HRC finally goes after Obama on DADT, a tad too late

You have got to be kidding me.

After a year of HRC telling us that they had a plan, the White House had a plan, and that the plan was going perfectly, suddenly HRC informs us that there is no plan, and everything has gone to hell.

Just as priceless, now Joe Solmonese, the head of HRC, is saying that the President is the key to passing the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Excuse me? We’ve been saying this for a year, and have been routinely dismissed by HRC, which has preferred to focus on the Congress while at the same time covering the President’s ass. Don’t protest at the White House, don’t criticize the President, don’t be mean to Jim Messina. What do those crazy bloggers know? They just hate HRC and aren’t as sophisticated at politics as the brilliant folks over at the Human Rights Campaign. Oh if HRC and its friend at the Center for American Progress (that would be former HRC employee Winnie Stachelberg) could only create their own friendly gay blogosphere, and finally be rid of all those pesky bloggers who just don’t understand how politics really works.

Well, today we welcome HRC’s Joe Solmonese to the club. Suddenly, it seems, now that the Secretary of Defense has openly screwed us, and gotten very close to putting a final stake through the heart of the DADT repeal effort (gee, never saw that one coming), HRC has had an epiphany: The President doesn’t just matter – he’s the only one who matters. And while I’m glad that HRC finally gets it, it’s a bit like a Jehovah’s Witness suddenly discovering the miracle of modern medicine after the cancer has metastasized and the doctor gives you 24 hours to live. A bit late at this point for our largest, best funded, most influential group to finally understand how politics works in the nation’s capital.

Let me share, at lengthy, a sizable portion of Solmonese’s latest weekly update from HRC:

Late yesterday in a strongly worded letter to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen wrote that they oppose “legislation that seeks to change this policy prior to the completion of” the Pentagon Working Group implementation study. Of course this statement flies in the face of the President’s commitment in the State of the Union address to work with Congress to repeal the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law this year. Later last evening the White House issued a statement that did little to clarify the conflicting signals being sent.

The question for President Obama now is: does he want to mark this issue in the failure column as President Clinton was forced to do, or does he want to deliver on the change we were promised? It is inconceivable that the Secretary of Defense would so blatantly undermine the Commander-in-Chief’s policy commitment and now the country looks to the President to exert his authority and leadership. If the President is going to fulfill his pledge to the American people it is essential that he address this issue.

Secretary Gates himself has said repeatedly that the Pentagon Working Group is designed to review how to implement a change in DADT, not if a change should occur. If those statements were true, there should be no reason that he wouldn’t support the plan for which we have advocated where Congress moves forward with repeal while providing additional time for the Pentagon review to complete before implementation.

Action by Congress this year, in the National Defense Authorization bill, will not, as the Secretary suggests, ‘send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform.’ But failure to act this year will, without a doubt, continue to send the message to the thousands of gay and lesbian Americans serving their country in silence – and those of us who support them – that their views and concerns, and the impact on them and their families, do not matter to the military leadership, including their Commander-in-Chief.

Remember the one where HRC’s Joe Solmonese told an audience of HRC donors, not two months ago, that DADT would be repealed this year, just as everything was falling apart at the seams?


Or the one where a good year ago, almost to the day, Solmonese assured us, after meeting with Jim Messina, that “they have a plan.”

The White House, aware of the discontent, invited leaders of some prominent gay rights organizations to meet Monday with top officials, including Jim Messina, Mr. Obama’s deputy chief of staff, to plot legislative strategy on the hate crimes bill as well as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Among those attending was Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, who said afterward that while the gay rights agenda might not be “unfolding exactly as we thought,” he was pleased.

“They have a vision,” Mr. Solmonese said. “They have a plan.”

Or the time when the gay blogs got together and held a blog swarm to beg HRC to take on the President, and save DADT repeal? That was the time HRC promised us that there was a clear path to repeal. Uh huh.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has to be repealed this year. That has been the Human Rights Campaign’s position from the start, and at this point there is no one in the White House who does not know it. We and the community to whom we are accountable agree: This is the year.

We firmly support including repeal in the annual Department of Defense Authorization bill, and have not only indicated as much, but continue to make that case, all while working to gain support for the Military Readiness Enhancement Act….

We have been lobbying the White House relentlessly, and we’ve seen more movement in recent weeks than in the previous 16 years. Our nation’s top defense officials testified, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should be repealed. That did not happen in a vacuum.

These events are just the start. There is a clear path to repeal, and that’s the one we’re on.

It’s all well and good that HRC claims to have seen the light. They had no other choice. Solmonese promised the community that DADT would be repealed this year, and after a year of brown-nosing the White House, HRC has bupkis to show us as progress. At some point, to cover his ass, to cover the organization’s ass, they had to finally admit that the the DADT repeal effort is totally f’d up.

Too bad HRC was too busy sucking up to Messina at all the Common Purpose meetings, and all the secret White House meetings on DADT that SLDN was cut out of, to push the White House when it actually mattered. When we actually needed HRC, when we begged them to help, they wrote us all off as crazy, and basically lied to the community, repeatedly, while they knew privately that DADT wasn’t going anywhere.

I’m glad that HRC now gets it. But we’re in this mess because of HRC. They don’t get to now turn around and point a finger at the White House that they enabled for the past 16 months. They made this mess, now they can fix it.

PS We’re still waiting for the Center for American Progress’ statement about this mess. They’ve been at the table for a while now, helping HRC make a mess of things in the secret meetings with Messina and beyond. It’s now time for CAP to clear its name as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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