It is difficult to understand why the White House would want to delay Don't Ask Don't Tell until at least next year. What is their political strategy?
An overwhelming majority -- nearly 60%-- of Americans support a repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, regardless of party affiliation. 72% of Democratic voters support a repeal. In fact, a repeal is likely the least controversial issue on voters' minds this fall.
Yet, as Gibbs confirmed on Wednesday, the President remains committed to a Pentagon review that will extend into December, making a repeal in 2010 impossible -- that is unless the legislature acts on their own.
Why would the President put Congress in this position?
On Wednesday David Mixner wrote about several conversations he had with "very reliable sources" on the Hill. Reportedly, the grassroots aren't alone in their angst about the President's delay:
One high ranking staffer said, "We are going to get creamed in our district since we need the gay vote. It is just only a matter of time that what is happening to Pelosi in San Fran works it way down to our districts. We don't fucking need it. For God sakes, lets get this out of the way." An elected official in DC told me, "If the President digs in, he then guarantees that the debate will be ugly and divisive. I am really concerned about their intransigence." Another Chief of Staff confided to me that this is a 'huge mistake' since it was the President himself that set the expectations.
I don't know where the distressed elected official is from, but their concerns are an accurate description of the mood in my district. I have spoken to leadership in the labor movement, business leaders, the wealthy, the not-so wealthy, young and old, and the tone is overwhelmingly consistent -- progressives are upset. In several conversations, I was told off the record, they are willing to withhold support from Senator Patty Murray's re-election if progress is not made on the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the passage of an inclusive ENDA.
And yes, in my district you need the gay vote to win. Nearly 90% of voters in my district supported the expansion of LGBT rights at the ballot box last November by voting to Approve Referendum 71 to keep the "everything but marriage" Domestic Partnership law.
Elections in Washington are won and lost by the voters in Western Washington. I can't imagine Senator Murray's campaign team is pleased by the President's time line. She needs something to bring back to her base, particularly after the public option was left on the cutting room floor. That didn't go over very well here either.
The repeal of Don't Ask Don't tell is legislatively easy. They can include it in the Defense Appropriations Bill. That's exactly how the Matthew Shepherd Act (aka Hate Crimes) was finally passed in 2009. If the President's review was so important, Congress could build in a delay for the repeal to go into effect in December when the review is scheduled to be completed.
Yet, Gibbs has confirmed that the President wants to wait. So what exactly is the White House's strategy? To lose?