Do Obama’s Private Promises on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Matter?

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obama letter.jpg
Second Lietenant Sandy Tsao is being discharged from the military for informing her chain of command that she is gay. She wrote in a letter to President Obama that she could not live according to one of the “seven army values” of personal integrity and not be truthful about the issue — even though a legal provision of the military, passed by Congress, and signed by President Clinton promotes and protects a safer choice for gay military staff: duplicity.
Remarkably, Sandy Tsao received the letter from Obama above.
Handwritten, Barack Obama’s letter reads:

Sandy – Thanks for the wonderful and thoughtful letter. It is because of outstanding Americans like you that I committed to changing our current policy. Although it will take some time to complete (partly because it needs Congressional action) I intend to fulfill my commitment. — Barack Obama

Obama’s administration has been silent on the expansion of same sex marriage — and his White House team has in an Orwellian, image-shifting way softened the language on the president’s website about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The Rick Warren inaugural invocation still rankles.
But we have the private letter to Sandy Tsao — who despite Barack Obama’s own views is about to lose her job. Dan Choi is too.
I hope that David Geffen gets on the phone to the President and to Rahm Emanuel and tells them that this is not an issue that they can leave way back in the White House closet.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

27 comments on “Do Obama’s Private Promises on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Matter?

  1. STAN MORRIS says:

    PRESIDENT OBAMA IS DOING ONE HELL OF A JOB. AFTER ALL HE WALKED IN TO THE BIGGEST MISMANAGED GOVERNMENT IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. BUSH SHOULD BE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE TO ACCOUNT FOR NOT DOING ANYTHING AT ALL, BUT DRIVING THE COUNTRY IN THE GROUND. HE STARTED A WAR TO COVER THE SPENDING OR SHOULD I SAY FILLING THE POCKETS OF ALL HIS MEMBERS. IT MAKES ME SICK THAT BUSH IS NOT IN JAIL. SO PRESIDENT OBAMA, IS DOING A GREAT JOB CLEANING UP AFTER THAT ASS HOLE BUSH.

    Reply

  2. DonS says:

    “Reid’s application of the law only works for the elite”
    Ain’t it the truth. I just sent off a check to the IRS for a penalty they slapped on us for an inadvertant ommission. I had protested the penalty with a variety of appraoches, all of which I knew would be dismissed out of hand. But, you know, I just felt like not knuckling under to the Internal Revenue Screwers without having my say. Of course, had I chosen to protest even further, or witheld immediate payment, I was sternly reminded that even more penalties could be assessed.
    A country of laws. Indeed.

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  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Yeah, well we are talking about Reid here. Should it be suprising that the wimpy mewling piece of shit contradicts himself in a chain of two sentences? He and Pelosi, and for that matter, Harman, are truly embarrassing as high mucky mucks of the Democratic party. After eight years of cowardice and complicity, these slimey posturing ghouls are quaking in their panties that the American public will find out just how hand in hand they were in abetting the atrocities and abuses of the Bush Administration.
    We will NEVER see any kind of accountability or honest investigation, because the bipartisanship that really exists is the bipartisanship of criminality and corruption that is endemic in Washington DC.
    Steve asks about promises “mattering”. They don’t matter anymore, because these bastards have broken so many that they no longer deserve, or have, the trust of the American people. Both sides of the aisle have proven themselves to be loathsome liars and political opportunists. Obama’s stellar record of not living up to a myriad of campaign promises is just one more reminder that this charade known as “representative government” died on the vine a long time ago. Reid’s two opposing sentences are no different than similiar dichotomies that can be found in Obama statements from one day to the next. They have become so accustomed to feeding us shit, that it just flows out of them unabashedly, portraying a brazen disrepect for the intelligence of their constituency.
    We are a nation of laws, that are best, at times, ignored. Thats Reid’s message. I’ll be sure to remind the judge of “Reid’s law” if I’m ever in legal trouble.
    Oh, oops, almost forgot, Reid’s application of the law only works for the elite. Me? Well, they’ll throw my ass in jail if I ignore the law.

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  4. Linda says:

    Questions,
    Thanks, feel free to drift on in self-defense–just hard sometimes to follow the drift.
    I’m getting ready to go be honored as Mom and Grammy and was just wondering about the socially and politically correct celebration of Mother’s Day for gay couples with kids (and lesbian couples too). How do you celebrate? Only Father’s Day with two dads, and only Mother’s Day with two moms?
    Of course, both are just made up by commercial interests to sell greeting cards, flowers, etc.
    But in this economy, perhaps we should encourage spending more if people can do that.

    Reply

  5. DonS says:

    on DADT, McCain checks in for the throwbacks, thinks it’s working just fine:
    http://thinkprogress.org/2009/05/10/mccain-dont-ask-dont-tell/

    Reply

  6. DonS says:

    As long as this seems to be an openish thread, I was interested in the increasing depth that Harry Reid seems to be inserting his foot in his mouth as evidenced by this interview, linked by Jonathan Turley. On the subject of torture, violation of international law, etc.,Reid opines:
    Reid: Something everyone has to weigh is this, we’re a nation of laws and no one can dispute that, but I think what we have to, the hurdle we have to get over is whether we want to go after people like Cheney. That’s a decision that has to be made….
    Brown: …Isn’t it our obligation if he’s violated the law … ?
    Reid: There are a lot of decisions that are made that are right that may not be absolutely totally within the framework of law.
    http://jonathanturley.org/2009/05/10/reid-torture-might-have-been-illegal-but-still-right-thing-to-do/
    Anyway I read this is unacceptable. I understand the continuing wish of many politicians for the whole issue to go away — the various ways in which the establishment has been complicit in enabling Bush/Cheney et al to have their way, legal or not. But to sacrifice the rule of law, in the most fundamental ways, to avoid having their own responsibility, however tangential or fundamental, examined is beyond understanding.
    The continuing failure of leaders, republican and democrat, to pull back the curtain on the past eight years of disgraceful capitulation to fear and control over an open society, get’s worse the longer it goes on.
    Come to think of it, control over individuals versus and openness isn’t so very off topic here.

    Reply

  7. questions says:

    “How do you live with yourself with all that crap milling around in your thought center, shorting out your synapses?”
    Well, somebody’s gotta do it…. Might as well be me, I guess.
    Termite? Ok. You’re the expert, so I guess you know what I am.
    xkcd link was provided for anyone interested. Sorry you don’t like it. There are numerous references to Joss Whedon tv shows (Buffy, Doll House) I don’t watch, but I know people who do watch, so I catch some of the refs. Lots of math, some programming, general culture…. Wouldn’t call it crap. He’s a pretty smart guy, and is well loved by the fivethirtyeight dot com people for whatever that is worth.
    Linda, sorry about the topic drift. Neo Controll made me do it by calling me a shill for Israel. And if someone is going to call me a shill for Israel, well, that someone better be me! Drift will happen.

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  8. Barnes T Barnes says:

    Actually I’m with Bill Hicks on the question of gays in the military: “ANYONE dumb enough to want to be in the military should be allowed in”.
    If killing kids is good enough for hetros then it’s also good enough for homos.

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  9. Linda says:

    Steve,
    Great going when you post this letter from Obama on Saturday, and George Stepanopoulos asks General Jim Jones, Obama’s NSC advisor, about it Sunday a.m.! Of course, he answered that they keep studying the issue, i.e., a non-answer.
    Almost everybody else above,
    Somehow I couldn’t follow much of this thread that is all over the place–NRA, neos, cockroach, AIPAC. I thought this thread was about “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
    Well, George did ask, and Jim didn’t tell us anything but good intentions…
    Linda

    Reply

  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Cockroach”, eh? Yes, I had forgotten about that.
    Would you mind terribly if I rebranded that label, and substituted “termite”? After all, Israel’s impact on our nation closely parallels the impact these tenacious little buggers have on the structural integrity of infected dwellings.
    And no, I don’t follow “xkcd”. I briefly browsed a number of pages, and most of the humor, and meaning, went whooooosh, right over the top of my seemingly unenlightened and inadequate pea brain. Thank God.
    How do you live with yourself with all that crap milling around in your thought center, shorting out your synapses?

    Reply

  11. questions says:

    http://xkcd.com/552/
    If you don’t read xkcd, you should. This one illustrates my point nicely.

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  12. questions says:

    Haven’t seen work that SHOWS that lobbying works the way you want, except of course, for W and M. But since they are a)writing way outside their field, and b)have been critiqued in intelligent ways by many, I give them less credence.
    Re insects — the whole cockroach thing? Remember now? Oh, and non-insect-ish was the whole lying.dissembling/obfuscating thang.
    The correlation/causation issue is a huge problem in trying to figure out what’s going on with lobbying. Does the money gravitate to the like-minded, or does the money cause the like-mindedness in the first place. Near as I can tell, there’s not yet a good answer. What one sees is money and like-mindedness tending to correlate.
    Think about the NRA — ooohhhh, POWERFUL lobby. Has managed to withstand campus shootings and the deaths of a lot of Chicago Public Schools students. The Brady Bill was a minor blip. The NRA spends lots of money, has lots of slogans (guns don’t kill….) and seems to control the gun discourse in the country.
    Except, of course, lots of people in this country love themselves some guns for whatever reason. Lots of people like shooting living things, non-living things, and making the one become the other.
    Now, is the NRA CAUSING the pro-gun votes, following the pro-gun votes, making people love themselves the guns, or merely helping to organize the gun nuts, or even simply representing gun dealers? Maybe it’s a mix of all of these. But it’s hard to deny that lots of citizens love their guns, some people don’t care about gun laws at all, and others are passionate about regulation of fire arms. The NRA view has won because so many love guns. There’s a representational side to the NRA’s action.
    Now, in my mind, no one should want a gun. Guns DO kill people. Guns CAUSE suicides that wouldn’t happen absent a fire arm and a lack of supervision. Guns kill little kids, spouses and neighbors mistaken for burglars. Guns very bad. It’s obvious to me. As obvious at the I/P situation is for you. I’m on the losing side of things here. But I don’t rail at the NRA. I wish people thought differently, valued life differently. I don’t see deep conspiracy in the NRA. I see a normal lobby group that is highly effective at moving and shaping discourse.
    AIPAC is effective. BUT, AIPAC’s goals run in tandem with arms manufacturers, job creation in many congressional districts, partisan voters of various sorts across the country, Islamophobia, vague Biblical narratives, and the like. What causes what, then?
    Can’t see anything crazy in this description, but maybe you do. Point it out. Show an alternative. I’m more convinceable than you realize. Why, I’m beginning to think that a series of murder trials, NOT torture trials, might be highly effective. Murder is a clearer crime and possibly can’t be defined away by government memos.

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  13. AndrewMeh says:

    To answer Steve’s question, the answer is no – they don’t matter. All that matters is that he hasn’t done what it takes to change the policy. His “personal views” may be something nice to read about in say, his biography. But to say “I’m the I’m the president and I can’t do anything about this” doesn’t seem very convincing.

    Reply

  14. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “It’s a tendency to trust academic studies…..”
    As long as they support your spin. Of course, “academic studies” that run counter to your distorted take on actual evidence are filed under the heading of “conspiracy theories”.
    Have I assigned an insect label to you? I don’t really recall. Can you refresh my memory? (I might want to use it again.)
    Smile man, admit it, you love trying to take the level of intellectuality over my head. Just like I love nippin’ at your heels.
    But be careful, you keep distorting reality, and I might be forced to bring Carlos Castenada into this mix. Hah! Plato is no match for Mescalito!

    Reply

  15. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Well neo,….blahbla…spit…blah blaaaa.”
    Well, Angels, considering your comment, its obvious you didn’t bother to read this thread, or you woulda got it right. So I guess we gotta assume you just dropped in from the Marshmellow Collective to make an ass of yourself.

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  16. questions says:

    It’s not “unwavering denial”. It’s a tendency to trust academic studies, distrust journalism, and wonder about the many differences between the two. I take super seriously the “causation is not correlation” idea. What I see re AIPAC is a lot of correlations and no clear proof of causation. It doesn’t mean that there is no causation. It means that so far, all I’ve seen is correlation. And I’ve read numerous works that provide other possible explanations for the correlative relationship.
    I read something about the housing bubble that suggested that the quant people had a hard time valuing risk to real estate investments. Then someone found a correlative set of numbers and they ran with it. But, correlation isn’t causation, and in fact the numbers they used to evaluate risk weren’t causal. The bubble ran for a long time and so the numbers worked for a long time and seemed pretty certain. But alas, correlation isn’t causation, the numbers were merely correlative, and the bubble burst. If the quants had been as suspicious of correlation as I am, then maybe they’d have done things a bit differently.
    So I have deep uncertainty. You don’t seem to.
    And in terms of the exaggeration of your view of me, I think I generally paraphrase and/or quote your language. So where’s the exaggeration? You’ve certainly used plenty of insect and excretion related terms, you’ve accused me of being a hasbarista.
    And as for my “utter contempt for evidence” –actually it’s utterly the opposite. I have a deep deep respect for evidence and rational argument and structured proofs of things. And the deepest respect of all goes to “correlation is not causation.”

    Reply

  17. angels81 says:

    Well neo, you really have been put in your place. How dare you you go against anything POA say’s when it comes to Israel. Only he knows what is really going on, and everybody else just doesn’t have a clue.

    Reply

  18. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Yes indeed, Neo, you and POA really have figured me out. I deal in paranoia, Israel-shilling hasbarism, and I’m intellectually dishonest on a on a fence, to boot”
    Oh, put a cork in it. Your tongue in cheek exaggerations about how I perceive you are getting old.
    Fact is, questions, your unwavering denial about the power of the various Israeli lobby groups does render your motives and your arguments as suspect. Particularly in light of recent events that really underscore how much sway AIPAC has over Congress.
    And yes, questions, I do find intellectual dishonesty as an option that would explain your utter contempt for evidence that is blatant and glaring.

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  19. DavidT says:

    I understand your impatience with Obama on this issue Steve. However I think you would make a more compelling case here and in the previous posting on this issue if you engaged in the tradeoffs involved in Obama pursuing a change in “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at this very moment.
    I’m not saying he shouldn’t do what you suggest. It just would be nice if you engaged more in grappling with his perspective that on his radar at the moment is jobs, jobs, and jobs as San Francisco’s Nancy Pelosi recently argued.
    Our president seems to be avoiding as much as possible energizing the right and those more moderate that might be sympathetic with them on this issue. This might be cowardly in your view or it might be prudent as it could be argued that gays as well as straights have a big stake in health care reform, energy and climate change initiatives, as well as financial reform.
    He’s not likely to pay the price Clinton did on this issue but in looking back 16 years might there not be lessons in how to handle this issue (i.e. very very carefully, prodding progress and the various marriage rights state initiatives and even some reasonable words on gay rights issues from a Republican governor of Utah and pursuing it more vigorously after having success on other major initiatives that might be sunk if he alienates enough moderates)?

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  20. liz says:

    Yes the President’s promises matter. Every single one of them.
    Please note that he has not updated any US Attorney’s and it’s May. The Department of Justice is still basically a non functioning dinosaur.
    Many of Bush’s loyalists are still in place. Take a good hard look around and ask yourself what DID change?
    But promises, yes it’s even more important for Obama to live up to his after what this nation has just gone through.

    Reply

  21. Don Bacon says:

    A suggestion to help Barack Obama fulfill his commitments: Appoint Sandy Tsao as Director of Value-based Initiatives, and start with these:
    The Seven Army Values
    Loyalty
    Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. constitution, the Army, and other soldiers.
    Be loyal to the nation and its heritage.
    Duty
    Fulfill your obligations.
    Accept responsibility for your own actions and those entrusted to your care.
    Find opportunities to improve oneself for the good of the group.
    Respect
    Rely upon the golden rule.
    How we consider others reflects upon each of us, both personally and as a professional organization.
    Selfless Service
    Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own.
    Selfless service leads to organizational teamwork and encompasses discipline, self-control and faith in the system.
    Honor
    Live up to all the Army values
    Integrity
    Do what is right, legally and morally.
    Be willing to do what is right even when no one is looking.
    It is our “moral compass” an inner voice.
    Personal Courage
    Our ability to face fear, danger, or adversity, both physical and moral courage.

    Reply

  22. Clay says:

    This is great stuff, Steve. This was a major commitment during his push for the Presidency. It’s time to step up to the plate. No more excuses, Mr. Obama.

    Reply

  23. questions says:

    Neo Controll,
    You’ve found me out!!!! Now that the truth is out that I am a troll (of the concern variety) and a shill and I don’t believe anything I write, and I made up the whole thing about political concern about controlling the military (no nation has EVER actually had this issue, and even if some nation somewhere on the planet has been through something akin to a military coup, it could NEVER happen here. We’re the exception to every single political concern there’s ever been) and I lied about caring about another single human being or incident of human suffering on the planet, PHEW, I can finally speak my mind (not that I have one). Yes indeed, Neo, you and POA really have figured me out. I deal in paranoia, Israel-shilling hasbarism, and I’m intellectually dishonest on a on a fence, to boot. You forgot the insect and excrescence imagery, though. Perfect your technique, please!
    WRAHR,
    I think that Obama is really doing what he can given the discourse in this country. It doesn’t take a lot to spark rightwing paranoia, though I have to admit, Hannity, Limbaugh et al look pretty sad lately. But I think that slower, more Congress-centered policy shifts carry much greater legitimacy, and troll that Neo above thinks I am, I actually think political legitimacy is a huge issue, and in a nation with popular sovereignty, the people need to agree. And if we’re going to have a military, the military needs to go along with the program. They would seem to be mostly there, but perhaps not quite.
    In a representational political system, there will always be tension between the “right” thing and the “popular” thing, and we really have to watch it on forcing the right thing on people. The Constitution is set up to balance these issues, but that means that stupid and immoral, but popular, views reign for longer than I’d like. I still think the alternatives are probably worse.

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  24. WRAHR says:

    There is a huge difference between what Clinton attempted with
    a Republican congress and the public opinion not favorable 15
    years ago and what Obama faces in the landscape of 2009. Bill
    Clinton used his election political capital in an attempt to ban all
    discrimination in the military and was destroyed by the media,
    the Republicans and even many Democrats.
    Obama has been given a pass by the media for mostly all of his
    neglected “boneheaded” campaign rhetoric. From FISA,
    lobbyists in the government, earmarks, no full lifting of ban on
    stem cell research (only fertility clinic leftovers), date certain for
    leaving Iraq -even-for goodness sake- getting a shelter dog.
    Gays in the military may seem like an unimportant issue in
    magnitude compared to all the many problems confronting us
    but for many it is their life and it is part of the trickle down
    towards our nation’s attitude concerning human rights.
    I don’t see anything courageous so far about Obama (Axelrod et
    al) Hoping that it will come -unfortunately there is no basis in
    fact or history for being optimistic. If it helps his political image
    it will go through -if not- next group under the bus.

    Reply

  25. Neo Controll says:

    Questions: “The last thing Obama needs, or this country needs, is to court any more talk of secession and coups and military takeovers”
    ” . . . Yes we have a constitution that guarantees civilian control of the military, but the military has all the guns.”
    Be afraid! Be very Afraid!
    What BS. All of your concern troll talk is suspect; just as you shill for Israel while protesting that you have real problems with their behavior. Get off your intellectually dishonest fence. Get honest.
    — NCHQ

    Reply

  26. erichwwk says:

    “The military needs to make the first move”
    Yes, as far as public announcements are concerned.
    No, as far is initiating action that does not cause the military to “lose face”.
    It might be helpful for Obama to ask Gates why the official line for Chois dismissal
    re. how Choi’s honesty affected his unit was at variance with what Choi himself stated. The letter may be part of that process. A military that has a slow process of correcting bad decisions is dangerous and should not be tolerated.
    Also an official position of having the military lie is extremely dangerous. At a minimum, Obama should insist that his Sect. of Defense ensure that official DOD announcements re DADT drop the line on “affecting troop morale” if that is not the case. ASAP.
    Young people find the issue of sexual preference a non-issue. What right do bigoted old men have to enforce their outdated views (the EU does not seem to have a problem and allows gays to openly serve as do 22 of 26 NATO nations)? DOD policy should reflect what is in national security interests, not personal biases.
    I hope folks continue to “make Obama do what is right”, on this, as well as on torture, economic justice, and military imperialism. They are all connected.
    on the lighter side, a Joel Pett cartoon is here:
    http://tiny.cc/ygsfL

    Reply

  27. questions says:

    Hasn’t Rick Warren softened and mushified his stance on homosexuality? I take it that Obama put him in a beautiful double-bind where he could no longer hold tightly to his bigotry. Obama is a pretty shrewd guy, and getting Warren into an intellectual and emotional pickle is a brilliant tactic in my mind.
    Warren may have to spend a few years in therapy and religious counseling dealing with this shift in views he’s been forced into!
    DADT is on its way out, but it’s worth remembering a couple of things. First, neither Clinton nor Obama is a military guy. When Clinton tried to undo the ban on gays, there was quiet talk of insurrection. One takes that sort of thing very seriously. The last thing Obama needs, or this country needs, is to court any more talk of secession and coups and military takeovers. Like Clinton, he has to tread lightly. The military needs to make the first move, unless Congress does. Either one of these will carry greater legitimacy than would Obama by himself. Yes we have a constitution that guarantees civilian control of the military, but the military has all the guns.
    Patience in the face of deep injustice, and profound stupidity (see Dan Choi’s dismissal), is really tough. But we’re a nation of 300 million and we have popular sovereignty, and that means idiots and bigots have to come along for the ride too. The alternatives are far worse. DADT really is on its way out.

    Reply

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