Waymon Hudson

The State of the Union & DADT: Rhetoric or Real Policy Shift?

Filed By Waymon Hudson | January 27, 2010 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, Don't Ask Don't Tell, State of the Union

It looks like Obama will address the horrendous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy in his State of the Union address tonight. 365gay.com is reporting that the reason Sen. Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, pushed back his scheduled hearing on DADT in January was because alg_obama_dont_ask.jpgthe Administration asked him to hold off until the State of the Union:

We were told by the Pentagon that they expected the president to say something in the State of the Union on it," Levin said.

Levin, who favors repealing the law, said he does not know what Obama will say. He said he plans to hold hearings in February and would like to hear testimony from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mike Mullen.

This news comes at a time of mixed signals from within the government about the future of DADT. Obama has repeatedly promised to lift the ban and many lawmakers (like Rep. Alcee Hasting of FL and Rep. Patrick Murphy of PA) continuously pressuring him to move faster. Yet some senior Pentagon lawyers and politicians have openly opposed repealing DADT or asked Obama to "slow down" due to the multiple wars the country is fighting (because who needs qualified soldiers at war time, right?).

So will the State of the Union be more soaring, yet in the end empty, rhetoric or a real moment of leadership and policy change?

From what Levin seems to imply, it looks like it could possibly be more of the old campaign promises of Obama's intentions to repeal DADT. More rhetoric without a real plan on how to move forward or from the top leadership.

The Marie Times, however, takes a different view of what could come down during the State of the Union (h/t Pam's House Blend):

The announcement of congressional hearings on the ban on open military service by homosexuals has been delayed at the request of the Obama administration until after Wednesday night's State of the Union Address because the president may announce that military leaders will support changing the law, according to a key lawmaker.

The Senate Armed Services Committee expects to have a series of hearings, one focusing on the views of military leaders, another on the views of outside witnesses and possibly panels of junior officers and noncommissioned officers, said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the committee chairman.

That announcement- if true- could be big news. That's a big "if."

Publicly stating before both houses of Congress (and the American people) that Military leaders support changing the ban could mean faster movement on DADT and could be the beginning of real leadership on the issue. On the other hand, a quick throw-away comment about it being a "goal" will be more of the same.

Which will it be? Fierce Advocate or Foot Dragging?


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Steve Ralls Steve Ralls | January 27, 2010 9:47 AM

I hope I am proven wrong, but I fear the President will simply play one more game of the political football that has kept "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" alive for too, too long. If he punts the ball back to Congress, who in turn punts it back to the DoD, that will not be a major step forward.

What Obama doesn't say tonight may be as important as what he does say. If he doesn't call for a vote this year, in both the House and Senate, for example, it will be a missed opportunity. And if he calls for reports, commissions, or time to figure out implementation, that would be unfortunate, too, as it would give the minority opposed to this important policy change the time they want to launch a campaign of misinformation and hysteria.

Obama's position on the law has been clear. Every report authored to date has supported that position. A majority of the public - both progressive and conservative - agree with the position. And a long line of military leaders concur.

Tonight, Obama needs to lay out a specific plan - with a timeline and a call for a vote in THIS Congress - to turn his position into policy. Anything less just doesn't seem like enough at this point.

I've heard that the DADT portion may have gotten cut from the speech...

If it is in there, it'll have to be something more concrete than the usual, "I've pledged to do this! (but not right now!)" bullshit.

My personal barometer for detecting how serious Obama is on repeal will include how strongly he points out that DADT has hurt the military effort and national security, such as it resulting in the discharge of linguistics experts at a time when they are sorely needed, and the enormous expense of all the discharges.

If he criticizes it emphatically in these terms, and/or if he presents some type of fast-track timeline for repeal, and/or if he announces an Executive Order that suspends future discharges under DADT, then he is serious. Any mention that is less is just more blah-blah-blah.

Here's a novel idea: instead of getting all worked up today about what he might say, we could wait a few hours and see what he says.

I agree about waiting to judge what he says- but there's nothing wrong with laying out the current situation and what needs to happen to keep DADT repeal moving.

Waymon is right. Also, nothing wrong with discussing what we each might be watching for tonight ... politicians often speak with obfuscation and code, it's a good thing (not essential, but good) to be prepared to immediately recognize what is happening when it happens ...