Obama’s Honesty Among Friends

Speaking to the Human Rights Campaign, probably the most visible face of gay rights in America, President Obama renewed his commitment to ending “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, to applause. But first, he reminded his audience that change may not come immediately:

But if not now, when? A simple theory: the time might be next September. Hear me out.

We’ll probably lose votes next November. That’s just the sad truth, and shouldn’t be unexpected. People like divided government. So we have to do it soon and, if polling remains the same, we could even push the repeal of DoMA through at midterms, to secure a political advantage.

Gay marriage is fading as the right’s go-to issue, even as opposition to basic issues of equality fades among moderates. Of course, it’ll never fade among hard-line elements of the right. Because the Republican caucus is increasingly dominated by such hard-liners, we might even have to push through a filibuster. But as the divide between the GOP and the public’s acceptance of gay rights grows, there’s no better time to capitalize on it than just before midterms. This conclusion, of course, depends on polling in battleground states, which would be more than a little premature now, but using gay marriage to point out the daylight between Republicans and reality has a certain poetic justice to it. Choosing this battlefield would secure equal rights for gay Americans even as it redeems it from a right-wing wedge issue to a part of America’s new bipartisan consensus.

Sun Tzu said: therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.


  1. That might work for a repeal of DOMA; it’s not an argument for why Obama did not sign the executive order terminating “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” first thing this morning after his speech this weekend.

  2. My understanding is that it’s UCMJ, and not executive policy. Therefore he could have written the executive order, but it would’ve been in immediate conflict with the UCMJ, and thus ineffective. I’ll research and write it up for tomorrow.

    1. Ah yes, well, he can’t “repeal” the law as President. I have, though, heard arguments that the executive branch does have the authority to terminate the practice (simply through an executive order of non-enforcement?).

      I’m not sure, though, what Obama means about consulting with the military to figure out how to end it before proposing legislation to Congress. I know there will be finer points to work out in the military code – maybe clarifying sexual harassment rules, determining if troops made “uncomfortable” will have certain rights of refusal or something – but ultimately, doesn’t this just come down to saying the military cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation?

      At most, I could see some provision in the bill for some kind of transition period, so that the finer details of policy can be worked out. Discharges based on sexual orientation would cease immediately (it would be assinine to discharge a soldier a month before a law would have taken effect) but maybe allow openly gay recruits to be turned away until the transition period ends. Shrug, I don’t know.

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