Joe Mirabella

What Is the White House Strategy for Delaying the Repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell?

Filed By Joe Mirabella | April 22, 2010 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: 2010 Election, Don't Ask Don't Tell, president obama, Repeal

It is difficult to understand why the White House would want to delay Don't Ask Don't Tell until at least next year. What is their political strategy?

An overwhelming majority -- nearly 60%-- of Americans support a repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, regardless of party affiliation. 72% of Democratic voters support a repeal. In fact, a repeal is likely the least controversial issue on voters' minds this fall.

Yet, as Gibbs confirmed on Wednesday, the President remains committed to a Pentagon review that will extend into December, making a repeal in 2010 impossible -- that is unless the legislature acts on their own.

Why would the President put Congress in this position?

On Wednesday David Mixner wrote about several conversations he had with "very reliable sources" on the Hill. Reportedly, the grassroots aren't alone in their angst about the President's delay:

One high ranking staffer said, "We are going to get creamed in our district since we need the gay vote. It is just only a matter of time that what is happening to Pelosi in San Fran works it way down to our districts. We don't fucking need it. For God sakes, lets get this out of the way." An elected official in DC told me, "If the President digs in, he then guarantees that the debate will be ugly and divisive. I am really concerned about their intransigence." Another Chief of Staff confided to me that this is a 'huge mistake' since it was the President himself that set the expectations.

I don't know where the distressed elected official is from, but their concerns are an accurate description of the mood in my district. I have spoken to leadership in the labor movement, business leaders, the wealthy, the not-so wealthy, young and old, and the tone is overwhelmingly consistent -- progressives are upset. In several conversations, I was told off the record, they are willing to withhold support from Senator Patty Murray's re-election if progress is not made on the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the passage of an inclusive ENDA.

And yes, in my district you need the gay vote to win. Nearly 90% of voters in my district supported the expansion of LGBT rights at the ballot box last November by voting to Approve Referendum 71 to keep the "everything but marriage" Domestic Partnership law.

Elections in Washington are won and lost by the voters in Western Washington. I can't imagine Senator Murray's campaign team is pleased by the President's time line. She needs something to bring back to her base, particularly after the public option was left on the cutting room floor. That didn't go over very well here either.

The repeal of Don't Ask Don't tell is legislatively easy. They can include it in the Defense Appropriations Bill. That's exactly how the Matthew Shepherd Act (aka Hate Crimes) was finally passed in 2009. If the President's review was so important, Congress could build in a delay for the repeal to go into effect in December when the review is scheduled to be completed.

Yet, Gibbs has confirmed that the President wants to wait. So what exactly is the White House's strategy? To lose?

Recent Entries Filed under Politics:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Yes, I think it is to "lose". He does not want this to hurt them in the fall elections. But, those are lost before this ever happened anyway so it is completely idiotic Rahm Emanuel style thinking. Obama wants to wait until next year (thus the one year study) and then blame the Repbulicans will be in charge of at least the House for not passing this bill. It must be in the Defense Authorization bill to have any chance in the next two years. This is why I think we must keep reminding "our friends" of this. With friends like this who needs enemies?

He is pandering to the anti-gay forces that are arrayed against him. Any movement on human rights issues are certain to further alienate the extremist elements whom might be incited to violence by the present atmosphere of hate and distrust.

As the tea-bagger movement has shown, extremist elements are starting to come out of the wood-work and Obama doesn't want to be the president to reside over a country in revolution.

But the teabaggers are overwhelmingly in favor of repealing DADT too.

Why? Its called the military/industrial complex and it has been in virtual control of the country since the late seventies. They lost control temporarily towards the end of the Vietnam mess but then regained it quickly.

Yes, I think that is exactly it. So then next year he can blame the mean Republicans for the repeal of DADT not happening.

They're going to play it very, very safe until after the mid-terms.

amandaisfun | April 22, 2010 8:43 PM

Then the excuse will be that they will have to play it safe till the 2012 election.

I thought that HCR was the previous excuse for doing nothing; with that out of the way, progress needs to be made.

And they no doubt will be, because once the mid terms are out of the way, everything will ramp up for the two-year-long campaign for president, just like it did last time. And in that two years, *nothing* conroversial will get done.

We might as well just go into full 24/7 campaign mode in this country.

Michael @ | April 22, 2010 4:32 PM

First, respectfully, I urge you to reality check statements such as "delay Don't Ask Don't Tell until at least next year." That reinforces the prevailing MYTH that repeal will even be DISCUSSED next year AFTER the Dems lose control of Congress. They currently have the largest majority of both houses that any President has had in 30 years, and yet DADT repeal, despite being supported by the majority of Americans of all political persuasions, is stuck in a ditch.

As I've written here before, too few people were alarmed when Candidate Obama began to backtrack in Spring of 2008 on his explicit promise to PERSONALLY fight for repeal and order the Pentagon to begin working on a repeal plan as soon as he took office. At that point he began saying things like:

I have “to earn the trust of the men and women in uniform” before trying to repeal DADT. [Defense News], moving months later to telling “Philadelphia Gay News” that he would not attach “a signing order to a military appropriations bill,” that he want to make sure repeal has “gone through a process and we've built a consensus . . . getting the Joint Chiefs of Staff clear....”

He ignored the recommendation given to his transition team in November 2008 by SLDN after his election that he not keep Bush's Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a consistent opponent of repeal. He also ignored their recommendation that, in the event a standalone repeal bill might not be viable, he put repeal in his defense authorization bill last year.

By his June 2009 Pride proclamation he was speaking of, “ending the EXISTING "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy IN A WAY that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security."

Yet, two weeks a furious boycott of the DNC’s annual LGBT fundraiser erupted following his DOJ’s heinous defense of DOMA [which eclipsed their homophobic defense of DADT a couple of days before], Obama pivoted back to his 2007 eloquence at a hastily-put-together Stonewall celebration: "these [discharges of patriots who often possess critical language skills and years of training and who've served this country well] underscore the URGENCY of reversing this policy not just because it's the right thing to do, but because IT IS ESSENTIAL FOR OUR NATIONAL SECURITY."

BUT moments later, working the crowd of invited, now mostly swooning, LGBTs, he was approached by LT. COL. Victor Fehrenbach who asked the President for help because he had been recommended for discharge. His reply: gonna get it [repeal] done but it's going to take some time because of "generational" differences. So much for "urgency."

Such continued foot dragging justified by a repeat need to coddle the dinosaurs in the Pentagon's Jurassic Park, led DADT expert Nathaniel Frank to write last August:

"President Obama appears to have absorbed an unfortunate—and incorrect—lesson from the Democrats' alienation from the military since Vietnam: that to earn the trust of the brass, the president must plead with the uniforms for a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Yes, Dems must win over the military; no, that is not done by having the president ask permission to act like Commander-in-Chief; it's done by showing the world that the president knows how to lead. Sometimes moral and political leadership really are one and the same. Ending the needless firing of gay troops is one of those times."

And, yet, his inaction since briefly igniting hopes again with his drive-by reference to repeal in his January State of the Union address, has led even the most reluctant of critics, Barney Frank, to first say that Obama has been "ducking" repeal this year then that Obama is outright against it.

His direct reports Gates/Mullen would never have gone before Congress and scare them into NOT putting repeal in DEFAUTH or attempting to repeal in any way until after midterms without the President's permission.

Is there some other issue that he needs Pentagon support for that he exchanged DADT repeal for? In his bubble, he's clearly, but, I believe demonstrably wrongly, been convinced that Dems would lose more votes by supporting repeal than letting it die.

And die it will....for YEARS to come...if he does not personally lobby each Dem member of the Senate and House resisting repeal to support it in the pending DEFAUTH bill.

Norm D Plume | April 22, 2010 4:45 PM

It's actually NOT difficult to understand why the White House would want to delay a repeal of DADT, Joe. At least for those of us who are not suckups to the Democrats. The reality is that the Democratic Party is every bit as homophobic and against lgbt equality as the Republicans. The difference is that the Democrats are willing to give lip service to lgbt rights while the Republicans are not.

THE MEDIA is buzzing about the heckling that President Obama received during his recent speech stumping for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

It appears that GetEQUAL a group co-founded by Lt. Dan Choi--an openly gay serviceman challenging the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy--was vocalizing its less-than-thrilled feelings about President Obama, Sen. Boxer and the Democrats as a whole. President Obama seemed somewhat annoyed and pestered by the group and allowed the crowd to try to drown them out with chants of "Yes we can!"

Come to think of it, that's pretty symbolic of how the Obama administration and Democrats (even the openly gay members of Congress like Barney Frank) seem to feel about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights movement in general. There is a sense of "get in line and wait your turn" when it comes to gay rights.

It leaves members of the LGBT community frustrated, with a feeling of betrayal. The LGBT community came out in droves to vote the Democratic Party into the majority and emptied their pockets as well. Our money was needed immediately, but our rights can wait another five or so years.

We voted the Democratic Party in because they promised equality in the workplace, repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and at least a strong support for civil unions. What we have gotten is the message that the Democrats have bigger fish to fry now.

As the clock ticks down to November, and the best-case scenario is the Democrats will have a smaller majority than they do now, the question of where did "the urgency of now" that Obama and the Democrats capitalized on in 2008 go two years later? The LGBT community was seen as a great donor base and got a lot of rhetoric, but has seen very-little-to-no action. Throwing pittances at us like allowing hospital visitation rights seems, at this point, demeaning, and borders on condescending.

This is the frustrating thing about a two-party system. It always seems to be black and white. What one party is for, the other must be against. But that is not so. The Republicans are openly against LGBT rights--and it seems the Democrats are for them only in words. Since I am a firm believer that actions speak louder than words, when you "listen" carefully, both parties are saying the same thing: no equality for LGBT Americans.

I have seen how the Tea Party movement has taken the Republican Party on and, in all honesty, I envy them. In an already center-right political environment, they have taken the Republican Party and moved them even further to the right. They have made them afraid of not supporting their causes.

I think it's a lesson the left could learn from. It's been a long time since the left stirred some fear of flight from the Democratic Party. It's time for LGBT rights advocates, women's rights advocates, progressives, socialists and all on the left to push further left. It is long overdue for people to "come out" as liberal, progressive and in favor of true equality and laws that rectify inequalities.

It would really be a great day if we could break this two-party system and have several viable parties like they do in all other democracies. GetEQUAL's protest against Obama was a welcome sign that perhaps the left is taking a lesson from the Tea Party movement and is refusing to wait in line any longer for our agenda to be passed--not half-assed health care "reform," or a sprinkling of LGBT rights with talks of "assessing" marriage equality and LGBT inclusion in the military--but true reform for equality in the social and economic arenas.

I hope that after they left the stage someone told Obama and Boxer, "You know, I think that's the sound of you losing your base." They won't get much further without them, but at this point, that could be a good thing.

I want to commend all of you for working so hard and being so strong at helping the whitehouse and congress begin to address our U.S. and Global healthcare crisis. You have been AWESOME! my fellow Americans and peoples of the World. America and the World is better and safer for it. My greatest pride is the knowledge that I am one of you. And that you really get it. You really understand the importance of it all.

There are some potentially very good things in the healthcare legislation. Especially with the reconciliation fix's. The Democrats, Bernie Sanders and the Whitehouse did a GREAT! job of fighting to produce the best healthcare legislation that they could. They have earned all our strong support. And we should give it to them.

But it was your relentless pressure and hard work that made the difference. Whatever good comes from this healthcare legislation, America and the peoples of the World will have each of you to thank. You were smart, creative, courageous and relentless. You fought together for the best legislation possible. And when you had to, you fought alone. No matter who stumbled and fell you continued to push and forge ahead. Fighting for the lives and health of the American people and the World. YOU SHOULD BE PROUD OF YOUR-SELVES :-)

It may come to pass that future generations will look back on us and say that we were ALL Americas Greatest Generations. And that healthcare reform was our finest hour. You should be proud of our leaders President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and the many other Democratic and independent fighters for the people in congress. They proved them-self worthy of the leadership of a GREAT! PEOPLE.

But we are not done yet. This was just the beginning of healthcare reform, not the end. WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES, ARE NOT! divided on healthcare legislation. The vast majority of you have been consistently crystal clear that this legislation does not go far enough. You want a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE!! available to everyone on day one. And you want it NOW! YOU MUST NOT ALLOW AN INDIVIDUAL MANDATE TO STAND WITHOUT A STRONG GOVERNMENT-RUN PUBLIC OPTION CHOICE! AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE.

WE THE PEOPLE have been crystal clear that we want an end to dependence on for-profit healthcare and the for-profit proxies called private for non-profit healthcare. The American people want the CHOICE! of a strong Government-run Public Option to replace their need or dependence on healthcare providers whose primary motivation is profit. Rather than providing the highest quality, easiest accessible and most affordable medically necessary healthcare possible. This is what the rest of the developed World has. And the American people want it too. They want healthcare ASSURANCE! Not, for-profit health insurance. And they want it NOW!

Now is the time to continue the push for a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE! available to everyone that wants it on day one. Rationally it's clear what we have to do to get this done. SUPPORT THE DEMOCRATS that supported you with a Public Option, and REMOVE as many republicans as you can. Not one republican in congress was willing to step across the isle to support a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE!! available to everyone on day one. NOT ONE! Let no candidate prevail this November that does not support a Strong Government-run Public Option.

47,000 AMERICANS die each year from lack of healthcare. 120,000 die from treatable illness that don't die in other developed countries. Hundreds of thousands of you are dieing from medical accidents in a rush to profit. And Millions are injured. Millions are driven into bankruptcy. All for the privilege of paying two to three times as much as any other people in the developed world for healthcare. HOGWASH!

Additionally, tens of thousands of you and your children were killed and millions sickened and injured from a terror attack with H1N1 (swine flu). Released on the American people and the World by the for-profit healthcare industry. All in an attempt to panic and frighten you into accepting the oxymoronic criminal enterprise of private for-profit healthcare (The most costly, deadly, dangerous, and disgraceful product sold in America). H1N1 is still sickening people and killing them. Especially children, the young and the middle aged. And there will be a third wave. These are the terrorist you need to worry about the most. Even the so-called international terrorist would not do something so INSANE! But greed driven medical profiteers would and did.

Apparently as far as republicans in GOVERNMENT are concerned, YOU! my fellow Americans - CAN JUST DROP DEAD! Including their own family members. Fools! Hundreds of thousands of you, and possibly millions of you will die from the long-term effects of your infection and poisoning with H1N1.

So my fellow Human Beings. Rest-up, Take good care of the basics (Balanced nutrition, hydration, exercise, rest and POSITIVE emotional supports). Then wade back into the FIGHT! for a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one. Drug re-importation, Abolishment or strong restrictions on patents for biologic and prescription drugs. And government controlled and negotiated drug and medical cost, NOW! You must take back control of your healthcare system from the Medical Industrial Complex. This is a matter of National and Global security. There can be NO MORE EXCUSES.

God Bless You My Fellow Human Beings. I'm glad to know of you. And proud to be one of you.

See you on the battle field.


jacksmith - WorkingClass :-)

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | April 25, 2010 5:13 PM

"when Democrats get scared, they don't act boldly. They cower." Joe Sudbay, AmericaBlog


On every major political subject Democrats and Republicans have more in common than not.

McCain and Obama both supported passage of prop 8 by helping mobilize the bigot vote against us. The both defend DADT and DOMA.

They both support the racist wars and occupations in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On class issues they agree about giving handout/bailouts to the rich, busting unions, and both oppose health care reform. Both favor greater environmental damage by giving the oil companies free reins for offshore drilling.

A Republican is a rancid right centrist with a theocrat attached at the hip. A Democrat is a Republican in drag. With Democrats like this who needs Republicans?

.The looter rich much prefer working with Democrats like Obama and the Clintons - they're greedier, they fool more people and they're able to get away with a lot more than Republicans.

And coming in after the long comments... me!

I have no idea at this point why the White House is delaying this issue. If they had gotten ENDA through, they could at least say "we're going to far." but they haven't done much so that's just silly.

I don't know. Technically, under the constitution, it's up to congress to start this whole thing up and send a repeal bill to the president, but they seem to think they can sit on their laurels now after all the nothing they've been doing.

The thing is, the arguments about why big ticket items aren't being won by the left, like health care and CIR and finance reform, don't apply to DADT and ENDA. What industry opposes us there? Are the religious right folks really dumping that much money into Congress on those issues? Or is it just that Dems have been so trained in conservatism that they can't break out of it now? Or do they just really not like gays? who knows.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | April 26, 2010 5:42 AM

"... don't apply to DADT and ENDA. What industry opposes us there?"

It's kinda obvious.

If employment discrimination, which includes unfair hiring, firing and wage and benefit differentials comes to an end who's the net loser?

We win and all the employers who make extra profit paying lower wages lose. Those are mainly non-union employers in every industry.