Bad News on Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell

The policy of discharging otherwise qualified gay soldiers from the military has been a hot topic this week. Last Friday, I asked Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to explain the difference in the risk to our security between discharging a qualified arabic linguist, and releasing photos of detainee abuse.

Since then, Air America’s Ana Marie Cox has followed up with Gibbs on 2 more occasions, and in all 3 cases, the Press Secretary assured us that a solution was in the works.

Maybe I’m naive, but I took this to mean that a repeal of the Don’t ask/Don’t tell was on the near horizon, maybe a couple of months away. There is a bill in the House of Representatives, HR 1283, that was referred to the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel in March.

I contacted the subcommittee’s chair, Rep. Susan Davis (D-Ca), and her spokesman, Aaron Hunter, gave me some rather deflating news.

He said that the committee plans to schedule hearings on the bill. Later this year.

I was flabbergasted. “You mean, the hearings on this bill could literally begin anytime up to December?”

“Yes.”

That’s just to schedule hearings, let alone hold a vote in the full committee or the House. By then, the midterm election campaigns will be in full swing, with Republicans already signaling that they plan to make gay marriage an issue.

This is not a criticism of Congresswoman Davis, who supports the repeal of this policy. She held the first Congressional hearings on DADT in 15 years last July. Hunter told me that they still need to build support for the bill in the subcommittee.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Ted Kennedy has agreed to sponsor the Senate version, but is still seeking a Republican co-sponsor.

I initially agreed with Gibbs’ assessment, when I thought we were talking about a relatively short time frame. I don’t think our national security can wait that long. When a prisoner makes a confession that there is no-one around to translate, or when a gay medic isn’t there anymore to treat a wounded soldier, how much sense will waiting to change this policy make then?

President Obama should put a stop to these discharges. Period.// //

Tommy on: Daily Dose:

President Obama Exercises Authority on Detainee Photos but Not Gay Soldiers

I had been planning to write this anyway, but after seeing Lee Stranahan’s video “Segregation” I wanted to wait to see if I could get a comment from the White House on this first.

President Obama’s decision to block the release of detainee abuse photographs on the grounds that their release might endanger US troops is a controversial one but one with which I ultimately agree. However, it has also been pointed out that his failure to stop discharges of gay soldiers also carries some risk. I asked Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about it at today’s briefing:

I didn’t really expect Gibbs to say, “OK, Tommy, we’ll do it if you think it’s a good idea.” I also didn’t ask as a way to make the President the bad guy here.

While I wish the President would put an immediate stop to this, I recognize the political calculus here. A unilateral action now could hamper a more lasting legislative solution later. While the President has demonstrated superb instincts in the past on “keeping the powder dry,” I think people are ready for this, and it is worth the political risk.

I mainly asked about it in hopes of re-framing this issue in the public conversation.

Gibbs’ point is that the detainee photo issue has no legislative remedy, whereas the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy does. Unsaid, but also true, is the fact that the harm caused by the photos would be much more immediate and direct, hence the urgency.

Still, what bothers me about this is the way the right tries to make hay with this, “Gotcha!” style, when they are the ones who have created the political climate that makes it difficult for the President to act here. By inventing a false risk posed to our troops by gay service members, they have put them at real risk.

Aside from that, there’s what I believe to be a moral imperative at work here, eloquently illustrated by the aforementioned video:

Discrimination is already a serious enough issue. When you discriminate against qualified soldiers, it is deadly serious.// Tommy on: Daily Dose: