people. And that way, we won't have a problem."

I think the implications are serious for the morale and efficiency of the Navy in the long run, if people are not treated well by their civilian superiors.

Q: The fact is, four times as many admirals have lost their jobs as a result of Tailhook than Pearl Harbor, for example. A lot of really good men are gone. Fair statement? And the impact of that?

A: The impact of that is that the morale of Naval Aviation is suffering right now, and has been for some time. And it argues that at some point we recognize that no one is perfect. We put this behind us and move forward.

Q: It seems to me that the Navy......this would not be a big problem if we were not in peace and not doing a lot of other downsizing and other things. True?

A: Yes, but there's an additional factor here. In my lifetime, we are now seeing what is entirely correct and appropriate, and that is the integration of women in every aspect of our society, including the military. There are traumas associated with it, just as when we racially integrated the military. And this is probably due, to some degree, to that friction that exists. At the same time, the military must change with society and adjust with society. In the early part of this century, African Americans were not accepted in the Navy. They now clearly must be. Thirty years ago, women were not accepted in combat roles in the military. Now they must be. And it's up to the institution to adjust to the realities of our society. And that's where I think a lot of the problem has arisen, as we make this transition.

Q: So what's going on when the retired admirals--a very powerful constituency, as you know, led by Admiral Moorer and others--say, "Wait a minute. We do not put social policy on the backs of warriors. We are there to do something else." And this is not something you can legislate. It is, in fact, the politicians who, if you'll excuse the expression, are running amuck in the Navy now.

A: I understand Admiral Moorer's concern, and I understand his anger. And I appreciate that very much. But all of us have to recognize that we must ensure equality in the military for women, as we are trying to ensure it in our society.

Q: But can you, on a ship?

A: You would have made that same argument to me in 1947, when President Truman said that the military will be racially integrated. You would have made that same argument to me. And my answer then, I pray, would have been, "Yes." And my answer to you now is, "Yes."

Q: You can do it? You can deal with gender? You can deal with the sexuality.

A: You must do it.

Q: It's different than race, isn't it?

A: It's different, but it's a challenge.

I am not saying this is a trouble-free transition. I am not saying that this is easy, any more than racially integrating our Navy was. But I can't tell you, there were people who predicted that it would never succeed, as far as racial integration is concerned. And I'm proudest of the fact that the military is a real equal opportunity employer. We must do that with the Navy, and it's not easy. And it's not exactly the same. But it is something we have to do because we are a nation dedicated to the concept of equality.

Q: Let me put for you one more challenge, which is former Secretary Webb's speech at Annapolis last spring. What did you think of that speech, by the way?

A: I always admire and listen to Secretary Webb. (laughs) And he and I have had significant disagreements, including women at the Naval Academy. He opposed it; I supported it.

Q: He said the politicians are the problem, not the solution. The Navy should show leadership and should be the Navy, and the politicians have used Tailhook as an opportunity to get in there. Are you, Senator, part of the problem or part of the solution, in that sense?

A: I'm sure that I'm part of the problem, because I believe that there were times when I didn't stand up enough for people like Stan Arthur. And I bear responsibility for the rest of my life for that. I believe that, as with anything else that Jim Webb says, that it's partially correct. At the same time, I would also suggest that we still have responsibility of the Congress to oversight the military. And yes, mistakes will be made. And I believe that they can be corrected when there is over-reach in any direction. But I would not change the fundamental concept under which our nation operates. And that is civilian authority in control of the military.

Q: Women can be in that warrior culture? You've been in that warrior culture.

A: Absolutely, women can be in that warrior culture. And I'm convinced that they proved that during Operation Desert Storm, and they will prove it in the next conflict. Is it easy? No. It's not easy. But we must do what our society and our nation demands of us, and that is, extend the concept of equality to everyone.

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