Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 28, 2010

A BREAKTHROUGH DAY FOR DADT REPEAL.... About seven months ago, a strategy was put in place to scrap the existing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Dems would add repeal to the defense appropriations bill, get the White House's blessing, and wrap the whole thing up by the early summer.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said at the time, "'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was always going to be part of the military authorization." President Obama, Frank added, was "totally committed to this and has been from the beginning."

As it turns out, everything appears to be going according to plan.

The House voted Thursday to let the Defense Department repeal the ban on gay and bisexual people from serving openly in the military, a major step toward dismantling the 1993 law widely known as "don't ask, don't tell."

The provision would allow military commanders to repeal the ban. The repeal would permit gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military for the first time.

It was adopted as an amendment to the annual Pentagon policy bill, which the House is expected to vote on Friday. The repeal would be allowed 60 days after a Pentagon report is completed on the ramifications of allowing openly gay service members, and military leaders certify that it would not be disruptive. The report is due by Dec. 1.

A few hours before the House vote, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a similar measure, adding a repeal provision to the Pentagon spending bill that's headed to the Senate floor.

In the House, the final vote was 234 to 194. It was not a straight party-line vote, but it was close -- 26 Blue Dogs voted with the Republicans to protect the status quo, while five Republicans voted with Dems to support repeal. In the Senate Armed Services Committee, the vote was 16 to 12, with Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) voting with Republicans, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) siding with the Democrats.

After the votes, the White House issued a statement from the president applauding the votes. "Our military is made up of the best and bravest men and women in our nation, and my greatest honor is leading them as Commander-in-Chief," Obama said. "This legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity."

As for what's next, the House still needs to approve the larger spending bill, and will probably vote on it today. In the Senate, the appropriations measure will almost certainly face a Republican filibuster, though it's unclear if the GOP can sustain obstructionism against a bill that funds U.S. troops during two wars.

Regardless, we're quickly approaching a new day -- one in which all American patriots will be able to volunteer to serve their country and wear the uniform proudly. It's change I can believe in.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (15)

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In the Senate, the appropriations measure will almost certainly face a Republican filibuster

Wait a second - I thought appropriations bills couldn't be filibustered.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on May 28, 2010 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

Credit where it's due -- Ron Paul voted to strike down DADT.

Posted by: Stuck with "Big John" Cornyn on May 28, 2010 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

I propose a theme for November: "This is what grown up government looks like."

Conservatives have settled on the idea that Obama is already an obvious failure -- Peggy Noonan's column today is "He Was Supposed to Be Competent", which neatly expresses the contradiction that Obama is too cool in a crisis, which nobody could have done anything to prevent or ameliorate anyway. She cites health care reform as an example of something nobody in America cared about except the President (and, presumably, a few liberals in Congress), while Obama obviously cares not at all about stopping illegal immigration or the other stuff that energizes real Americans.

The conservative message is an opportunity for progressives, if we pay more attention to the game than the gallery.

So look at the list: Obama got health care reform through, and Biden was right -- it's fucking huge. He got the stimulus through. He's going to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. He's going to sign the Dodd-Frank financial reform, the biggest since the New Deal. I even think Congress can pull off immigration reform -- maybe. There are themes here:

We're the mop -- they're the mess. This is what grown-up government looks like: elect more Democrats, and get more done.

Posted by: theAmericanist on May 28, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

Still not a repeal. It's a promise to repeal so long as Obama, Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sign off.

All you need is one of them to smell opportunity or personal gain by refusing to sign off. Then what is Obama going to do? If Gates or the Chairman refuses to sign off after the "review"? No way he gets into a showdown with the Military as he ramps up his 2012 campaign.

I'll celebrate the repeal when it is actually repealed.

Posted by: edmund dantes on May 28, 2010 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

This is fabulous! I knew some Repubs in the 1980's who said to me that in WWII nobody cared about sexual orientation as long as they fought well. Funny,I thought them conservative at the time, but now they would be rather liberal by comparison, because they wanted to govern well and not just lower taxes for the sake of lowering taxes. Today they'd be Democrats.

While I like the sentiment behind the theme "grown-up government" remember that's what they said about Bush post Clinton.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on May 28, 2010 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

No way he gets into a showdown with the Military as he ramps up his 2012 campaign.

There is approximately 0% chance of that happening. Seriously, it's absurd that anyone thinks WE'RE the ones getting played on this. This is just one of those silly political hoops we have to jump through to get things done without giving the appearance that we actually want to get things done.

The idea that we'd go through all the trouble of the full political fight, during an election year, and then not actually get the reward is ridiculous.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on May 28, 2010 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

So will the Blue Dogs, including my Rep Bobby Bright, vote against the final appropriation if it has DADT repeal? Last week Bright had a press release about how he supported the Bill out of committee and all of the pork /earmarks he got in it.

Posted by: martin on May 28, 2010 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

Per Edmund Dantes' comment, I too wonder what happens if the "military leaders certify that it would not be disruptive" part doesn't happen? What then? One would assume that military leaders follow the dictates of their Commander in Chief, but I've seen enough vacillation so far to be wary about this. I can see a scenario where the "military leaders" are not in lockstep, leading to another "study" that may take years.

Posted by: terraformer on May 28, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

The pressure on the military chiefs is much greater to acquiesce to the repeal of DADT than to stand in its way. Congress and the President have already spoken on the matter.

Posted by: Tom in MA on May 28, 2010 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Uhhhh...

"The provision would allow military commanders to repeal the ban."

How about "would mandate that" instead?

Posted by: Toast on May 28, 2010 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

The Democrats are effectively daring Republicans to filibuster the military spending bill on behalf of an unpopular, blatantly discriminatory policy ahead of Memorial Day weekend. Genius.

Posted by: JohnC on May 28, 2010 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

From "Harry Truman and Civil Rights" by Michael R. Gardner:

"With his issuance of Executive Order 9981, President Truman ordered his military leaders, many of whom came from priviliged and often Southern backgrounds, immediately to begin to integrate all service branches. As a former army officer who was familiar with crowded military barracks and transport ships, Truman knew that the executive order would cause consternation throughout the upper echelons of the military. However, as commander in chief, he must have been stunned by the public outburst from four-star General Omar Bradley, Truman's military chief of staff and once one of the nation's most beloved World War II heroes. The Washington Post reported in a front-page article on July 28, 1948, that General Bradley publicly expressed his opposition to Executive Order 9981 by declaring, "The Army is not out to make any social reforms. The Army will put men of different races in different companies. It will change that policy when the Nation as a whole changes it."

Expect the same type of insubordination this time.

From officers who never once balked at orders to invade an innocent country without adequate men and equipment, or to torture prisoners.

And to then laugh about it all at the battalion bible study.

Posted by: mamzic on May 28, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Terraformer, I really recommend reading the actual bill, it's short: http://washingtonindependent.com/85609/the-text-of-liebermans-dont-ask-dont-tell-repeal

That's not the final version btw, Byrd added some additional layer of Congressional oversight. But it tells us how the "military leaders" thing works. Basically Obama, Gates (secdef), and Mullen (jsoc chief) have to certify that the plan to dismantle dadt is written and will not impact military readiness. The only military leaders that matter are Gates and Mullen, both of whom have publicly and clearly stated dadt must be repealed. So even in the worst case scenario this can be a source of delay, if Mullen and Gates look at the study and conclude the only repeal plan they'll endorse as nondisruptive is one that takes a long time to go into effect. And even in that worst case scenario it would be possible for the plan to be written in such a way that gay servicemembers are not actually discharged in the period before full implementation.

I'm sure everyone would be more comfortable if the plan had not included the veto for Mullen, but had it not been included Gates and Mullen wouldn't have endorsed the repeal, Nelson and Byrd and maybe others wouldn't have voted for it in committee, and we would have no way of getting this hypothetical better bill passed in the Senate.

Posted by: mcc on May 28, 2010 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Let's see: Study (on how to IMPLEMENT repeal) due 1 December 2010 - after mid-term elections. Check. Then, sixty days allotted for review by President/SecDef and Chmn JCS. Check.
Why do I see an announcement i the SOTU that the effective date of repeal as being somewhere around, oh say, 21 January 2011?

Posted by: Doug on May 28, 2010 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

This is good. And if DADT is repealed once and for all, it will none too soon.
Everyone capable, regardless of sexuality, should not only have the right to serve, but the right to do so honestly and openly.
The problem, however, is that they'll be required to serve in an illegal war, started by a republican president and furthered by a democratic one.
Obama has done great things for America.
The healthcare bill, compromised as it was, is much better than what was the status quo.
But this does not change the fact that Iraq is a costly "mistake", and that thousands of lives have been sacrificed for cheap lies.
A lot of american so-called leftists seem to be perfectly willing to accept that.
Another reason I'm glad to be both leftist and non-american.

Posted by: HMDK on May 31, 2010 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK
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