Sunday, January 31, 2010

Another Obama False Promise?

I went on CNN last night (the clip is at the bottom of this post) and tried to sound the alarm that we're getting bad signals from the White House and Defense Department. We're seeing contradictions both in what President Obama implied in his State of the Union address on "don't ask, don't tell" and in what Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mullen has expressed in the past with regard to how repeal would take place.

Many thought that President Obama's pledge in the SOTU to "this year" work with the military and the Congress to repeal DADT meant that it would actually be repealed this year. But as is too often the case with this administration on LGBT rights, taking the president at what seemed like his word is expecting too much. Obama had built in his wiggle room to stretch this out for years: "this year" he would "work with Congress and our military to finally repeal," he said, which I guess the White House would say is different from working to repeal this year.

Indeed, now we see further evidence that this pledge is yet another stalling tactic from the president. In an AP story and in a a blog post on The Hill we see more details about an announcement on DADT that will come from Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen in Senate hearings on Tuesday -- an announcement many got excited about, including many in the media who hyped it -- and it looks like they'll be telling us how they're going to drag this out. I could be wrong, and perhaps there will be details that counter what we're hearing. Well know on Tuesday. But so far it looks troubling.

Apparently they will announce another study, a "special investigation," which could take years to complete -- though we've had study after study showing there would be no problem with "unit cohesion" -- and which could focus on straight and gay men showering together and other lurid and sensational issues, which will no doubt be used by the right to scare the public and deflate those polls showing overwhelming support for repeal. It's 1993 all over again.

Meanwhile, according to the AP report, there isn't likely to be a vote in Congress this year -- something spineless Democrats would no doubt be very happy about -- since Congress would have to wait for the new DOD study, which again, could take years. That could even mean putting this off until Obama's certainly-not-assured second term. This is a direct contradiction to what Barney Frank and others have said, in describing a plan to make DADT repeal an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill voted on in 2010.

It's also a direct contradiction to what Admiral Mullen has expressed, viewing the Pentagon as needing to follow Congress's lead on this and not the other way around. At West Point in May of 2008 Mullen expressed the view "that Congress, and not the military, is responsible for [DADT]." In his Senate confirmation hearings in 2007, Mullen said, "I really think it is for the American people to come forward, really through this body, to both debate that policy and make changes, if that's appropriate." He went on to say, "I'd love to have Congress make its own decisions" with respect to considering repeal. But now Mullen is on board with having the Pentagon lead, with yet another lengthy study, apparently before Congress acts.

This is nothing but more stalling, more foot-dragging by President Obama while men and women will continue to be discharged from the military based on their sexual orientation. It also means that, if ENDA is dead, as some suggest, that LGBT people are getting nothing in 2010.