I've been saying for some time here on TBP that DADT repeal won't happen before the midterms - the White House has been sending that message between the lines for a while now (most obviously when they trotted out Mullen to say the Pentagon needed to "study" the issue... until just after the midterms). Now Kerry Eleveld is reporting that LGBT advocates were told in February that there wouldn't be DADT repeal this year:
Yet just days after the January 27 speech, White House officials convened a meeting on February 1 with LGBT advocates in which they said the policy would not be included in the president's recommendations for this year's Department of Defense authorization bill, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the meeting.
"It was a definitive shut-down from [Jim] Messina," said a source, who was present at the meeting and agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, referring to the White House deputy chief of staff. "He said it would not be going into the president's Defense authorization budget proposal." The news was a blow to activists since the Defense funding bill is the best legislative vehicle for including a measure to overturn the policy. "It almost seemed like the bar on the hurdle got raised two or three times higher," said the source.
ELEVELD: He's committed to letting the Pentagon work through it's working group process until December 1st, is that true? He's committed to that?
GIBBS: Yes. The president has set forth a process with the chair of the Joint Chiefs and with the Secretary of Defense to work through this issue.
ELEVELD: Before any legislative action is taken. That rules out legislative action this year.
GIBBS: Well, again -- the House and the Senate are obviously a different branch of government. The President has a process and a proposal I think that he believes is the best way forward to seeing, again, the commitment that he's made for many years in trying to -- changing that law.
December first? By sheer coincidence, midterm elections are just one month before that! It's almost like they don't want this to happen before the midterms because the minority of Americans who oppose DADT repeal might, um, get upset about this issue and this issue alone.
As Jillian Weiss pointed out a while back, it's a shell game. Hey, everyone! Look over here at DADT! We'll mention it in the SOTU but then make sure the players know it's not happening two days later! It helps you forget about the lagging ENDA, doesn't it? Maybe we can talk about hospital visitation, and then domestic partner benefits for government workers.
Pam astutely points out that several weeks after that meeting with the White House where they said that they weren't going to put DADT in the Defense Authorization bill, this is what Joe Solmonese was saying:
The HRC staffer quoted in Eleveld's article denies that the meeting went down that way, saying that the White House didn't say anything definitively. That's entirely possible, since Eleveld's source wasn't willing to go on the record (of course).
What is disheartening is that we hadn't even heard of this meeting, with or without its definitive statements on DADT in the Senate, until just now. This is about more than silly "suit and tie"/"shouting in the streets" dichotomies - this is about us not knowing about what's going on in the political process and being represented by people who feel threatened by sharing the process with us. If HRC's David Smith is willing to talk to The Advocate now about that meeting back in early February, then it wasn't so super-secret that something couldn't have been mentioned back then.
Part of the problem for Obama and the Democrats when it comes to LGBT folks isn't just the lack of progress, but the lack of transparency. These bills are clearly being held up, and we have no idea why. Do Democrats really think that the Religious Right is going to gain enough traction off ENDA this year that they'll be able to get Republicans a majority in both houses of Congress again? Do they really think that Real Americans will get pissed off if basic protections that the majority of Americans approve of actually pass Congress? Or do the Democrats in Congress actually buy the rightwing arguments against these policies?
Who knows? I sure don't, and I've spent several hours each day reading LGBT news for years. And the people who are supposed to be lobbying on our behalf sure aren't going to tell us either, so we won't have the information needed to participate in the process responsibly.
Then again, this is HRC we're talking about. Being open with the LGBT community about legislation just isn't their thing. Remember this classic?