Obama Team Turns On Engines in Repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell


Recently I had the opportunity to connect with some national security wonks and Obama team members in the White House Roosevelt Room. I was invited to meet some “senior administration officials” regarding the contours of the recently released “National Security Strategy” by the President.
While there I chatted with someone not to be named about whether the White House was caught off guard by Defense Secretary Robert Gates stating that he did not want to see legislation on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell until after the completion of an internal military review.
The short answer was “yes.” Gates was cornering the President on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
But then to their credit, Senators Carl Levin and Joseph Lieberman as well as House Member Patrick Murphy refused to allow the Pentagon to drag its heals on the biggest civil rights agenda item of the day — and pushed through legislation building in a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell pending the military review.
A lot of gay community leaders got indigestion over this approach — but the legislative maneuvering by this Congressional threesome robbed Gates of the ability to political squash progress on DADT who may have also hoped that if he stalled things that a Congress less supportive of repeal would keep this from every moving forward.
The DADT legislation makes it much, much tougher for Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen, or any holder of their positions when that review is done to sidestep their Commander in Chief’s desire to repeal DADT.
But now, impressively, the President’s team has made this a campaign. First, OMB czar Peter Orszag states that it is the position of the White House that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell be repealed, issuing support as well for the Levin/Lieberman/Murphy legislation. Gates and Mullen bristle — but are being confronted strongly and pushed to the edge of the ring by Obama’s inside team.
And now the Democratic National Committee and Obama’s own “Organizing for America” are calling for Americans to line up in support of repeal, to sign petitions, and to kick up dust. Obama is now lining up support from his “outside team.”
I support strongly what the President wants to do — not the deference that Bob Gates wants to give the generals.
You may not agree with this policy issue — some of my friends don’t. But those of you who do would be sending a strong message if you sent the President an indication of the importance of moving forward here and signing this petition on the President’s “Organizing for America” site.
It’s time that civilians in this country remind the military command who they work for — and that the social and moral gap that the military thinks it can maintain between itself and the rest of American society needs to be diminished, not widened.
— Steve Clemons


14 comments on “Obama Team Turns On Engines in Repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

  1. Don Bacon says:

    Let’s look back at Rumsfeld.
    What should have been a stellar assignment at the pinnacle of his career ended abruptly in May 2004 when Lt. Gen. Riggs found himself discredited, publicly demeaned, and demoted to two-star rank because he was the first senior active-duty officer to publicly call for increasing the size of the Army by a minimum of 10,000 soldiers to meet current combat requirements.
    That’s because in doing that, he defied Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and his politicized military subordinates in the Pentagon.
    Retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, then an adviser assigned to Rumsfeld’s office, and a friend of Rumsfeld in 2003,


  2. nadine says:

    Ask your flag officer friends if they now look back on Rumsfeld as a golden age. Gates may be respected. Obama is not.
    Just look at him with the oil spill — whinging and whining and blaming, everything but taking charge or marshalling the resources of the government to clean up the spill. Now Holder is starting a criminal investigation — before the leak is even sealed. If BP are a bunch of criminals, why are they allowed to stay and meddle at the scene of the crime?
    It’s not leadership. It’s what not to do.


  3. anirprof says:

    Yes, nadine, it’s so awful for the military now under this administration. Funny, “I know what’s best for you, you reactionary dullards” describes pretty well how Sec. Rumsfeld related to generals and admirals. I actually know a number of flag officers and despite voting Republican they single out the Bush administration pre-Gates as one of the least respectful and least deferential periods they’ve ever seen at DoD. And Rumsfeld’s use of an AutoPen device — high tech rubber stamp — to ‘sign’ condolence letters to soldiers’ families pretty much summed up his concern for the troops.


  4. Beth in VA says:

    The military is not a democracy. It can’t be. If the
    military had to weigh in on desegregation of the
    armed forces before it happened, it would never have


  5. David says:

    I did read your first paragraph, nadine. You are even more lost in the wilderness of your own strange mindset than I thought. It was accidental that I read that goofy comment. Guess it’s worth knowing that there are people who think like that. Suppose you also think that suffrage is in no way related to the march of civil rights on other fronts. Oh, well.


  6. DonS says:

    “It’s time that civilians in this country remind the military command who they work for ” (Steve)
    Exactly. Now if this principle could be extended to strategic planning, undue influence over Congress, and ad hoc media dumps contradicting civilian control. Of course this presupposes Obama and the “civilian” side really is interested in returning the US to a non-militaristic track. And that I doubt.


  7. nadine says:

    Let me get this straight: noticing that if you force the end of DADT on the military without the minimal courtesy of asking their opinion first, it will be taken as a slight, proves you don’t have Enlightenment values?
    What regressive-progressives call Enlightenment values is a perpetual mystery. Much like their legal opinions, they seem to make it up as they go along, depending on their emotions at the time.
    I seem to recall that the same people who are telling the military to swallow the new procedure right now, with no questions asked, are the same people who loudly proclaimed how “broken” the military was by two wars, and how much they cared. Is this supposed to be some kind of a fix?
    It’s politics. That’s it and no more.


  8. Ben Rosengart says:

    POA, I might agree with you as to what Obama should do, but I’d
    be the last to criticize him for dealing with this issue “instead” —
    as if it sets back those other causes at all. It doesn’t.
    Nadine, I thought you were pretty blinkered on the subject of
    Israel, but I’m starting to get a vibe that you just don’t believe in
    Enlightenment values at all. That’s your right, of course … but
    it’s also my right to apply a harsher filter, when I read your posts,
    than I might otherwise. This is an easy call, and you flubbed it.
    Oh well.


  9. nadine says:

    Let’s stop waving the bloody flag of Selma and civil rights here. The LBGT community is Obama’s base. The military isn’t. That’s what this is about. You know that. Everybody knows that.
    Why was Gates “cornering” the White House by asking them to wait for the results of the military review? Isn’t it the most elementary courtesy to ask the opinion of the military before pushing DADT through? If I were in the military, I would read this as (another) sign of contempt from the Obama administration: we know what’s good for you, you bunch of homophobic bigots. Now shut up and like it!
    General Casey sent the following letter to the troops last week. It was posted to a chatboard I frequent by a retired special forces officer, who comments, “I have never before seen anything even remotely like this letter. And not just content…the approach is amazing. Taking a disagreement to the troops is unique.
    In my mind it is a clear slap in the face of Joint Chief Chairman Admiral Mullin and SEC DEF Gates.
    If I had to guess, I’d say US Army leadership expects a huge backlash if this goes thru and they are warning everyone they can about it.”
    From: General Officer Management Office (GOMO)
    Sent: [redacted, this past weekend]
    Subject:SA/COS Sends: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
    Importance: High
    We know many of you were disappointed in the House of Representatives and Senate Armed Services Committee votes on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Understandably, such an action taken before the men and women of the Armed Forces were consulted could be seen as a reversal of our commitment to hear the views of our Soldiers and Families before the law was repealed. It should not be.
    You should know that the amendment passed last night does preserve our prerogatives to provide our informed advice to the Secretary of Defense and the President before the law is repealed. It contains a provision that the amendment will not go into effect until the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff complete the review and certify that the implementation of the policies and regulations to implement the repeal are consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention.
    Please get this information to your soldiers and Families and ask them to resist that urge to think that this is a “done deal” and that their input is unimportant. It is imperative that they continue to provide their candid responses to the review team. We remain committed to hearing* your views and concerns ** conveying them to our leadership before going forward on such an important issue in a time of war. Also remind them that the current law remains in effect.**
    On this Memorial Day weekend, we thank you and your Families for your service. We ask that, at some time over the weekend, you pause and remember the more than one million men and women who have given their lives for this country over our history.
    George W. Casey, Jr. John M. McHugh
    General, United States Army Secretary of the Army
    Chief of Staff


  10. Don Bacon says:

    Steve, you’ve got it. I’ve been with you since the old website, and I’m not quitting now.


  11. David says:

    Signed the OFA petition as soon as I got the alert from OFA. Wondered about what Gates was trying to do. Now I know. Kudos to the White House for responding by upping the ante. Thank you, Mr. Gates, for inspiring the President to get going on this. Don’t imagine Nancy Pelosi was blowing smoke with her promise regarding DADT. And very happy to see the actual Commander-in-Chief act accordingly. Think the critical mass is there and this strategy the most likely to succeed. Grunts will be fine. Recalcitrant brass needs to shape up or ship out, to go all cliche on their butts.
    And a tip of the hat to you, WigWag. Not sure the count on what we agree about, but score one here.
    Told you we’d win this one, Steve – actually that we’d win all of the gay rights are essential civil rights struggles. And it will come with increasing speed. This will be the breakthrough that will pay huge dividends for the concept of gays as full-fledged human beings whose orientation is not a flaw in any sense of the word, not religious, not social, not biological, not moral. Younger Americans are already there, and the rest of the country is catching up. We did it for blacks, and we will, as a nation, get our heads out of that dark place on this one, too. Don’t know if MLK III will get on board, but it won’t matter. We are winning. We are straight, we are gay, we are all Americans. We don’t need any asterisks.


  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Amazing. Isreal SHOOTS two Americans in the course of a week, costing one young American her left eye, and another his life.
    British Polution inflicts America with what is turning out to be an unprecendented environmental disaster.
    So what does the posturing piece of crap Obama do?? Does he take Israel to task for SHOOTING Americans??? No. Does he take this strutting little lying prick Tony Hayward down a knotch??? Nope.
    He takes the easiest issue he has to deal with, one he should have dealt with MONTHS ago before this country was besieged with a monumental and epic unfolding disaster, and “turns on the engines” in repealing DADT.
    This is a consolation prize to his supporters. It should be repealed. It SHOULDA been repealed WAY before now. But the timing on this SUCKS, because it is so blatantly designed to say “See, I AM doing something”.
    Meanwhile, Israel shoots Americans with nary a discernable or substantive grunt from Obama, and Tony Hayward says….
    “Fuck you, America, there ain’t no deepwater plumes, and if ya wanna work for me at twelve bucks an hour, ya ain’t getting no respirator, and for all I care, ya can breathe and drink corexit ’til hell freezes over”


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