POWELL BACKS DADT REPEAL…. About a decade ago, Sen. John McCain was asked why he still supports “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He said he backs it because Colin Powell supports it. In 2006, McCain was asked the same question. He replied, “I listen to people like Gen. Colin Powell.”

Is that so.

Gen. Colin L. Powell, who as the nation’s top military officer in the 1990s opposed allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, switched gears today and threw his support behind efforts to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law he helped shepherd in.

“In the almost 17 years since the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed,” General Powell said in a statement issued by his office. He added: “I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”

For those keeping score at home, there are now three chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — the current chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, along with retired Gens. John Shalikashvili and Powell — who agree that it’s time to end this absurd policy. Two of the three were appointed by Republican presidents.

They’re joined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was originally brought on to head the Pentagon by the Bush/Cheney administration.

Whether this shift helps change public attitudes remains to be seen — polls tend to show fairly broad support for dropping the DADT policy — but either way, when the Commander in Chief calls for this kind of change, and he’s backed by so many high-profile military leaders, it makes conservatives’ job that much more difficult.

Powell’s endorsement should help seal the deal, and coming on the heels of yesterday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, common sense on this issue seems to have all the momentum.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.