Before President Obama announced last night that he would work with Congress and the Pentagon to end the military's ban on service by gays and lesbians, the White House consulted Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to sign off on the language he planned to use, administration officials said. They did. "The Pentagon is with us," the official said. And Geoff Morell, Gates's spokesman, e-mails me to say that "The Department leadership is actively working on an implementation plan and will have more to say about it next week." So -- Obama's pledge to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell was more than words -- he's instructed the military to get it done as soon as Congress repeals the law. A Senate hearing is set for February 2, featuring testimony from Mullens= and Gates. An outside hearing is set for February 11. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) doesn't know if he has the votes to cross the 60-person threshold in the Senate, but the expected endorsement by Mullen will make it difficult for opponents to argue that the military brass isn't ready. In Tampa today, Obama reiterated his promise to end the ban:
Look, as I said last night, my belief is that a basic principle in our Constitution is that if you're obeying the law, if you're obeying the rules, you should be treated the same, regardless of who you are. I think that principle applies to gay and lesbian couples.