Forces Building Against "Don't Ask Don't Tell"

Liberals hold Obama's feet to the fire on repealing the policy of booting openly gay members of the military

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"Don't ask, don't tell," the policy of booting openly gay members of the military, has been fiercely debated since it was enacted 16 years ago.  Clinton-era conservatives and military officials won the fight to keep the policy in place,  and Bush-era liberals had little hope of overturning it. Now that opponents of DADT have Democratic control of Congress and a president who explicitly and repeatedly promised to repeal the law, its days should be numbered. But the White House has taken no action on the policy and says it has no immediate plans to.

Now liberals may have the ammunition they need to force action. An article in the Pentagon's own scholarly journal, the Joint Force Quarterly, condemns the policy and calls for it to be lifted. Liberals and gay-rights advocates are taking up the cause with renewed vigor. Conservatives, for their part, are conspicuously quiet on the issue. The rare arguments on behalf of DADT, such as James Bowman's Weekly Standard piece arguing that gay men are not masculine enough to serve, have drawn firestorms of criticism and little support.

  • Obama's Bogus Hedge Jon Stewart lambastes the White House position that they have "too much on their plate" to address the issue now. "I know that you have a lot on your desk-plate, but as a thin man who smokes you may not understand the concept. All that stuff you've been putting on your plate? It's [] chow time, brother. That's how you get things off of your plate." In an extended metaphor on buffets, Stewart says Obama is overestimating the challenge. "And I gotta tell ya, in the cornucopia of sliced meats, shrimp, block cheese and Waldorf salad, don't ask, don't tell is maybe a little bit of rice pudding, it's just a little bit of rice pudding. You could finish that before you get to your table. Because remember, you're the President of America. When your plate gets too full, you get up and get a bigger plate.
  • Military More Liberal Than Obama? Salon's Gabriel Winant racks up the anti-DADT movement in the military. "This isn't the only sign that top-ranking members of the military are done with DADT. Though the military was once a preserve of particularly fierce resistance to gay rights, a parade of officials has said that it's time to revisit or repeal the policy. Recently, discharged gay Arabic linguist Lt. Daniel Choi has been invited to give a couple of guest lectures at West Point. The military is even out in front of President Obama himself on this."
  • Failure of The 'Gay Lobby' Andrew Sullivan slams the Human Rights Campaign, which is hosting a dinner Obama will attend, for not pushing on DADT. "In some ways, Obama's fealty to the big gay lobby rather than to the real gay community is testimony to why Democratic party politics remain repulsive to me. HRC has achieved nothing substantive for gay equality on a federal level in the twenty years I've been observing them," he writes. "It is not a forum to advance gay rights; it is a fundraising session designed to make people feel better for backing an organization incapable of passing laws supported by overwhelming majorities of the American people."
  • DADT Before Gay Marriage? The L.A. Times's Meghan Daum notes that homophobia is eroding in the military faster than in most state legislatures. "It seems clear that the idea that gay people pose a threat to the social fabric -- another way of saying 'unit cohesion' -- is not going to disappear tomorrow, nor will it probably ever go away entirely," she writes. "For a while, it looked like it would get its biggest push toward oblivion in the domestic realm, with the acceptance of gay marriage, but perhaps it will be the issue of gays in the military that reaches the tipping point first. In any case, that adage about everything being fair in love and war may soon take on a greater resonance -- on the battlefield if not yet at the altar."
  • Liberals Feel Betrayed E.D. Kain sums up the liberal outrage against Obama. "I mean, it was far more important for the President to push Chicago's bid for the Olympics than it is for him to sign the executive order required to end Don't Ask Don't Tell. And hey, it's one thing to juggle health care reform, stimulus, and climate change schemes - it would be awfully difficult to do that and support gay rights all at the same time. I mean, a guy's gotta rest. And it's not like DOMA or DADT actually effect anyone's real lives, do they?" he writes. "With all the nonsense on the right at this point, Obama's betrayal of many progressive priorities won't do him much harm for now. But as the wars rage on, as gay servicemen and women continue to be kicked out of the military, and as the public option collapses into a million little pieces, one wonders how long Obama will really maintain his approval ratings."
  • Pentagon Can Reform Without Congress A New York Times editorial praised Om Prakash, the author of the report, and urged the Pentagon to go ahead without Congress, if need be. "We agree strongly with Colonel Prakash, and urge the Pentagon to press ahead with changes in its regulations to make implementing the 'don't ask' law more humane. Ultimately, Congress must repeal the 1993 statute. We are not confident that the Senate has enough enlightened members to overcome a filibuster. But if the military can show an open mind, surely lawmakers can summon the courage to end this sad chapter in history."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.