Politico has a six webpage long article up on their website, entitled Obama’s Go-Slow ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Plan Backfires. The piece recounts how when President Clinton first took office, one of his first acts was attempting to remove the barrier to gays serving openly in the military services. The attempt failed, and from this we ended up with the federal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) compromise.
When President Obama took office, he appeared to have taken a lesson from the Clinton Administration: Go slow on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, or face Congressional backlash.
Unfortunately for President Obama, LGBT community members want him to live up to quickly live up to his campaign promise to repeal DADT, and allow gay, lesbian, and bisexual servicemembers to serve openly.
Politico‘s Josh Gerstein is indicating in his piece that there is a backlash from the LGBT community that is hurting him not only with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, but hurting him with the Democratic base.
From the piece:
Obama now faces his own political crisis over the issue that threatens his support from key Democratic constituencies, undermines his relationship with the Pentagon and puts him in the odd position of defending a practice he has denounced as discriminatory and harmful to national security.
“It’s crazy that all this is happening 2½ weeks before a national election,” said Richard Socarides, an adviser to Clinton on gay issues during the ’93 fiasco. “The timing could not be worse for them, but it was fairly predictable that their strategy of postponing and delaying getting into this stuff was, at some point, going to come back to haunt them.”
Obama’s current predicament is a result of a collision between a go-slow White House strategy that deferred to Pentagon and military leaders on the pace of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the progress of a stuttering federal lawsuit that a small group of gay Republicans filed more than six years ago.
The Obama White House, led in large part by Clinton veteran Rahm Emanuel, sought to avoid a showdown with the military over the issue. Particularly as Obama, a relative neophyte on national security, faced critical decisions on Iran and Afghanistan, he didn’t want the process derailed by the culturally freighted gays-in-the-military fight.
The part of this that was smart was that they figured the only way to get this done was to get the Pentagon’s buy-in. That is informed by the Clinton experience. You cannot outsmart the Pentagon on this kind of thing.
The timing could not be worse for them, but it was fairly predictable that their strategy of postponing and delaying getting into this stuff was, at some point, going to come back to haunt them.
While many organized gay groups deferred to a greater or lesser extent to the White House’s strategy and timeline, bloggers like John Aravosis and in-your-face protesters like Dan Choi did not. The online activists and upstart groups never bought into the wait-for-the-Pentagon approach, even after Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented historic testimony in February endorsing an end to “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
I literally stood next to Dan Choi when Dan Choi, Evelyn Thomas, Jim Pietrangelo II, Mara Boyd, Larry Whitt, and I chained ourselves to the White House Fence in a bid to encourage President Obama to propose repealing of DADT in his Defense Department budget request. From the GetEqual press release at the time:
The Defense Authorization Bill (DAB) provides funding for all military operations, and it will soon be up for renewal.
President Obama knows that the DAB provides a way to repeal DADT immediately. And he knows that repealing the policy quickly and decisively is the right thing to do for LGBT servicemembers and for all of the armed forces. But recent reports suggest that the Administration is trying to delay any law change until December or even later.
Yes. That delay plan has been going on awhile, and now many in the LGBT community are dissatisfied with the Obama Administration’s and the Democratic Congress’ failure to not only to successfully repeal DADT, but also failing to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and pass into law the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
Personally, I can’t tell you how odd it is to see that a photo by AP photographer Pablo Martinez Monsivais has turned into the iconic DADT photo, in the sense that and that I’m one of the six LGBT veterans in that iconic photo. It’s also kind of odd to me to be in a photo that has become that iconic, but is one where no one in the mainstream media is highlighting that I’m a transgender military veteran.
But beyond it just being about Dan Choi and me being in a photo, there were four others in that photo working for the freedom, equality, and justice of LGBT community members. That image captures a microcosm of how it’ not just one or two activists that are working on LGBT issues, but it’s diverse population of folk within the LGBT community who are working on LGBT issues.
And, that diverse population of LGBT folk (as well as LGBT folks’ friends, families, and allies) are, as stated so many times (and even in this piece), dissatisfied with the Obama Administration’s and the Democratic Congress’ failure to not only to successfully repeal DADT, but also failing to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and pass into law the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
The Obama Administration apparently believed their was a danger of moving to quickly on LGBT issues — including DADT — because of possible backlash from the Pentagon and Congress. I don’t think the Obama Administration was acutely aware that there was another danger regarding LGBT issues — moving so slowly on LGBT issues that many in the LGBT community don’t believe that The President delivered on the change we can believe in. In other words, there may have been a backlash from some quarters regarding moving to quickly on LGBT issues — such as DADT — but there is now a backlash from many LGBT community members because they see him moving too slowly on LGBT issues.
Since a major constituency of his party and to his presidency are LGBT community members, he should have perhaps paid much more attention to that LGBT constituency then he has done in the first two years of his presidency.
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