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The Department of Justice defends DADT, White house stonewalling on repeal plan continues

By pams
Wednesday, March 31, 2010 18:19 EDT
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With the clear support for repeal of DADT in almost every demographic imaginable, and clear calls for repeal from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, and the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, it’s almost incomprehensible that this Administration, through its Department of Justice, is continuing to defend the constitutionality of the law. Joe @ Americablog:

DOJ had to go the extra mile to show just how valid the DADT law is. It’s hard to miss the section titled:

Because Congress Could Rationally Have Concluded That The DADT Policy Is Necessary To Maintain Unit Cohesion, Accommodate Personal Privacy, and Reduce Sexual Tension For Military Effectiveness, LCR’s Facial Due Process Challenge Fails

They only right-wing talking point they left out is the “we’re in two wars” argument.

It’s incredible that the administration cannot even respond to questions about strategy for repeal – see Barney Frank’s statement calling for the Obama administration to come clean about its intent:

[T]he Administration has been ambiguous about it, and that ambiguity has allowed some to interpret Secretary Gates’ argument for a delay in implementation as a delay in adopting the legislation. I believe that the Administration should make clear that it supports legislative action this year, and that while implementation is being worked out, it will carry out the policy in the way it was originally intended, which would reduce the number of discharges, in my view, by over 90%.”

Joe hits the nail on the head here:

I’m sure the usual apologists will jump to the defense of the Obama administration, even as it becomes more and more clear that the Obama administration has no intention of working to repeal DADT, or enacting ENDA, or repealing DOMA. This also begs the question of what the DOJ’s LGBT liaison, Matt Nosanchuk, does all day. Didn’t this set off some warning bells? Perhaps he has as much sway as the LGBT liaison at the White House, Brian Bond — which isn’t much.

Speaking of Bond, this is what he said back in November 2009 when I interviewed him at the Equality NC Annual Conference:

Again, this president has not backtracked on any of his commitments; and at some point the bloggers and the readers there I hope they will trust this president and work with him, work with us to achieve true equality. We’re working on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…we’re working on ENDA; you’re going to see mark up in the House next week on ENDA. These are important pieces of equality legislation for our community.

…The reality is, in some situations there are going to be times when you’re going to have to trust us because there are some things that you can’t necessarily put the specific timeline out there. Again, this is a president that means what he says and does what he says.

So which part of the above makes any sense to you, given we have an administration that alternately sends out negative messages such as this brief or doesn’t even respond to queries from Barney Frank about when the President plans to push for legislative repeal? I guess it depends on what this admin defines as “means what he says and does what he says.”

Perhaps that definition has been cleared up by Obama DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler, who went to court to repeatedly cite quotes from retired Gen. Colin Powell’s 1993 statements about gays in the military — views he has since very publicly reversed. WTF?

“This is pretty shocking,” said Richard Socarides, the White House liaison to the gay community under President Bill Clinton. “When Powell said this 18 years ago, it was inflammatory and incendiary. … [Powell]’s now said this stuff isn’t even true anymore.”

This is ridiculous. And if you think I’m reading too much into this pantomime BS the White House is doing, take a look at Tuesday’s White House briefing that landed in my inbox, where Robert Gibbs does yet another tap dance that proves President Barack Obama has no problem letting the LGBT community twist in the wind on this. Kerry Eleveld of The Advocate tried yet again to extract something resembling an answer from Gibbs.

Q Over successive weeks, Congressman Barney Frank has asked the White House to clarify whether it would like to see legislative action taken this year on “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He’s said that direction from the White House has been muddled, and then at one point said that you guys were actually sort of ducking whether or not you wanted to see legislation action taken on repeal. Would the President like to see that law –

MR. GIBBS: Well, Carol, I would just say this, I don’t think what Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates have enunciated on this appears muddled to anyone. I don’t — there is a process that’s in place to move forward on the President’s commitment to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

I don’t — Admiral Mullen is the first chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to sit up in front of Congress and say that the law ought to be repealed — not somebody who is retired, not somebody who is long past their commitment of serving their country, but somebody who sat up there and said that. And Secretary Gates and the commission at the Pentagon have taken some important steps.

We’re following that process. We’ll see where the legislative road takes us as we continue to build support to keep the commitment that the President has made.

Q So the President would feel perfectly comfortable letting the next Congress take that up?

MR. GIBBS: Well, again, we’re going to follow the process and the path that are underway with the clear direction that the President has given to repeal this.

Well what is the damned process? We don’t even know where the legislative road is, let alone what direction it is going. What does the President intend to tell Congress to do, if anything, and what is the timeline, since he suggested in the State of the Union that DADT was as good as gone this year?

Does Gibbs need his lips oiled like the Tin Man to utter what the administration intends to do when asked a direct question? Mixed messages and dodges like this have generated strong responses from SLDN and HRC. They are below the fold, as well as some speculation on my part — and some fresh video — as well as a few things readers to look out for going forward. SLDN:

Today Servicemembers Legal Defense Network expressed strong disapproval of the U.S. Department of Justice’s March 29th filing in Log Cabin Republicans v. Gates, a constitutional challenge to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). The brief supports the current DADT law.

“We were bitterly disappointed that the brief filed yesterday by the Justice Department in the Log Cabin Republicans’ case restates at length policy arguments that are inconsistent with where the leadership of this country is today, and where the American people are on open service,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of SLDN. “The lengthy quotations from then-JCS Chairman Colin Powell were particularly unfortunate and ironic in light of his recent statement that it was now time to change the policy. As SLDN argued in the Cook v. Gates challenge in 2004, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ lacks any rational, important, or compelling basis, and serves no legitimate government or military interest.

“SLDN understands the Justice Department’s role in defending the constitutionality of federal laws, even ones with which its leaders do not agree. Therefore, we would not expect that their legal briefs on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ would read anything like the recent statements of President Obama, Secretary Gates or Admiral Mullen on that subject. However, there continues to be a big and unnecessary disconnect between what DOJ files in court and what the Presidents says on Capitol Hill and to his top DOD leadership team.

“When Congress comes back next month the White House should make it clear that repeal of DADT this year is a top priority for President Obama. One sure way to send that clear signal is for the President to include repeal language in his defense budget bill going up to Capitol Hill in a few short weeks. The President’s defense budget repeal language should mirror the words in his State of the Union speech to Congress and the American people.”

HRC President Joe Solmonese released the following statement:

“We were proud when the President stood before the American people and declared in his State of the Union that it is time to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ If he’s going to uphold that commitment, however, he must ensure that his Administration doesn’t work against it. The time for repeal is this year, and the time for his leadership is now.

“Over the last several years, I have met countless veterans who have sacrificed in the name of freedom, but in doing so were unfairly forced to sacrifice their integrity by hiding who they are. They love this country, have put their lives on the line to defend it, and serve just as courageously as all our men and women in uniform. Yet, they are forced to serve under the discriminatory DADT law, or to not serve at all.

“While these veterans – and so many Americans in support of them – are fighting alongside our President and many Congressional leaders to achieve repeal, today we took a step backward when the Department of Justice filed a brief in defense of the law. The brief relies on arguments that were debunked and discredited in 1993, and even more so now. When military leaders – including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, General Collin Powell and Vice President Cheney – have the courage to stand up and say it is time to throw out the discriminatory policies of the past, it is also time for this Administration to show leadership, move the debate forward, and work with Congress to get repeal done.

“This year presents an unprecedented opportunity to repeal the law and to finally recognize that all brave men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line for this country deserve to serve openly. While the Pentagon undertakes its review of how to implement repeal, Congress can and must move forward in repealing DADT in the same bill that put it into law more than 17 years ago – the defense authorization act. And the President can and must provide the leadership necessary to get the law passed this year.”

NOTE:I want you to remember a couple of things — 1) Notice that sentence above that I have in boldface. Bookmark it, email it to yourself, do whatever it takes to ensure you can find this statement down the road; and 2) This statement, taped by yours truly at the HRC Carolinas dinner back in Februrary — a promise by Mr. Solmonese that DADT would be repealed this year.

The defense authorization act — the easiest way for this administration to bury DADT this year is to include a repeal measure here, rather than send it out as a standalone bill. A no-brainer. And that’s the question that needs to be asked and answered.

Bottom line – has this administration, with its continual playing of jackass footsie about paths and roads and other nonsense, already made its decision about inclusion in the defense authorization for this yearas in NO?

It’s time to clear the air — yes or no? Has the decision been made and when and who decided it? Is it a done deal? A lot rides on this question – certainly more than what many of you are probably aware of.

Jim Messina, the White House Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, who was dubbed “The Fixer” in a WaPo feature last year is the man to focus on in the WH. He reports directly to chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and as far as the LGBT community goes, he is the point of contact for HRC and other groups re: the administration’s policy decisions and strategy.

In June of last year, Messina said this about LGBT issues:

The president remains fully committed to advancing LGBT rights. His positions on all of these issues are well-established and well-known. His staff continues to work with Congress on a variety of LGBT issues.“While we recognize that some in the community are anxious, the president’s commitment has not wavered.”

…He was walking through the men’s room at the Beverly Hilton when Mike Bonin, an activist and former Obama campaign staffer who loves the president “the way Walt Whitman loved Abe Lincoln,” confronted him.

“I told him I was disappointed that [Obama] talked about justice and equal opportunity and across the street stands Dan Choi, who’s about to be booted out of the Army,” he recalled of the faucet-side chat.

Messina, Bonin said, responded that the White House hadn’t forgotten, and complained that the administration hasn’t gotten enough credit for pushing for a ban on hate crimes against gays and lesbians, but was ultimately “noncommittal.”

Non-committal. Sounds like the rest of the crew there; I’d be surprised, based on the attitudes and public statements coming out of the WH, that HRC, in order to prove its gravitas and leadership on this issue, will have to do more than send out a press release or hold a rally — it’s about asking Messina himself about defense authorization inclusion.

I’d be surprised, based on the attitudes and public statements coming out of the WH, that HRC, in order to prove its gravitas and leadership on this issue, will have to do more than send out a press release or hold a rally — it’s about asking Messina himself about defense authorization inclusion. Has the Chief of Staff “fixed” the DADT issue for us or for his boss — and thus is already a done deal FAIL?

***

In related news, last night Rachel Maddow covered the incredible garbage of a defense of DADT by the Obama Justice Department, that uses Colin Powell’s old quotes in support of the discriminatory policy when Powell has now reversed himself.

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