Excellent column from Kerry Eleveld tonight on the current DADT compromise situation. Kerry’s analysis, as usual, is right on target. The White House has handled this issue horribly. They ignored the issue for months, even working against us at times. But, they injected themselves into the end of the process and came up with this convoluted compromise language that can’t answer a simple question: When do the discharges end?
And, I thought the whole point of offering a compromise was to pick up additional votes. That hasn’t happened. In fact, the recent language from the White House and Pentagon helped us lose a vote today: Senator Jim Webb.
The combination of efforts from our key allies on the Hill and the activists (including many of you) forced the White House to follow through on the President’s commitment. But, Team Obama, led by Jim Messina, did it in their usual, clumsy half-assed fashion. This is a controversial political issue from an annoying constituency for the White House. But, the implications are huge for gay and lesbian servicemembers — and the rest of the LGBT community:
So how did we get where we are? The White House and Gates seemingly didn’t want a vote this year. Activists wouldn’t let up. Murphy, Levin, and Lieberman put in a heroic effort to salvage repeal. And in my estimation, when Levin was one vote away in the Senate committee, White House officials realized the repeal train was leaving without them and not hopping aboard was a no-win situation. If it passed, they would get no credit; if it failed by one vote, activists would castigate them for withholding support.
This compromise could still fail, and make no mistake, the deal was brokered by the White House, which then treated it as the redheaded stepchild it never wanted in the first place. But the outcome — win or lose — now has the administration’s fingerprints on it, even though its refrain since Monday morning has been that Congress was forcing its hand.
Sadly, the best-case scenario — passage — will do nothing to stop the discharges in the near term. It is a critical step that removes the first roadblock to changing the policy at some indefinite point in the future. Passing the measure would not immediately repeal the law — instead the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy will continue until the DOD study is completed and Gates, Mullen, and Obama certify that repeal can proceed.
No matter what happens during the votes Thursday and Friday, the White House will deserve credit only after the law is repealed and replaced with a nondiscrimination policy. And if Congress votes to cede authority over the policy to the administration, President Obama will be uniquely empowered to issue an executive order that guarantees all Americans the opportunity to serve their country with integrity and honor.
President Obama will get credit for repealing DADT when the discharges end. And, he’s still got a long way to go to fulfill those promises on ENDA and DOMA. We haven’t forgotten about them.