Editor's Note: Guest blogger Justin Elzie was the first US Marine to come out in 1993 and then discharged under DADT. He was later temporarily reinstated where upon he served 4 more years openly gay.
As a former United States Marine and an avid Texas Hold 'Em Poker Player (a quite successful one I might add), I love strategy. Strategy carries over into all areas of my life since the military, especially in poker and how I look at politics.
Bad decisions in political strategy, just like bad military strategy, affects peoples lives - and there is no better an example than the current Obama administration strategy in respect to the repeal of DADT. In Poker if you don't have a strong hand and you want better odds, you don't put all your chips into one pot. But that is exactly what this Administration has done. Right now the administration is taking a one track strategy (Legislative appeal only) - instead of a "two-part strategy" (Legislative appeal and a "Stop-Loss" in the meantime for LGBT Servicemembers).
This "two part strategy" was written about extensively and suggested by The Palm Center and The Center for American Progress (PDF Report) and supported by 77 members of the U.S. Congress, who wrote President Obama. The news media, notably Rachel Maddow, also reported about it. SLDN and HRC gave support after the fact for the idea, but as mentioned in a report titled - "A Self-Inflicted Wound: How and Why Gays Give the White House a Free Pass on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by the Palm Center (PDF Report), they didn't push the administration.
The Obama administration, when confronted with this option, quickly dismissed it and "passed the buck" to Congress, thereby not using the bully pulpit for DADT. They are now the second Democratic administration to throw LGBT Servicemembers like Lt. Dan Choi under the bus - again.
Here is why this one track strategy is seriously shortsighted:
If the President had done a "stop- loss" (which he has the power to do under Title 10, United States Code, Section 12305, known as the "stop-loss" law, which allows the President to suspend any provision of law related to military separations during national security emergencies), this would have taken a big card away from the proponents of DADT. By allowing LGBT Servicemembers to serve without being discharged until congress repealed DADT, this would have built a record / case that the military would not fall apart during a time of war with openly gay servicemembers, and it would have taken away an important point in the debate out of the hands of the proponents of DADT.
When it came time for DADT to come up in Congress for repeal, the president then could have easily pointed to the fact that the military had continued to perform professionally and successfully in time of war with openly gay servicemembers. He could have pointed out that no gay Arab linguists had been kicked out, thereby not hurting national security. But now because he has not issued a "stop-loss" and based it on the need of national security to not kick out Arab linguists (like he said during his campaign), he has in effect undermined his own argument on the national security point - by not taking action!
There is also a psychological component to the battle of ideas here. By the President not taking a stand on DADT, getting away from it, as far as he could and instead "passing the buck" to Congress, he is in effect telling the proponents of DADT that he considers it a controversial issue, he is weak on it, he doesn't want to touch it, and he doesn't want to go up against the military.
He is letting the military control the timetable for this issue so that he is not seen as weak on defense, which is a charge that has been leveled against every Democratic president since Carter. He gave the proponents of DADT the first hand in the Poker game. They won and they know it.
They know he didn't want to deal with it, thereby giving them a huge psychological win and advantage. This is going to give them more confidence, that they have the upper hand, and making the final battle on this all the more ugly.
Finally 2010, 2011, and 2012 are election years. Does anybody really think that conservative Democrats and Republicans are going to touch "what they perceive" to be a controversial issue during an election year? Not to mention anyone with some foresight can see that at some point Republicans against Obama's agenda will gain seats in Congress. 1993 was a big battle, and when DADT comes up again it will also be a big messy battle with people wanting to compromise in some way. We need to be on guard for this. Conservatives are not going to go quietly on DADT just because 56% - 69% of the public agrees that gays should serve.
So where is our Fierce Advocate? If you ask any U.S. Marine, or any Drag Queen, the definition of "Fierce" you're going to get a couple of pretty good definitions - neither of which exemplifies this administration.
I think if we are really honest with ourselves, we need to admit that fact and move on, and that this administration is not going to be our Fierce Advocate to repeal DADT.
Who is our Fiercest Advocate? YOU ARE. You, your friends and your family. We control our own destiny in this battle for our rights. We need to make sure that we barnstorm our Congress members with what we want to see happen - the full repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
Without that, we lose the Poker game. We have the winning hand; we just need to play the right strategy with it.