While the VIP LGBTs were waiting for the President to meet and greet them yesterday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was taking a pummeling today at the daily presser about the inaction of the administration regarding several LGBT issues on the back burner. Clearly it's more than just the "whining homos" wondering why the President talks a good game but seems quite passive about doing anything concrete. Gibbs does his usual song and dance saying the Pentagon and Congress have to be involved, but that the President hasn't met with the people in the Pentagon or Congress. Sounds like a circular reference to me.
Q Robert, I have a question on today's event in the East Room. On "don't ask, don't tell," how much is the President personally involved? I mean, I know you've said that he sort of turned that policy change over to the Pentagon and you're letting them and Congress work on that.
MR. GIBBS: I've said that -- I mean, the President hasn't, himself, been involved in meetings with the Pentagon. A solution has to include working with the Pentagon. But it's something that the President has been involved in since coming to this administration.
Q How much of a priority is this for him?
MR. GIBBS: Well, it's something that --
Q I mean, is there a timeline or --
MR. GIBBS: When we can get it done. The President has talked about this -- and I've talked about the fact that to have an enduring solution this had to be done legislatively. That, I think most people recognize, is going to take some time to do, working with both Congress and the Pentagon. I think the President will address this in remarks at the event a little bit later today.
Q Change in policy?
MR. GIBBS: Pardon me?
Q A change?
MR. GIBBS: No. But, again, in order to have that enduring solution, this is going to have to be done legislatively.
As in no administrative changes will be worked out with the Pentagon in terms of implementation of DADT, and there will be no executive order. And then he was directly asked about the foot-dragging with Congress.
Q Robert, today the President is going to celebrate Gay Pride at the White House for the first time. Even so, the gay community is somewhat divided over whether or not the President has done enough, the pace of change is enough. What does the President intend to say today, and can you talk a little bit about his thinking about how much he has to mollify a community that's been very supportive during the campaign?
MR. GIBBS: I appreciate the opportunity to comment on mollifying a community, but that's not the way the President looks at important issues. I think if you go back and look at the campaign -- either his campaign for the Senate or his campaign for the presidency -- he takes stands that he believes are consistent with his values.
We didn't play a lot of interest group-based politics in the presidential race, I think that was denoted by the fact that we didn't get a lot of endorsements in the presidential race.
The President makes those decisions, again, based on his values. I won't get ahead of what he's going to say later today, but he will, I think, address a number of issues and reaffirm the commitments that he's made.
Q Following on that, the President has talked about repealing "don't ask, don't tell," and also the Defense of Marriage Act. So I'm wondering if you can tell me what specific steps has he taken to do this? What is his timeline for doing it? And also --
MR. GIBBS: I think we got a fairly similar question a minute ago, but I'll try to --
Q -- there's legislation apparently moving through House to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," I think it's H.R. 1283, and he hasn't endorsed it. Why not?
MR. GIBBS: I can certainly talk to legislative affairs about what that piece of legislation would do. As I said earlier, the President has been involved in, personally, meetings on this topic with stakeholders, including those at the Pentagon.
Q What about members of Congress?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know if he's met specifically with members of Congress on that. I know that -- I can try to get a list, I know that staff has worked here on the issue. It's a commitment that he intends to keep.
Q Can you talk a little bit more about the meetings that he's had, what --
MR. GIBBS: No.
Q -- and how recent has he been in these meetings?
MR. GIBBS: Since January 20.
So which is it -- has the President been in meetings with the Pentagon or not? Anyway, compare this presser to the Obama Speech at yesterday's reception. A key section is below the fold. See if you can get the presser and the below in alignment. Some key sections:
I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act to help end discrimination -- (applause) -- to help end discrimination against same-sex couples in this country. Now, I want to add we have a duty to uphold existing law, but I believe we must do so in a way that does not exacerbate old divides. And fulfilling this duty in upholding the law in no way lessens my commitment to reversing this law. I've made that clear.
I'm also urging Congress to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act, which will guarantee the full range of benefits, including health care, to LGBT couples and their children. (Applause.) My administration is also working hard to pass an employee non-discrimination bill and hate crimes bill, and we're making progress on both fronts. (Applause.) Judy and Dennis Shepard, as well as their son Logan, are here today. I met with Judy in the Oval Office in May -- (applause) -- and I assured her and I assured all of you that we are going to pass an inclusive hate crimes bill into law, a bill named for their son Matthew. (Applause.)
...And finally, I want to say a word about "don't ask, don't tell." As I said before -- I'll say it again -- I believe "don't ask, don't tell" doesn't contribute to our national security. (Applause.) In fact, I believe preventing patriotic Americans from serving their country weakens our national security. (Applause.)
Now, my administration is already working with the Pentagon and members of the House and the Senate on how we'll go about ending this policy, which will require an act of Congress.
Someday, I'm confident, we'll look back at this transition and ask why it generated such angst, but as Commander-in-Chief, in a time of war, I do have a responsibility to see that this change is administered in a practical way and a way that takes over the long term. That's why I've asked the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a plan for how to thoroughly implement a repeal.
Watch Robert Gibbs take more shots on Hardball: