Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The White House Doesn't Get It

Following Tuesday's landmark decision in which U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips ordered that the military stop enforcing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," many have wondered whether the Justice Department would appeal within the 60-day timeframe.

While there's still no official word on that decision, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs offered this during an off-camera exchange with reporters on Wednesday (per The Huffington Post's Sam Stein):

I think that the courts have demonstrated that the time is ticking on the policy of Don't Ask Don't Tell. It is not whether, but it is the process of how.

The president strongly believes that this policy is unjust, that it is detrimental to our national security, and that it discriminates against those who are willing to die for their county. And the president strongly believes that it's time for this policy to end. The best way to end it is for the Senate to follow the lead of the House of Representatives so that that end can be implemented in a fashion that is consistent with our obligations in fighting two wars.

Absent that action, the president has again set up a process to end this policy. And I think the bottom line is that recent court rulings have demonstrated to Congress that it's time to act and end this policy; they demonstrated that time is running out on the policy of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the bottom line is this is a policy that is going to end. It's not whether it is going to end but the process by which it is going to end.

Such flowery rhetoric from the Obama administration is nothing new; President Obama has been promising to end DADT since he was on the campaign trail, and he once called himself a "fierce advocate" for the LGBT community. But the actions have not followed the words, and Gibbs' statement today only reinforces the White House's unwillingness to act.

If President Obama was as fierce an advocate about repealing DADT as he claimed, he would've issued an executive order halting enforcement of the policy pending Congressional repeal. If he was as fierce about repealing DADT, President Obama would've come out swinging when the Senate failed to take up the issue last month.

If President Obama is as fierce about repeal as he claims, he will order the Justice Department not to appeal Judge Phillips' ruling.

Gibbs' statement -- which essentially echoes the views of the president -- still claims that Congressional intervention is the preferred method. On the surface, this argument makes sense; DADT was originally passed by Congress 17 years ago, so the thinking goes that Congress should repeal it.

But while the House of Representatives held up its part of the bargain -- passing a repeal contingent on a Pentagon review due to be complete in December -- the Senate (surprise, surprise) dropped the ball. The repeal, included in the Defense Authorization Bill, never even came up for a vote ... because Republicans successfully filibustered it.

The pro-war political party filibustered defense funding to keep gays from serving openly. And the White House did nothing about it.

Being a fierce advocate for equality does not mean giving inspirational speeches and delivering teary-eyed prose. It means acting on making sure this nation's laws and policies treat everyone equally. Equality does not care how DADT dies, just that it does. The White House needs to get its head out of the sand, understand that its precious Senate can't even scratch its own itches and live up to its promises.

President Obama, let this horrible policy die, like you said you would.

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