Alex Blaze

Who knew what when?

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 22, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: david smith, Don't Ask Don't Tell, ENDA, HRC, Kerry Eleveld, LGBT, shell game

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.

This comes just after the White House's press secretary said yesterday that the White House was committed to waiting for the Pentagon's study of DADT to finish:

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?


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SkepticalCidada | April 22, 2010 7:53 PM

HRC doesn't represent us, Alex. You have to stop thinking of them that way. They are a propagandizing arm of the White House political operation, pure and simple. They've been functioning that way for months and months now.

Juston Thouron Juston Thouron | April 22, 2010 8:34 PM
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.

What would motivate HRC to withhold this information until now? Apparently the HRC were covering for Messina and the President.

It's just speculation on my part Alex, but it is possible that the President deliberately lied in the SOTU about DADT being repealed in 2010. To placate us publicly, knowing that he could then publicly blame Congress, the military 'study,' delays due to time spent on HCR and banking reform for repeal being held up until 2011 while escaping blame himself. It is an explanation that fits the available facts.

But Messina already knew in early February that the President would refuse to include repeal language in the DAB, which means Obama had already discussed it with Messina prior to that date. I wonder if HRC was afraid that if they did reveal this in February, further questions might reveal that the President never wanted DADT repealed in 2010. After all, if we were lied to about this, we may be being lied to about that as well.

The above meeting happens just days after the SOTU and the initial DADT hearings where the 'study' was announced not long after, shooting down the Presidents' publicly stated intention of repeal this year. Perhaps I'm going overboard with this, but the timing of all of these events makes me very suspicious of President Obama and HRC.


The White House didn't take a public position on DADT Repeal until two days after GetEqual embarrassed the President.

I'd say Obama may have been pissed off enough to say "tell them to wait."

Perhaps GetEqual can tell us WHY they thought their stupid publicity stunt was helpful? I can't imagine how "pissing on our friends" is helpful.

So far GetEqual has pissed on the President, the Speaker and a Committee Chairman. I hope they are not going to piss on the whole Congress.

Unless they can provide some rationale for their antics, they should stop. Now.

So a decision made in February is the fault of GetEqual and their action this week? And why did they not make this public statement after the first time Dan Choi did his in your words "publicity stunt"?

Why is everyone losing focus on the two existing bills -- S. 3065 and HR 1283 -- to repeal DADT?

Instead of focusing exclusively (almost blindly) on Obama and the vaporous defense authorization bill, everyone here should be calling their Senators and Reps and demanding that they support or co-sponsor these two existing bills.

At the SLDN Lobby Day last month, there were far fewer LGBT constituents than I would like to have seen. That's not the fault of SLDN, it's the fault of bloggers who find it easier to exclusively bash Obama (who most certainly deserves criticism) than to recognize that the U.S. is not a dictatorship and that Congress is where the most pressure must be applied.

I look forward to the day THIS YEAR when heavily lobbied lawmakers present Obama with a DADT repeal bill -- and dare him to veto it.

I support the President 100%. I do question, though, why he keeps trying to suck (up to?) the conservatives. It is impossible to get any support from them. If they were rational, they would be willing to negotiate on various issues and his strategy might work. They are 100% irrational, though--some psychotic, some mentally challenged, others just mean (and I'm sure some all three!). But what they clearly are not is rational...nor are they "team players." He should do what his BASE elected him to do and forget about the rest. A second term does not depend on this. It depends on the economy and jobs. Nada mas! Do it, Mr. President!

I am amazed that this should be an uproar or a surprise. Obama clearly said as commander in chief that he would follow a process and had conferred with the secretary of defense as well as top military advisers (months ago). Those people said we want time to study it and he agreed to give them the time. Why is anyone surprised that he would live up to his word? If you want to get movement start focusing on efforts to shorten the time. Lobby the joint chiefs and the secretary of defense. If they expedite the study then Obama will act in a shortened time frame.