Austen Crowder

A squeeze play on DADT repeal?

Filed By Austen Crowder | May 02, 2010 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Congress, Don't Ask Don't Tell, pentagon, politics, repeal, robert gates, Senate, White House

DADT is quickly becoming a big hot-potato issue on the hill. It seems that everyone wants to avoid taking action the bill; the Dems turn to the president, the Republicans turn a blind eye to the issue, the military wants a study, and Obama is standing with his hands firmly in his pockets, waiting for someone else to make the first move. Meanwhile, LGBT groups are turning up the heat on legislators,

Secretary Gates has upped the ante, however, with yesterday's comments to a house committee. Says the AP:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is warning Congress not to tamper with the military's ban on openly gay service members until he can come up with his own plan for repeal. In a strongly worded letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Gates told a House committee on Friday that forcing policy changes on the military before it's ready "would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns and perspectives do not matter."

On the surface, this seems like business as usual on the Hill. Everyone is passing the buck, trying to run out the clock on potentially controversial legislation. Even with LGBT groups actively practicing non-violent civil disobedience on the hill, keeping the issue fresh in the minds of the media, the run-the-clock mentality still continues to drive legislation

However, there may be a better explanation for the weak show on drafting a law. DADT may be preparing to steal home by a squeeze play.

Press releases are all over the place in regards to DADT, from lobby groups to legislators alike. I'd like to point out two specific releases that caught my attention. From D-NY Kirsten Gillibrand:

I respectfully disagree with Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen [. . .] Congress should not sit on their hands. Now is the time for Congress to show strong leadership and repeal this disastrous policy.

And from Speaker Pelosi:

We all look forward to the report on the review of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy by the Defense Department. In the meantime, the Administration should immediately place a moratorium on dismissals under this policy until the review has been completed and Congress has acted.

Straightforward requests, for sure, but Obama seems content to let the Pentagon take the driver's seat on this policy. There is little chance of a moratorium in the future, and little chance that he will act on the issue anytime soon.

It's no secret that DADT faces the threat of filibuster in the Senate. Despite overwhelming support by the American public, and slam-dunk passage in the house, getting the bill the 60% vote it will require for passage in the Senate will be a tall order. Without the votes, there's no reason to move on the bill, right? Better to let the people protest and get angry than worry about trying to pass controversial legislation.

There is a way around the filibuster, however, in slipping DADT repeal into the defense budget. What if - and this is only if - legislators are actually banking on the increased pressure to push the repeal effort into the budget? We saw a similar strategy with ENDA this year: while the activist community was convinced that ENDA was once again dead in the water we are suddenly back in the game. Perhaps DADT repeal is "playing possum" in a similar way to avoid attracting too much controversy and attention.

This would jive with the HRC's promise of repeal within the year. Who knows? Old Joe may still know something we don't. Maybe this non-action on drafting a law is just a bunt to sneak the bill into the defense budget. Only time will tell.

In the meantime, we need to keep hounding our representatives on the issue. If our support tapers off, so will their will to vote!

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I've another interpretation:

The Commandant of the Marine Corps has already announced that he will not follow the repea fo DADT and will segregate L/G Marines

If DADT is repealed, the President will have to sack the Commandant for insubordination, with a subsequently hugel political fallout(despite the precedent fo Rummy sacking Generals who were unenthusiastic about Iraq, warning that it would be a quagmire)

This President hates loud and angry confrontations with anyone except us, and he really doesn't deal with us, only his annointed "Gay Czar," Mr Solmonese

One way or another, it is up the the Commander in Chief to order DADT be stopped, in all branches of the service. Truman and Eisenhower had to order each branch to conform to desegrataion, and did fire a branch chief to do so. No problem, our military is civilian controlled, although there is one guy who doesn't seem to realize that.

[1] Those in power clearly see that DADT repeal will lead directly towards the fall of DOMA and either the passing of ENDA or some accomodation within the federal rules/regualtions as it pertains to employment and EEO statements so as to mirror ENDA across the board.

[2] The various pol’s are posturing to their constituents like they always do. They have to ramp up the retoric so people will actually come to the polls to vote.

[3] The president is a bad leader. There I said it. If I can’t see him lead, then he’s not leading. For things like this, he needs to be seen clearly DOING something concrete and public. So far he’s only talked and not really acted. Talking to cameras is not directing Congress, talking to the Joint Cheifs of Staff in a state of the union addres is not giving orders. Letting the Secratery of Defense talk about delay with out saying anything is not leading… its following. I didn’t vote for someone to follow, I voted for them to lead. ….NEXT!

[4] With the actions of this congress of babies (all of the republicans are in their second diaper clad babyhood) nothing is getting done at all. This alone will become known as ‘The Do Nothing Congress’ in the history books. With the least amount of legislation completed prior to the next president. Because if the republicans do take back congress then the president will veto a lot of thier work. 4 years wasted.

Two weeks ago, St Barney told us that ENDA would move out of committee "this week, maybe next".

The House Education and Labor committee, according to their website, had no plans for markup of ENDA.

Two weeks later, they still don't.

The surprise "last-second postponement" of a markup scheduled for 18th November 2009 has now lasted 6 months. With no indication - no reliable indication anyway, that the postponement won't be indefinite.

"Dead in the water" describes it exactly, and St Barney was either lying through his teeth, or being played.

I think the latter - because his statements are usually hedged with caveats. This time, he was confident.

Michael @ | May 2, 2010 12:24 PM

With respect, it's NOT in the "defense budget" that DADT repeal advocates are pushing for [as many did last SLDN representatives meeting with Obama's transistion team a week before his inauguration ask that he do LAST year].

It's "defense authorization" [DEFAUTH] entirely separate bill, though not always voted on in the logical order of "authorize to spend" and "allocate to spend" [budget].

As Servicemembers United head Alex Nicholson recently wrote on "The Huffington Post," it's important we speak accurately about the process in order to be taken seriously by Congress.

As for "playing possum," I'm sorry but that perspective is woefully out of date. Except for reference to Gates finally fully ripping off his mask of a phony repeal advocate and hyperventilating and beginning to splutter with a German accent like Dr. Strangelove, this piece fits facts that stopped being true months ago.

The last month has been ALL about DEFAUTH, climaxing in not just Gates' No Repeal Before the Study Is Completed demand [which means NO inclusion in DEFAUTH because the process is typically finished by early Oct. and his phony "study" won't be "completed" until Dec. 1st], but a White House statement endorsing Gate's meltdown, and, thus, in terms of political reality NO attempt at repeal before at least 2013.

As for ENDA, job protection is the only issue that polls higher than lifting the military ban and there's no giant, powerful, worshipped-by-the-public institution like the Pentagon opposing it, so it's even harder for me to understand the political cowardice on passing it than on DADT repeal.

would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns and perspectives do not matter

Does he think it's a democracy now? Did they take a vote of what active military thought before they invaded Iraq?

It's just silliness. They want to wait until after the midterms for political reasons.

Amen to that Alex. That has been obvious since the President originally came out and backed his secretary of defense on this issue. He can't reverse that stance without losing credibility and it should have been accepted long ago that DADT repeal is dead in 2010.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 3, 2010 2:30 AM

War Secretary Gates sent a letter to the House Armed Services Committee warning them a repeal "would send a very damaging message to our that in essence their views, concerns and perspectives do not matter." Gates is way out of line dictating to Congress and for proposing a military plebiscite to influence whether or not all citizens have the same rights.

That letter is as troubling as the latest betrayal by 'fierce defender'.

When Clinton originally proposed an end to military discrimination he and Congressional Democrats caved and accepted the bigotry of Obama supporter Colin Powell and bigots like Democrat Senator Sam Nunn. Clinton, an abject coward regarding the rights of GLBT citizens, turned the original bill on its head and codified military bigotry in the form of DADT. It was the first of many Clinton betrayals.

That's very similar to what's happening now. Although this is not Obama's first, or last, betrayal. The difference between Obama and Pelosi is that she's up for reelection in a district that won't take kindly to retaining Clinton's DADT. Our communities in SF are capable of challenging, independently or in her own backward party, during the next election. Obama has no such problem.

DADT passed both house with big bipartisan majorities, except in this case some Republicans voted against Clinton's DADT thinking it wasn't hurtful enough.

The truth is that Congress, not the head of the War department, is elected to make laws but in this late stage of the Imperial Presidency – National Security State they're as worthless as the Roman Senate during the late stages of that Republic.
This reflect the wisdom of the classic socialist thesis, proven time and again, that when society becomes deeply polarized and deadlocked there's an inherent tendency on the part of the repressive bodies of the state - the military, the national and local police to begin to rise above society and acquire a certain independence. They overtly interfere in civil affairs and begin to issue ultimata to civil institutions. They build a massive prison system and then concentration camps. They engage in kidnapping. torture and murder, although at first on a small scale. They create a massive network of internal spies and use the latest technology to spy on dissidents and potential dissidents.

Sound a bit familiar?

Theodore Hayes | May 3, 2010 7:13 AM

I sent the following to the President:

As a 79-year-old veteran who is gay, I was pleased to hear that you were not happy with the new police state law of Arizona.

I was pleased that on the day of the enactment, you were strongly critical of it.

I was astonished at the event where you delivered these remarks! It was at the naturalization ceremony where military personnel were being sworn in as citizens of the US.

Do you not find this strange that non-citizens can serve openly in our military while our gay citizens cannot?

Repeal DADT. Please.

This is nuts. Will Obama lead the military or will they lead him?

Aubrey Haltom | May 3, 2010 12:49 PM

My initial reaction to Gates' directive was anger and more frustration. In reading some different blogs on the issue I found the following comment.
A gay Vietnam veteran ('Tom" - from Tammy Baldwin's district) writes often on a 'conservative' gay site.
I don't know if I buy into 'Tom's' analysis, but it seemed to offer a different perspective.
I should also note that 'Tom' is not an Obama apologist.

"Instead of working with senior commanders and treating the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military as military problem needing a solution, Clinton tried to impose a political solution on the military. It blew up in his face. In my view, what put the nail in Clinton's coffin was opposition from senior military officials like then JCS Colin Powell. The result was DADT.

Notice that the situation was quite different this time around -- Admiral Mullen moved with speed, clarity and deftness in the wake of the State of the Union address.

We don't know what factored into Admiral Mullen's readiness. A good part of it seems to be his personal conviction that DADT is harmful to military integrity, but it is obvious that the groundwork had been carefully laid by someone for the way in which the issue was handled in the weeks immediately following the State of the Union.

It is possible, as you suggest, that President Obama sat on his ass on DADT during his first year in office. But it looks to me like President Obama spent the year working with Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen to lay necessary groundwork.

I wish that this were moving faster. You are impatient. I am too. I've been waiting for forty-odd years, since the days of Vietnam, for the ban on gays and lesbians serving on the same terms and conditions as straights to come to an end. I want this done, and I do understand your impatience. But I think that it is misplaced, and I think that moving by fiat will create a catastrophe.

I don't think that you have a full appreciation of what DADT repeal will mean for gays and lesbians and social conservatives, or how hard and bitter this fight is going to be as a result.

DADT repeal, in a political sense, the ballgame in our struggle for equality under the law. If we win this, we will, eventually, win everything. The reason I think this is that I believe that the American people will not long tolerate unwarranted discrimination against Americans who are putting their lives on the line for this country.

I believe that DADT repeal will be a game-changer because, within a relatively short period of time, open service will result in the American people seeing that gay and lesbian Americans shoulder the toughest responsibility of citizenship -- military service in time of war -- right alongside straight Americans, serving as courageously and honorably.

Consider this: DADT and the ban that preceded DADT both had the effect of keeping the gays and lesbians who serve off the radar of the American people. As a result, few know that 20% of gay men are veterans. The ban and DADT didn't stop gay and lesbian Americans from serving; it merely stopped their service and their sacrifice from being recognized or acknowledged.

DADT repeal will bring the service and sacrifice of gay and lesbian Americans into the light, and once that happens, Americans will, inevitably, become less receptive to the myth that gays and lesbians are out of the mainstream of American life, seeking the benefits of citizenship without sharing the responsibilities of citizenship.

I think that social conservatives understand how critical DADT will be to the larger struggle. In contrast, I suspect that moderates and liberals see DADT repeal as a peripheral matter, a political issue of no more importance than ENDA or hate crimes legislation. I think that is a misunderstanding.

Because they understand what is at stake, social conservatives are going to fight to the last ditch on this issue, pulling out all the stops. Despite the support evidenced by the polls, this battle could be easily lost, because we know how effective the lies, fright-mongering and diversionary tactics of social conservatives can be when it comes to gays and lesbians. We saw that in the fight over Proposition 8 and in the various amendment battles. If you want, you can look back to the threads on DADT in this forum during the last month or so and you'll see enough FUD to last a lifetime.

I believe that DADT will be repealed. But if DADT is going to be repealed, both the military and the American people are going to have to support repeal through the coming shit-storm created by social conservatives. I think that President Obama is going about this the right way, politically. When the time comes, he is going to have, I believe, an unassailable position on DADT repeal.

And, when DADT is repealed, it has to be implemented successfully.

This isn't simple."

ps I hope it is acceptable to post a comment from another blog site on TBP. I didn't want to try and reword 'Tom's' language. And as noted, I'm not sure I am as optimistic as he is.
But I found his analysis to be thoughtful and provocative.

Aubrey I believe he is correct in much of what he says. However there is a critical flaw and it reads this way. The top military brass has been serving since Carter was president and they know the reality of swings in Congressional makeup. President Obama, though very smart, has been suckered. It was a fluke that the senate ended up in Democrat control with 60 votes for a short time, It is highly likely that by December control will be back in a Republican column and then repeal of DADT is dead because it will never come to a senate vote. I hope I'm wrong but every president since Hoover has been maneuvered by the military including Ike who issued his famous warning as he retired.