In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, President Obama presented several new excuses today as to why he can’t do anything on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He also seemed to again signal that he would be pushing to change, rather than repeal, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell:
1) The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy is constitutional, and the president never disobeys a policy that’s constitutional. Obama told Anderson:
If Congress passes a law that is constitutionally valid, then it’s not appropriate for the executive branch simply to say ‘we will not enforce a law’. It is our duty to enforce laws.
That is, unless he issues a signing statement, as he did the other day, giving notice that the has no intent to obey the constitutionally-valid law because he thinks – thinks – it’s unconstitutional. From the Hill via Huff Post:
The Obama administration announced in the statement it would disregard provisions of the legislation…
Obama’s INS also gave notice a few weeks ago that it wouldn’t be obeying immigration laws that it found unjust, not even unconstitutional. From NPR via Slog:
Napolitano has ordered deportations of surviving spouses and their children deferred for two years. That gives Congress time to fix the law if it chooses to.
And finally, Joe and I have cited previous examples where previous administrations, Democratic and Republican, challenged laws in court that they believed to be unconstitutional.
Of course, the big news here is that Obama is now saying he thinks the military’s discrimination and bigoted DADT policy is constitutional. You’ll recall that in the anti-gay DOMA brief the president said that DOMA is constitutional. And while some said that the president had to say that, even if he didn’t believe it, the president did not have to tell Anderson Cooper today that DADT was constitutional. Oh but there’s more.
2) President Obama specifically told Anderson Cooper that his stop-loss powers don’t permit him to retain service members who are leaving the military under a constitutional policy. Neither Joe nor I have ever heard this excuse before, nor are we familiar with anything in the law enacting the Stop-Loss policy stating that Stop-Loss can not be invoked when a service member is being discharged under a policy that is constitutional. Today is the first time the administration seems to pulled this new excuse out of its hat.
What’s odd, then, is that for years the president has been stopping US service members from being discharged, even though those service members had valid contracts – constitutionally-valid contracts one might even call them – stating when they would be discharged. Yet the president stopped their discharges anyway.
The most disturbing part of the interview is when Obama starts talking about “changing” DADT. (Sam Stein at Huffington Post appeared to have the same interpretation of the Obama interview as I did, with regards to the change to the word “change.”)
This is the new spin on DADT that started a few months back when the White House Web site erased the majority of the president’s gay rights campaign promises.
At the time, the promise to repeal DADT was wiped out, but after much consternation from the community, finally came back as a promise to “change” DADT in a sensible manner. After much more consternation, the White House finally went back to the original language, to “repeal” DADT. Subsequently, the president and his top spokesman both suddenly started talking about “changing” DADT, rather than repealing it. The only exception was the White House gay cocktail held a few weeks ago to make amends for the anti-gay DOMA brief debacle. During that event, Obama went back to his “repeal” language. But now that Obama is back before a straight audience on CNN, he’s not only again using “change” (“I want to see that law changed”), but today he’s expounded on it in a very troubling way. Obama told Cooper:
I want to see this changed. And we’ve already contacted congressional allies. I want to make sure that it’s changed in a way that ultimately works well for our military, and for the outstanding gay and lesbian soldiers that are both currently enlisted our would like to enlist.
If it were an outright repeal of a bigoted, outdated policy, how do you repeal it in a way that “works well for our military”? You either repeal the policy or you don’t. Is Obama talking about a gradual repeal over time? About only a partial repeal? No one knows. All we know is that the White House is now fixated on using the word “change” instead of its previous promise to “repeal” the legislation.