So What Happened At That White House DADT Meeting?

Posted on 27 Oct 2010 at 4:45pm

Crossposted on ZackFord Blogs.

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We know that yesterday, a whole bunch of leaders from the LGBT movement met at the White House regarding Don't Ask Don't Tell. We know that discussing the court cases was off the table for legal reasons, though Brian Bond's "there can be no discussion of current court cases or legal strategy or Counsel’s Office will end the meeting" email was a bit harsh. We also know that President Obama just happened to stop by to "convey his personal commitment."

So what really happened at the meeting? No one's talking, which is suspicious for a number of reasons. Chris Geidner reports:

A person outside the White House familiar with the meeting agenda told Metro Weekly that there were three main points the White House was looking to impress upon attendees: (1) President Obama was pushing for lame-duck Senate action, (2) there would would more meetings up to the vote and (3) executive options are not being looked at right now.

If this outside person's report is accurate, then the meeting was about nothing. If (1) President Obama plans to push for the Senate's repeal, should we hope that there aren't any more sports championship teams he needs to call when it counts? If (2) there will be more meetings, then what was the point of this one? And if (3) the President isn't willing to take any other action, then what's there even to talk about?

Pam Spaulding shares my sentiment:

No plan, no fallback plan either. Sound familiar? How many times can Lucy jerk the football away from Charlie Brown? DADT is alive and kicking, and it will be after the election — and in 2011. That means the President and HRC didn't deliver as promised. That is something no one will forget. The ineptitude and lack of a plan, as well as the gross use of the LGBT community is just plain sad.

But let's ponder the political implications of this meeting very closely, since it's the only option we have.

Now, we understand the meeting was off the record, but from what I can tell, no one within the movement is even discussing the meeting off the record. This leaves one to ponder what could have been so important from this meeting that nothing can be shared.

Let's say the meeting was really productive and that there's a brilliant new plan to ensure legislative repeal of DADT during the lame duck session. Great! What is it? Not to be condescending to anyone, but how are we going to push for it if we don't know what it is? Why be hush-hush about the meeting? As Pam noted in her post, Gibbs had nothing of substance to offer at the press briefing, none of the attendees have spoken out, and the White House hasn't made a peep. If there's some new effort, shouldn't we all be getting on board? What's the big secret?

Another possibility is that the meeting was crap, that it was all pandering and no substance. It was just another meeting to show the White House is "committed" to their own weak version of repeal. They wanted points for engaging with LGBT activists, and Obama's drop-in was pure PR. Then why the heck aren't our activists speaking out? If the meeting was a waste of time just for political antics, is there not one attendee who is willing to speak out and say so? Is the White House that insecure about the results of the election that they even convinced some Log Cabin Republicans to keep their mouths shut until we see where the chips fall next week? And everyone's just buying in that this lame duck legislative effort is realistic? Seems unlikely.

And maybe it was just a ploy to scare some Senators, a political exercise to say to Senators on the fence: "Look, the President, himself, is meeting with gay rights activists." Would that really work? Would that really make a difference? I simply can't imagine everyone at the meeting signing on to such sophomoric antics. Besides, as far as Obama's street cred with the LGBT community goes, it's a bit late for one little meeting drop-in to fool anybody (ally or opponent) into believing that he's really the committed ally he claims to be in all his rhetoric.

There is at least one more possibility. It could be that the meeting was at least mildly productive or worthwhile, but President Obama made it clear we do it his way or no way. In other words, our fierce advocate is having such an ego trip about being the one to repeal DADT that he is actually bullying our movement's leaders on this issue into complying with his strategy. Maybe there was an ultimatum given regarding how much time and effort the White House would be willing to offer and the terms included complete confidentiality about the all-too-public meeting. Is the White House bullying us about achieving our own equality? Are we being coerced into complying with their strategy with the alternative of being left out to dry (as if we weren't already)?

Any of these outcomes (or maybe others) is possible with the limited info we currently have. With no one willing to speak out, we're left with only the politics of the meeting to speculate. (And if we're not supposed to even be speculating, someone needs to send me a memo explaining why.)

Given that the President's drop-in certainly speaks to political points for the White House, we deserve answers. Should we be praising the Obama administration for new strategy and new enthusiasm, or should we be holding them accountable for playing the same old politics with our rights?

When do the discharges end? 

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