Friday, January 29, 2010

Don't Ask Don't Tell...The Deal On Repeal

(note: I had fully intended to do more blogging while I was in California...unfortunately, life got in the way!)

As angry as I have been with President Obama's total inaction on glbt issues, I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the language he used in his State of the Union address, when he said, "This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do."

I did not expect Obama to include these words in his SOTU and he offered a specific timeline, "this year." I am slightly more hopeful that the repeal may actually happen.

Here's why.

First, it is a bit of a no-brainer.

The chief argument against allowing gays to serve openly in the military is that it would destroy unit cohesion.

At the time this argument was raised, in the mid-90s, there was not much empirical evidence that we could call up to absolutely refute it. But times have radically changed. As of today, the only other NATO nation that does not allow gays to serve openly is Turkey! Gays serve alongside straight soldiers in the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Israel and many other nations. And the sky has not fallen.

The argument about the proposed detriment to the military has been proven to be a fallacy.

Additionally, in polling, even among Conservatives, a solid majority supports an end to the ban. So, Obama is hardly ahead of the curve in asking for DADT's repeal.

Second, the loss in Massachusetts, where 22% of Democrats voted for the Republican, made it clear that Obama is in trouble with his party's base.

As long as Rahm Emanuel is Chief-of-Staff, the Obama administration will never be friendly on glbt issues. The promises Obama made in 2008 were merely to grab an influx of gay dollars and campaign footsoldiers, and get himself elected.

Everything Obama has done, to this point, makes it very clear that he has no intention of getting behind gay marriage, which will insure that we will maintain 2nd-class citizenship status.

Repealing  DADT, which has majority support, would be relatively risk-free, and would allow him to still make a pitch for glbt dollars and support in the mid-terms and beyond. And yet, how many times have we heard Obama make empty promises and not deliver? It would be easier to count the solitary number of times he actually kept his word.

Though it was buried at the end of the SOTU, the fact that he gave a timeline made me feel that it was a legitimate pledge.

Not so fast

However, looking at reaction in the past few days, it appears that maybe Obama's pledge was just another empty promise.


1) As the Joe. My. God. blog pointed out...a bad sign was sent when the military Joint Chiefs of Staff (pictured above) stood stoically, not applauding, as the president delivered that line, which drew general applause from others.

2) Yesterday, on MSNBC's Hardball, WaPo's Eugene Robinson said that he had information from a WHite House source that the repeal would not be undertaken this year. From AmericaBlog:

Robinson and NBC White House Correspondent Savannah Guthrie were talking about the President's commitment to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell with Chris Matthews. As to whether or not it's really going to happen, Guthrie said: "The proof will be in the pudding. Is this something they try to move forward with with all deliberate speed. Are they going to slow walk it? So, I think in the coming days and weeks we'll know how serious they are about it." That's exactly right. We'll know soon.
Then, Robinson added, "What I heard this morning from somebody at the White House was probably not this year. But, maybe we would be hearing from military brass at some point."
3) Finally, an article in today's NY Times, says the repeal is "not imminent." Observe this gem:

Officials said they were pressing ahead with one of the more controversial items Mr. Obama laid out Wednesday night: repealing the policy barring gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

Senior Pentagon officials said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had been in close discussions with Mr. Obama on the issue and would present the Pentagon’s initial plans for carrying out the new policy at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
Changing the policy requires an act of Congress, and the officials signaled that Mr. Gates would go slowly, and that repeal of the ban was not imminent. And it could be a hard sell for the president, even among Democrats; Representative Ike Skelton of Missouri, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, on Thursday restated his opposition to repealing the ban.
To that, I would like to ask, what would make a proposal with majority support, a policy enacted by virtually all of our allies, "controversial?"

It is just a further indication of how seriously out-of-touch America is on social issues. When it comes to policy matters affecting gays, America is closer to Arab and African nations, than it is to Western countries.

Obama is now on record as working to repeal DADT this year. Let's see if this will be the latest promise to not be followed with true advocacy and, ultimately, become another promise broken.

Because of the president's past track record, I will believe what he says only when I see it followed up with action.

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