Rachel Maddow did this extremely convincing report last night on how the Obama administration is setting themselves up to let DADT go on for years with their current strategy of ruthlessly pushing for enforcement while pleading with the Senate to overturn it. You know, even though they have the tools at hand—simply not appealing this federal decision—to make DADT go away tomorrow. What was going through my head the entire time was, “Is the administration being stupid or arrogant?” The facts seem indisputable. When was the last time the Senate actually passed a bill that explicitly guaranteed equality for a minority group that was being routinely bagged on in public forums? Maybe you could say Lilly Ledbetter, but that was more of a smaller bill shoring up pre-existing rights—rights that even hard right pundits are often loathe to attack. (Instead of arguing openly that women should be paid less, they just impugn women’s abilities, and suggest unequal pay reflects that.) But something on this level? I’d have to say that the closest is the Voting Rights Act of 1965? If I’m wrong, please let me know. I’m curious.
Either way, the possibility that the current administration could round up votes, LBJ-style, is fucking laughable. There’s a couple of reasons. The first being that Republicans in the Senate are obviously not interested in working with the President, and that goes double on this issue. They have made it clear they’ll kill defense spending before they allow this. They’re not being reasonable. Second of all, Obama is no LBJ, for better or for worse. You’re not particularly afraid that he’s going to break your knees if you don’t play ball with him. He’s offered no real leadership on this issue, in direct contrast to LBJ. He’s like the anti-LBJ.
Which I tend to believe is his choice—he actually seems to buy the Beltway wisdom that you shield yourself from right wing criticism by going through certain channels. I suspect he actually thinks letting the courts handle this one will put it in a place where Roe v. Wade never got, which is calcified in the common wisdom. He’s wrong on this. People don’t hate the courts. They hate gays. Hating on the courts is just a cover story for that. If Congress had legalized abortion, anti-choicers would be just as mean and ugly. This Beltway common wisdom is for crap.
So, are they arrogant or stupid in thinking this brilliant “let the Senate do it instead of simply instructing the Justice Department to let it go”? The one thing they need to understand is the longer they let this question linger, the more option #3 seems possible—that the Obama administration is homophobic and actually supports DADT, despite their protests.
Take, for instance, Valerie Jarrett calling a gay teenager’s orientation a “lifestyle choice”. (She’s since apologized.) That’s not the sort of thing that’s going to quell suspicions that the administration is doing the wrong thing by gay people because of some procedural bullshit but because they don’t like gay people. What it’s going to do is ramp up suspicions that they don’t give a shit how this actually affects the fighting men and women in uniform who have to live lies, because they think that all you have to do to avoid DADT is to choose a different “lifestyle”.
Just remember this, when the administration is making excuses: just because the Justice Department doesn’t pursue this case doesn’t mean the Senate can’t go ahead and codify the federal judge’s decision into law.