Obama’s “repeal DADT this year” pledge now seems disingenuous
April 22nd, 2010
Some members of the gay community may wonder why it is that Get Equality and other activists are not content to rely on President Obama’s pledge – as announced in the State of the Union Address – to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by the end of the year. Some may question the wisdom of aggressively challenging the administration instead of allowing the military review process to dictate the timing.
The answer may be that these activists rightly recognize that this President has little to no intention of ending DADT this year, and probably never has.
On January 27, 2010, President Obama addressed the
Abroad, America’s greatest source of strength has always been our ideals. The same is true at home. We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it; that if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else.
We must continually renew this promise. My Administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination. We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate. 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. [emphasis added]
Four days later, on February 1, the White House met with national gay leaders. And the promise had lost a lot of it’s renewal in that short time. (The Advocate)
Yet just days after the January 27 speech, White House officials convened a meeting on February 1 with LGBT advocates in which they said the policy would not be included in the president’s recommendations for this year’s Department of Defense authorization bill, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the meeting.
“It was a definitive shut-down from [Jim] Messina,” said a source, who was present at the meeting and agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, referring to the White House deputy chief of staff. “He said it would not be going into the president’s Defense authorization budget proposal.” The news was a blow to activists since the Defense funding bill is the best legislative vehicle for including a measure to overturn the policy. “It almost seemed like the bar on the hurdle got raised two or three times higher,” said the source.
Strategically, including the change in the military defense budget is the safest and easiest way for the law to change. Once incorporated by committee, it would require every Republican Senator plus one third of the Democratic Senators to remove it from the bill, a rather unlikely scenario.
The President is a powerful ally and when it comes reelection time it can be a tremendous help if he thinks you are in line with his wishes. If the President want the change it in the budget, it will go into the budget.
From all evidence, he does not.
But more frustrating than the knowledge that this president has played us for the fool, is the knowledge that some national gay groups were complicit in the deceit. If this report is true, the Human Rights Campaign lied about the administration’s intentions in order to give the President cover – and they appear to be continuing to do so.
Rushing to refute the Advocate’s story was Robert Raben, a paid strategist for the Human Rights Campaign.
Raben said Messina relayed that advisers were still discussing different options with the president. He added that the main area of focus for the meeting was the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that would be taking place the next day with Defense secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs chair Admiral Mike Mullen.
And then he promptly changed the subject.
“It’s even more wrenching in the immigration context,” he said. “The president gave that a line the State of the Union too. It’s April 22, where’s the bill?”
Other sources are saying that the administration was less “shutting down” than it was “vague” and “non-committal” in the meeting. But whether dismissive or vague, it clearly was a different message than the one announced by the President in his public speech four days earlier. And, from my perspective, it has stayed so ever since.
It is rapidly becoming my impression that this President has no intention on repealing DADT, or at least not if it requires even the slightest expenditure of political capital. In fact, while his public position is supportive, his administration is fighting tooth and toenail to keep the ban on open service in place. I think that Obama sees the potential difficulties in dealing with some annoyed military personnel as having greater importance than the promise that “you should be treated no different than anyone else.”
And it is rapidly becoming my impression that those who represent themselves as our community’s leadership in Washington, DC, and so enjoying being part of the party in power that they are placing their own access and the agenda of the Democratic Party ahead of the reasons we entrust them with our voice and support their organizations.
But while President Barack Obama said many things in his State of the Union Address that appear calculated in hindsight and suggest either a lack of integrity or a lack of commitment, the words he spoke just a few paragraphs after his pledge to end DADT ring ever more true:
No wonder there’s so much cynicism out there.
No wonder there’s so much disappointment.