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Monday
May182009

Why Is "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Still On the Books?

Rep. John Conyers (center) with now President Barack Obama and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus. (NYT)

Rep. John Conyers is wondering this in light of the fact that we're at war and we're losing valuable soldiers (namely Arabic interpreters) due to this Clinton-era law. I'm wondering as well, considering there is public support for getting rid of the thing. The rule seems to help no one, especially the military and considering there are already rules on fraternization and sexual conduct, all those bigoted "foxhole" scenarios should be rendered moot.

Yet the rule persists.

More after the jump.

Other countries (see Great Britain and Israel) don't seem to have this problem and have gays openly serve in their military. President Barack Obama has the power as president to just write the whole thing out of existence (at least temporarily) and I have to say, I'm a tad surprised he hasn't. More than half of all Americans, including military families, think the law should be repealed.

Those who would argue that allowing gays serve openly would be divisive, should probably be reminded that the same thing was said about blacks and women in the military yet somehow, magically, everyone dealt with it like grown-ups. I mean, this is the military. It's not a democracy, but a dictatorship where those at the top lay down the law and everyone falls in line ... or else. A military can't function if everyone is running their own private Army of one. I'm pretty sure they can find a mature way to deal with "The Gay."

So what's the hold up with the Obama Administration on this issue? On the campaign trail, Obama promised to repeal the law, but as recently as Friday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was fielding questions on what was the hold up. Conyers is arguing that since Obama has become president he's become increasingly too conservative for his tastes and pretty much accuses him of trying to placate Republicans in an effort to come off as bipartisan.

“Why is he becoming so conservative now that he’s got the job?” Conyers asked during an interview with Michigan Messenger at a gathering of progressive activists on Saturday. “I think he is getting a lot of pressure put on him from the right, from conservatives. And he is trying to prove to the Republicans that he is bipartisan.” (Michigan Messenger)

Gibbs tried to reiterate that the president is for ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell and is trying to work with Congress rather than simply suspending the law via presidential decree.

Here's what Gibbs said during Friday's press conference:

From The Advocate:

Q: The president said that releasing the detainee photos poses a danger to our troops, but doesn't dismissing otherwise qualified soldiers pose a danger. Is it a question of degree?

Gibbs: What I talked about in terms of "dont' ask, don't tell" was, the president -- the president, as you know, supports changing that because he strongly believes that it does not serve our national interests. He agrees with former members of the Joint Chiefs in that determination.

But unlike the photos, the, the only durable solution to "don't ask, don't tell" is through the legislative process, and the president is working with Congress and the members of the Joint Chiefs to ensure that that happens.

Q: But couldn't he, in the meantime, put a moratorium on these discharges until that can be accomplished.

Gibbs: But again, the president's determined that that's not... that is... that's not the way to seek any sort of lasting or durable solution to the public policy problem that we have.

Q: How do you respond to the criticism though that dismissing qualified linguists endangers the troops?

Gibbs: I would, I would... I think, I would respond by saying that the president has long believed that the policy does not serve our national interests.

So again, what's the hold up? Do you think the president is trying to play it safe by working on getting bipartisan support for the repeal? Do you think he's gone "conservative" like Conyers said? Do you think he's trying to have it both ways, not wanting to ruffle feathers? Or do you think "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is actually beneficial?

I've always thought "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was crap. Considering gay people manage to hold down all sorts of jobs throughout our society I didn't understand and still don't understand what makes the military so special that it can't handle some gay person. One: The Gay does not rub off. Two: You cannot catch The Gay from knowing an openly gay person. Three: Gay people are not some kind of nymphos who throw themselves sexually on every piece of ass they see. There's nothing more arrogant than someone who dislikes gay people because they're afraid of being hit on. Who died and made you the most desirable hetero in the friggin' world?

Lastly, the "foxhole" defense is stupid as hell. Who on earth is thinking about getting laid when someone is firing bullets and lobbing bombs at them, gay or straight? I could have swore you'd be thinking "Man, I really, really, really don't want to die" or you'd be focusing on defending yourself and your fellow soldiers from the enemy. And when you're in trouble do you actually care about the sexual orientation of the person who saves you? If you're bogged down in a fire fight do you care if the fighter pilot who blows up your enemy so you can get the hell out of there is gay? Do you care if the helicopter pilot who comes to pick you and the injured up off the battlefield is gay, or are you just happy they came to get your ass? PRIORITIES, PEOPLE!

Long story short: There are always going to be bigots in the military who will be uncomfortable about serving with gays, but you know what? My ex was a Marine who served with hardcore racists and somehow everyone made it out of boot camp alive.

Personally, I think the president should just go ahead and use the power he has to suspend it so we can stop losing the people we need so the military can do its job, then get with Congress about repealing this piece of malarky. But perhaps he's trying to avoid yet another CULTURE WARS fight that certain conservatives love. Much like the whole boondoogle of protesting the president at Notre Dame because of his pro-abortion stance (and not protesting previous presidents the Catholic church had beef with. *Cough* Bush *Cough, cough*). Culture Wars fights are comforting to those who know nothing but them and are used to it, but I think most Americans are not interested in going to the mat over keeping gay Arabic translators out of the military. It just seems counter-productive if you actually believe in the veracity of the War on Terror.

If you think someone is out to get you, why would you get rid of the person who can actually understand what your enemy is saying? It's all bollocks, I tell you. Bollocks.

As both a pragmatist and a Liberal, if it were up to me, I'd probably be running roughshod over things I knew I had more than 50 percent public support for and a Democratically-controlled Congress. In other words, I doubt I'd be Little Miss Bipartisan, but this is why I'm not president.

What do you think about the White House's reasons for why they haven't jumped on the issue?

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Reader Comments (20)

I agree that DADT needs to end. On the question of is the President becoming to conservative I have to admit I always felt he was more on the conservative or middle road on a lot of issues. I know it was often thrown at him by those on the left that he was the most liberal senator but for me that simply did not ring true.

Also during the campaign I think after the last eight year people where projecting a lot onto Obama. I can not tell you how many have said that Obama is really for gay marriage but he's going to act like he's not to get elected. Now that may be true but it also maybe true that he meant what he said and your just hearing what you wanted to hear.

Now a bit of the Hope and Change high has come down reality is setting in.

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDee

p.s. have you been spending time in Jolly ole England, Bullocks lol

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDee

I'm with you. I think it's crazy that he let that Dan Choi fellow get fired and is pretending like it never happened. It's lovely that he wrote that note to the other gay soldier, but the time for words has passed. It's complete BS that he's back pedaling on this issue and the torture photos/truth commission issue. It was painful to listen to Gibby try to defend a completely indefensible turnaround on those two fronts in his press briefing late last week. I think he might be afraid of expending political capital, but it strikes me as cowardly and unprincipled.

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdkan71

The Bible Belt isn't down with homosexuality, and they make up the military disportionately, so I think we'll continue to have resistance. President Obama is trying to stay moderate, which I figured would anger a lot of his liberal supporters. He hasn't disappointed me, however. Free your mind and your ass will follow, I always say. Hee, hee. No, that was a bad joke. The whole issue of banning gays is silly and homophobic.

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdukedraven

I have no idea what the complications are in such a holdup, but I think you too easily dismissed the idea of bigots in the military. I'm not a fan of DADT, but I do question what (if at all) the reaction will be from those who "don't want to serve with gays" and the reactions it would inspires. I hate to sound like I'm placing a linear ordering on something as complicated as the military, but we've just lost one person in the military because he came out of the closet on Rachel Maddow's show. I wonder how many we would lose if DADT were repealed and gays were allowed to serve openly.

Now i sound like I'm saying its okay to hate gays, I'm not though. But if your point is going to be "we're more secure without DADT than with it", then there's some flaw in your argument. We were more secure before Lt Choi decided to announce his sexuality. I really hate that I just said that because I feel that a person should be allowed to state their sexuality any time they want. But when he chose to go against DADT, he chose that repealing DADT was more important to him than continuing in the military. I'm not mad at Lt. Choi for doing this, but he made a choice in this situation too.

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThought

I think "Don't ask Don't tell" should be gotten rid of like many fair minded it people. However, what will happen to the many folks who will come out after this policy is repealed. Will they get separte barracks for example "Let's say I'm a solider who has to shower or room with someone who is homesexual." Would this raise the flag for many sexual assualt lawsuites?!! I only say this becasue when I was in high school there was a girl who hid the fact she was gay from everyone in my circular of friends just up and one day kissed me.
I was horrified and tried to aviod her at school and was scared to tell anyone at the time. Growing up in the bible belt things like another female coming on to you can be freaking scary. The girl started leaving me love letters until finally I threatened to report her to the principle is when she backed down. I never told any of our circular of friends or my own parents what happen I just moved on with my life.
Looking back I wished the girl had been up front about her sexuality rather than hidding it and doing a suprise attack on me out the blue. Soon or later the government is going to repeal the "Don't ask Don't tell policy" but they need to insure that something is inforced to follow any improperties. Gays have been serving in the military for a long time already so them coming out in the open is no big deal.

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTia

Now i sound like I'm saying its okay to hate gays, I'm not though. But if your point is going to be "we're more secure without DADT than with it", then there's some flaw in your argument. We were more secure before Lt Choi decided to announce his sexuality. I really hate that I just said that because I feel that a person should be allowed to state their sexuality any time they want. But when he chose to go against DADT, he chose that repealing DADT was more important to him than continuing in the military. I'm not mad at Lt. Choi for doing this, but he made a choice in this situation too.- Thought
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I think I understand your concern and many people who want DADT over turned refusal to look at any long term effects when abandoning this policy. The only downsides I see is now will there be laws to protect the ones who come out as Gay?! once DADT is over turned. Will there be arrangements made for separate showering for those who are openly homosexual?! Because I can see a whole host of lawsuits of soldiers who are straight claiming sexual harassment and Gays claim discrimination if forced to shower separate. As for soldiers refusing to serve do to Gays being openly accepted into the military I say "bullshit". People used the same claim to refuse Blacks, Asians, Latino into the military. The truth is majority of soliders already know a couple of there peers who maybe gay they just don't say a word about it. My mother who served in the military say she knew of some in her barracks and she paid it no mind. But, there some folks who will be bothered by it and those are the ones to watch out for when they repeal DADT. So, laws protect Gays needs to be in place if DADT is over turned.

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTia

Now a bit of the Hope and Change high has come down reality is setting in. -Dee
...........................................................................................................................

I think when Obama invited Rev. Rick Warren to speak right then the Gay community should have gotten a clue. Obama will say and do what ever gets him elected and if he feels pushing the Gay agenda at this moment might cost him in the future he’ll ignore it. And lets face it folks the fact is economic issues is a bigger problem right now then worrying about if Bob and Tom can marry. I still say the Gay issue cost John Kerry in 2004 as well as his ass being swift voted plus John Edwards didn’t pull his weight.

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTia

@Tia, I agree there are alot of pressing issues on Obama's plate but my main point was Obama is not a liberal and I think some liberals are just now figuring that out. If they had really paid attention to alot of the things he said heck read his books then they would know he is very pragmatic and when I voted for him I felt I was voting for a moderate president.

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDee

We have an Armed Services that has lowered its standards so much that it now allows:

Rural Terrorists - better known as White Supremacists in
Urban Terrorists - better known as Gangbangers in
Actual CRIMINALS in

But a West Point trained, Arab Speaking Officer can get thrown out because he's a HOMOSEXUAL.

IN A TIME OF WAR.

Based in Arabic speaking countries.

Uh huh.

The President is WRONG on this issue. Simply WRONG.

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrikyrah

sorry -

Arabic Speaking Officer

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrikyrah

Obama's lack of action on this issue given his campaign promises is nothing short of hypocrisy. It is time to ditch DADT and Obama should just issue an exec order and be done with it. Truman did it with integration and the racists in the military got over it.

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott

@Tia, I agree there are alot of pressing issues on Obama's plate but my main point was Obama is not a liberal and I think some liberals are just now figuring that out. If they had really paid attention to alot of the things he said heck read his books then they would know he is very pragmatic and when I voted for him I felt I was voting for a moderate president.- Dee
...................................................................................................................................................................................

Your right Obama never was any left wing liberal and neither was Hillary Clinton. I've seen some gays suggest Hillary would have fought harder for there rights if she had won instead of Obama. Are they freaking paying attention Hillary and Obama damn near on the same page about issues concerning gays. I think these people saw what they wanted to see while me of us saw a conservative moderate in Obama. Anything Obama is most likely a Blue Dog Democrat and these left wing groups are now starting to see it more clearly. The true hypocrisy is these fools saw in Obama the second coming of Jesus and what they got was a shrewd Chicago politician. I still Obama is way better then McCain and Sarah Palin.
Another thing I'm against DADT because I think it's unfair and outdated. However, I notice no one is talking about "possible" after effects once DADT is Abandon. There is always a negative effect with anything that brings positive change we have seen that through what happen after the civil rights act and many other issues dealing with change.

May 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTia

Obama's lack of action on this issue given his campaign promises is nothing short of hypocrisy. It is time to ditch DADT and Obama should just issue an exec order and be done with it. Truman did it with integration and the racists in the military got over it.- Scott
.............................................................................................

Darling, the racist never got over nothing. They still exist and many are in positions of power in the military to this day. My mother and Father served in the military and told me horror stories about having to deal with racist attacks daily. So, if the racist cannot handle Blacks even in the 21 century "What in the hell do you think they'll do to openly gay people?".....That is why some laws need to be put in place to deal with this issue head on if the DADT policy is removed.

May 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTia

I suspect that Obama doesn't want to make the same mistake that Clinton made by getting caught up on the 'culture wars,' and wasting political capital in a time of crisis. Right now he's got to get an economic agenda through Congress, and the culture wars would be nothing but fodder in his opponent's hands.

I never thought Obama was a liberal, and always said Hillary Clinton was more liberal than Obama (Or her husband for that matter.) Liberal Democrats don't get elected president or for that matter much of anything in this country anymore.

I think he will bide his time on DADT until an opportune moment. It wouldn't surprise me if Conyers comments aren't carefully orchestrated just for that purpose.

May 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRoslyn Holcomb

Tia:

I'm not saying the racists stopped being racists, My point was that there was no mass exodus of people from the military and that the the military's good order and discipline was not adversely affected in spite of the fear mongering by some at the time. The racists today in the military take orders from black officers and senior enlisted and obey them, they not like them but they obey and that is all the military requires

May 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott

I agree that Lt Choi made a personal decision to highlight this issue on a national level at the potential expense of his military career. He has forced this issue back into a national debate and attempted to force the president's hand as he saw it necessary for greater advancement of humanity. Choi clearly understands that military law is what it is & nothing short of a presidential intervention would save his military record. I also think with his resume, the military needed him much more than he needed the military.

That said, I think this argument is about the tactics and speed of overturning DADT not if it should be overturned. I go back to Obama's legal brilliance and his political savvy. I think he has been incredibly consistent with his campaign promises & his vision for our country.

It's a strange place we find ourselves in. At a time when we trust our government the least, we are being asked to trust our government. Given Obama's credibility and consistency, I'd like to see us trust his process on this and allow him to work up a lasting solution to an idiotic law.

May 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe A

At some point, in the not too distant past, being openly and vocally racist was not only accepted but the norm. Seasons turn and societies change; with luck it is for the better. Brave people often force people to confront fears and lond held beliefs causing shifts in their thinking. A homophobe that has their child come out to them may end up a gay rights champion. I believe DADT will and should go away, but I remember when the possibility of DADT would have been thought a radically progressive idea.

Race phobias, age phobias, homophobia and other phobias are often a war of attrition. Prop. 8 in California was dispropotionately passed by persons over the age of 45 whereas younger age groups had agreed that discrimination against gay people in any form to be inconceivable.

As for the problem of the "unthinkable" happening, that gay person may hit on me. I once saw my macho older brother get asked out by a gay man. Incredulous, he smiled, politely declined by saying "I don't swing that way" and I believe is still as flattered and ego swelled as he was when it happened (years ago). It was handled in the same manner that I decline romantic attention from men who hit on me.

May 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

So everyone here would prefer the temporary quick fix, an exucutive order, rather than waiting on a permanent solution, law passed by congress and signed by the president? I swear we live in a society where instant gratification overtakes common sense.

May 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkhal02

i wonder what soldiers and military people think of the policy.

May 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterswiv
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