Why is the White House already wavering on Obama’s commitment to repeal DADT this year?

As John noted below, we learned from Kerry Eleveld’s question to Robert Gibbs today that the White House would not commit to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year. Here’s Kerry’s question:

Senator Lieberman is planning to introduce a “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal bill next week. Would the president like to see Congress pass repeal this year?

The simple answer would have been “yes.” But, as usual, that’s not what we got.

Here’s the thing: The President made a commitment to repeal DADT in his State of the Union last month:

This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.

The President specifically said “this year.” And, he said, “It’s the right thing to do.” It is. So why won’t they just do it? Why is the White House hedging after the President promised it in front of 50 million people on national television?

Over the past year, we’ve seen that when White House spokespeople, particularly Gibbs, start to waver and equivocate, it’s because the White House team is wavering and equivocating behind the scenes. This is important because, as Servicemembers United pointed out this morning, the President has a critical role insuring the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

To strengthen the prospects for the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law and to reduce political risk, the President can still order the Pentagon to include “Set End-date / Delayed Implementation” repeal language in one of the legislative policy transmittals that will soon be sent to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees by the Department of Defense. These policy proposal packages serve as indications of White House and Pentagon support for policy changes to be included in the next National Defense Authorization Act.

In other words, the President still has time to signal in his Defense budget submissions to Congress that he wants DADT repealed this year by including it in the Defense Authorization bill. The President has a role, he can help make it happen.

This doesn’t make sense. The President owned the repeal of DADT when he gave it such prominence in the State of the Union (and we all know he campaigned on the issue too.) When the President said on January 27, 2010, that he was going to try to get DADT repealed this year, most Americans thought he meant it. Apparently, the message geniuses at the White House now have a different interpretation of what Obama meant. But, in the real world, most of us heard that DADT was going to be repealed — this year. And, we expect President Obama to do his part to make it happen, before it’s too late.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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