Waymon Hudson

My State of the Union Reaction: DADT Mention, Tough Talk, & Supreme Smack Down

Filed By Waymon Hudson | January 28, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Don't Ask Don't Tell, SOTU, state of the union, Supreme Court

Note from Waymon: Let me first say that this was a really dense, full speech to the Nation from Obama. I hope the readers will jump in and leave their own views and impressions on the SOTU- I always learn so much from all of your different views!

Barack-Obama-addresses-Co-002.jpgWell, it's the day after the State of the Union and it's time to play armchair quarterback!

As a bonafide political geek (who fully admits to watching CSPAN for fun), I have to say on a purely surface level, this was one impressive speech- which we've come to expect from Obama. Of course, this comes after 8 years of watching Bush stumble, bumble, swagger, and "heh heh heh" through every speech he gave.

Here are the moments that stuck out in my head the morning after. Let's start with that LGBT content...

DADT, Hate Crimes, & Civil Rights

Here's the part we were all looking at:

Abroad, America's greatest source of strength has always been our ideals.  The same is true at home.  We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution:  the notion that we are all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it; that if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else.

We must continually renew this promise.  My Administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination.  We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate.  This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.  We are going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws - so that women get equal pay for an equal day's work.

1.jpgFirst some good things. Let me acknowledge that I still think it's a good thing to have any attention paid to our issues or community on this kind of scale. The State of the Union is a huge moment for any constituency. It gets the media talking about and sparks more public attention. Lobbyists for different causes would kill for any mention in a SOTU. It also is a bigger deal than when we made the same sort of announcements at an LGBT event (like HRC Dinner in DC) since the audience is bigger and he's not just preaching to the choir.

I also like how he couched LGBT rights with civil rights, the Constitution, and American values. It chips away at the "special rights" argument that is always made by the far right about our community. It's how our rights should be referred to.

Some things that could have been better- I think the hate crimes and employment discrimination language was a little too coded. We got it as a community because we follow and care about these issues, but the American public doesn't really know he was talking about us with buzz words that would resonate only with our community.

My take on the much anticipated "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal moment?

The Good News: A "this year" time commitment on DADT repeal. Even better was the rousing standing ovation and cheers it got from the house. A very cool moment.

The Bad News: There was no real outline or plan on how to accomplish the repeal. There was no announcement on a shift in strategy for ending DADT- no stop loss, no announcement of inclusion in the defense budget, and no announcement of support from Military leaders (which was a prevailing rumor before the SOTU).

I'm actually not sure why the Administration asked Sen Levin to postpone his DADT hearings until after the SOTU. The language wasn't that different from Obama's previous campaign promise "this is my goal" language.

Valerie Jarrett did later say on the Rachel Maddow Show that the President would lay out his specific plan in the coming "days and weeks." That's a good sign.

Tough Talk for Everyone and a Weird Appeal to Conservatives

Like I said, this was a dense, heavy speech for a tough time in the country. The overall tone of the speech was tough- he called out Democrats and Republicans for the gridlock in Washington, banks and corporations for their greed, and hit just about everyone else too.

I happen to like the tough talk and calling out. Obama was making a lot of arguments that the Administration should have been making for months now. Is it a sign of tough, fighting leadership to come? Only time will tell.

The thing that gave me pause (and makes me worry about there being any change in tough leadership and head-knocking from the White House) was all the conservative red meat he threw in. Offshore oil drilling, "clean" coal, spending freezes, tax cuts- all things designed to try and garner support from the GOP in the "spirit of bipartisanship."

And we all know how well that's worked out so far...

Smacking Down the Conservatives on the Supreme Court

This was my favorite moment- Obama spanking the Supreme Court for its decision on corporate election spending limits and corporate personhood.

I especially love Alito's head-shaking and "Not true" mouthing. This was a "check and balance" in government moment at it's finest.

Who are those "Activist Judges" again...?

Just a Good Speech or Turning a Corner?

So does this first State of the Union show a new direction of hands-on leadership from Obama or was it just another good speech from a gifted orator?

I'm not sure. I hope that Obama starts finding that fire he had in the campaign to push things through and deliver on some of the big promises he made and expectations he created. Democrats need a strong leader to force them to have some backbone and stop throwing up their hands in defeat ("We only have historic majorities- how can we get anything done??" Ugh.).

So what say you, Projectors? What were your impressions from the State of the Union?

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One already had whiplash from the rapid twists and turns, the claims, the rumors, the wishful thinking re DADT the previous two weeks. Despite last night, we still don't know for certain, for instance, if Obama will put DADT repeal in the 2011 defense budget.

I'll resist the Bette Davis line about fastening seatbelts, but there is the POSSIBILITY that he was actually putting his foot on the gas rather than just idling in Neutral while saying pretty words as he's done for a year.

What CNN is claiming as I write:

1. Chair of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullin will make a "special announcement" when he testifies to the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday. I don't want to appear unnecessarily skeptical, but announcements over the last year have consistently been about "pie in the sky," and one wonders why if it involves ACTION it couldn't have been announced TODAY. Barring a documented leak, we'll just have to wait and see. [He's also supposed to testify that day regarding the 2011 defense budget.]

2. Marine Corps Commandant Conway will not be attending the hearings. If true, that is great news in any case as he's known to be the most vocally opposed to ending DADT of all the Chiefs.

What we are being told by experts such as the Palm Center:

"It’s the President who is the game-changer on don't ask, don't tell in 2010.” Our primary focus must be on him to LEAD Congress not follow it.

What we know from experience, both of this administration and the chain of events in 1993:

This is too important an issue to pivot back to merely trusting that Obama Inc. will do the right thing. Therefore, I again urge everyone to at least sign the letter to the President from the Courage Campaign at http://www.couragecampaign.org/page/s/DontDelay

"We, the undersigned, urge you to take immediate action to stop the discharge of gay and lesbian soldiers, like Lt. Dan Choi, as a result of the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy.

Please use your authority as Commander-in-Chief to take immediate and decisive action to end this discriminatory policy. Furthermore, we ask that you take leadership in securing the swift passage and prompt signing of a permanent legislative repeal of this discriminatory policy."

Thank you.

Thanks for updating, Michael. I was just about to add the same thing- I was watching it on CNN too.

And I agree, while these are good signs, it simply means we need to redouble our efforts, not sit back and hope for the best.

I am sorry I did not hear as much of the State of the Union Speech as you apparently did. I was distracted by how much back peddling was being done. Some might not think that is a fair shot but keep in mind these "guys" meaning the Democrats were elected on a platform of CHANGE. So far they have done little more than wring their hands and pass little in the way of meaningful legislation at least per their promise to the LGBT community. I suppose the fact we are no longer fair game to be beat up or killed any more in some areas which we were more or less in the past is progress but damned little in my view. Two golden years of having what should have been it all their way has turned into grid lock and a license for some in their own party to hold up legislation until they get their graft added into it. Impressed? Oh ya I was impressed how little was really spoken to in 70 minutes. This however all but that pales compared to the last two years of dashed hopes.

The O could be rid of DADT w/a Executive Order signature.
He doesn't.

Trumen did it regarding segregation of MoC [men of color] in Military Service. I believe that was 1948.
Nineteen, forty freaking EIGHT.

LbJ did it for women 1965.
Nineteen, sixty-five.

Is it just me... but a coincidence that they were BOTH... VP's that succeeded a "dead president"??

2nd string quarter backs that changed the game.

The O is is more focused on being re-elected... just like every. single. other. politician... then making a Hail Mary.

An executive order? Maybe. Even all of our orgs have agreed that it wouldn't overturn a law specifically passed by Congress. That would take another act of Congress.

The most he can do with his pen before Congress acts it to issue a stop-loss order. That could, of course, get overturned by the next President if Congress doesn't repeal the law. And if there's a stop-loss in place, what's the impetus for Congress to move their ass? None. And you know they wouldn't - check out the past year's history on LGBT issues if you need a reminder.

My favorite part was the SCOTUS jack slap. I loved it that everyone around the justices is standing and clapping and whooping it up while the Supremes sit their glowering.

The executive order would be an unmistakable message from O that "I mean business" ... and when Congress gets to updating the law, the new status quo could be working well enough that there would be little controversy left from anyone other than the most homophobic wingnuts. You say an EO could be overturned by a later president --- but Truman took that same risk and it worked for him.

But I agree with you, Bil, about the Justices getting a public scolding. They richly deserved it.

Andrew Conte | January 29, 2010 10:45 AM

You are joking about Obama being a good speaker. Have you heard him without his teleprompter? As far as mentioning DADT, just more words. Check out his answer to someone in Tampa yesterday when asked about same sex marriage. He goes on a long diatribe about nothing. Obama is pathetic. He is getting us deeper in war. He backed the sham elections in Honduras. Let us wait to see what happens in Haiti. The earthquake might just be the perfect guise for occupation. He has shown no backbone on health care. This is not change that I can believe in. If you choose to pretend it is, then so be it.