One more time White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked to say that the President was committed to getting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repealed this year. Gibbs refused, again. In fact, today Gibbs made it pretty clear that the White House doesn’t want a repeal this year, which directly contradicts what the President said in his State of the Union address just three months ago. Here’s the quote from the White House transcript:
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. (Applause.) It’s the right thing to do. (Applause.)
It is still the right thing to do, but, apparently it’s not being done “this year,” despite that promise.
Pam Spaulding heard the same thing as we did from Gibbs. Her post is titled, “Robert Gibbs finally admits the Obama Admin has no intention of pushing DADT repeal in 2010.”
There is a serious danger of Democrats losing the House this fall. And regardless, everyone expects the Democrats to lose a good number of seats. There won’t be the large Democratic majorities that exist today (and it’s not like today we’re seeing any great action on DADT, ENDA or DOMA). That’s why we want — and need — repeal to happen this year. This year is what the President promised us.
Here is Advocate reporter Kerry Eleveld questioning Gibbs today at the White House:
Q Let me get back to the question. So there was the heckling on Monday night, there’s the veterans yesterday at the White House gates handcuffing themselves to the fence. All of these actions are aimed at getting repeal this year, something the White House has sort of declined to commit to since the State of the Union address. Has the White House misjudged the level of patience among LGBT and grassroots activists on this?
MR. GIBBS: No. Again, I would remind anybody on this issue — look, first of all, I will say this. Obviously the President made a commitment in the presidential campaign, and understands the passion that people hold the belief that all should be able to serve. The President holds that belief too.
But I would remind folks that wasn’t a belief that the President held in 2007 — that’s a belief that the President held in running for the Senate as far back as 2003.
The President has made and is committed to making this changed law. I don’t think he’s underestimated the — as you said, the patience of some. The President wants to see this law changed, just as you’ve heard the Chair of the Joint Chiefs and others in the military say that it’s time for that change to happen.
Q But he’s committed to them letting the Pentagon work through its working group process until December 1st, is that true? He’s committed to that?
MR. GIBBS: Yes. The President has set forward a process with the Joint — the Chair of the Joint Chiefs and with the Secretary of Defense to work through this issue.
Q Before any legislative action is taken — that rules out legislative action this year?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again — the House and the Senate are obviously a different branch of government. The President has a process and a proposal I think that he believes is the best way forward to seeing, again, the commitment that he’s made for many years in trying to — changing that law.
That’s nice that Obama supported repeal back in 2003 and 2007. But, now he’s the President and he can actually make it happen. It’s weird that Gibbs is bringing up old campaign promises to somehow prove that the President is serious today, when there’s growing evidence that he is backing off of his promises.
There are lots of people on the Hill who will use the President’s failure to push for repeal this year as a signal that they shouldn’t do it, period. That’s why Barney Frank said last week that the President’s silence is now costing us votes. All of this is exacerbated by members of the President’s legislative team telling Hill offices that they don’t want repeal this year, as we learned via SLDN’s Aubrey Sarvis on Monday. Then again, it doesn’t sound like Gibbs wants it either. And we know Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina doesn’t.
The White House political team “misjudged the level of patience among LGBT and grassroots activists on this” and other issues. They’re making a calculation that it’s a better political move to hold off on repeal until next year or later. They probably expect cover from the Human Rights Campaign and other connected gays, and they’ll probably get it. But HRC is not the powerhouse it once was, or we wouldn’t be in the current predicament of voting for a President who is now breaking his top promises. I have no doubt that someone inside the White house political shop is asking: “What are they going to do? Vote Republican?” What I fear is that a lot of people – gays, enviros, women, labor, Latinos, and more, may simply not vote at all. Turnout matters. It’s Elections 101. So spare us the “who are you going to vote for, Palin?” talk. It’s condescending, and it ignores the reality of how much enthusiasm matters to a campaign.
If DADT isn’t repealed and ENDA isn’t passed this year, Obama is going to start his reelection campaign with a serious gay problem. And, it’s going to be even worse when the mastermind behind this failed DADT strategy, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, is named campaign manager. It’s all so unnecessary. Repealing DADT is a “no-brainer.” Polls show amazing support and even Dick and Liz Cheney are on our side.
I just think that the White House and the DNC are making a serious miscalculation as to how much damage they are causing with a core Democratic constituency.
The Wonk Room has the video: