Bil Browning

DADT: Are we pulling a Veruca Salt?

Filed By Bil Browning | May 28, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, LGBT community, Veruca Salt, Willy Wonka

Kudos to Projector Aaron for this great analogy to the recent debate on repealing the discriminatory Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. Grassroots activists' sturm und drang has stood in direct contrast to the more conciliatory tones taken by some of our established advocacy organizations.

Aaron asked "Is the LGBT community pulling a Veruca Salt?" It's a good question. Yesterday Pam Spaulding asked "Which DADT repeal camp are you in?" and she's done a fantastic job of breaking down the various positions activists have taken. I've quoted her six stances after the jump so you can check them out; I tend to fall into category four.

Which camp are you in? Is the LGBT community pulling a Veruca Salt?

1) The don't-know-enoughs: They only get information in drips and drabs, so they have no idea of the details of the votes or the compromise. They believe it's repealed, the discharges stop ASAP; some are open to receiving more info to clarify their view. Others find a boatload of information just too taxing to deal with right now...Glee is on the DVR. Next topic...

2) The "it's all a lie" crowd: The compromise is a complete sham and betrayal of those serving in silence. Anything coming out of the press releases lauding the vote is skimming over the ugly truth. The MSM is making it all worse, and there's anger about how easily the progressives are fooled and don't dig deep to see the injustice that will continue. You can't trust the orgs, the admin, the Pentagon or Congress. A vein might explode.

3) The "rose-colored glasses" peeps: This is the start of something good, DADT repeal was rescued from a certain death; the Obama admin and the Pentagon will do right by those in the closet in the military in short order (as in before 2010 ends). They don't like to hear criticism about the process, the LGBT groups, the Admin, or Congress. Criticism is not useful; it's all about calling your representatives on the Hill alone as the best course of action. There is no back-channel political activity or political infighting to consider that affects the process.

4) The cross-fingered pragmatists: The people who thought this was going to be totally FUBAR, but realized that in the late stages of the game, this was the best option we had and it's really not a good one at all for those directly affected by DADT. They believe that the system worked, albeit imperfectly, and that all parties -- the LGBT groups, the activists, Congress and the WH did what they thought was right to get it done.

5) The "system is broken" people: These folks are convinced that this whole process was screwed, and if ENDA is to have any chance of success, the whole LGBT establishment needs to take a hard look at what did and didn't work in this process. The messy end result didn't have to be that way, and it's clear that the Beltway process of achieving results is too laden in personal politics that supplant the larger goal of civil equality. These folks, however, don't exactly have a plan on how to fix it.

6) The everyone else-is-a-black-and-white-thinker crowd: These folks are the shoot-first, think-later people who believe they alone are capable of nuanced thinking and are filled with political sophistication. Other people are incapable of this of course, and are stuck in one mode of thinking without consideration of shades of gray in an issue. The everyone else-is-a-black-and-white-thinker person already knows what you might have to say about an issue, even to the point of ignoring actual statements that don't fit their perceived mode. So this results in endless threads/tweets of irrelevant discussion.


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I think we need one additional crowd:

7) The "This is a Very Clever Charade" crowd: The non-compromise, non-repeal Amendment is so good it has the LGBT Community split into at least a half dozen different groups. But, it did it's trick - the repeal of DADT is effectively deferred until after the mid-terms.

Rob Randhava | May 28, 2010 3:56 PM

If a few months of delay is what it takes to get us 60 votes in the Senate and 218 in the House, what's the problem?

Those votes were not there for an immediate repeal, and quite possibly won't be there after the next mid-term. This amendment isn't ideal, but it does permanently remove Congress from the debate.

Congress has retained a veto via the "Byrd review." Plus, we don't have 60 votes NOW, we'll have fewer after the mid-terms.

So far, Republicans have two Democrats supporting filibuster: Jim Webb and Mark Pryor. That gives them 41 votes. Byrd is still a wild card (especially if they mess with his Congressional Veto Amendment) and there are a few other Democrats in the Senate that remain safely unclear about their position.

Congress has retained a veto via the "Byrd review." Plus, we don't have 60 votes NOW, we'll have fewer after the mid-terms.

So far, Republicans have two Democrats supporting filibuster: Jim Webb and Mark Pryor. That gives them 41 votes. Byrd is still a wild card (especially if they mess with his Congressional Veto Amendment) and there are a few other Democrats in the Senate that remain safely unclear about their position.

Rob Randhava | May 28, 2010 5:01 PM

Like was said on another posting, if the Byrd review is like the review of DC laws, I just don't see it as a big deal. But I admit I haven't seen that language.

If it required Congress to affirmatively sign off again, it would negate the entire bill . . . and I have trouble believing that Levin would have agreed to that.

I don't dismiss your point about a filibuster, but please keep in mind that votes on cloture are subject to change. The recent debate over the financial reform bill is a pretty good example of that.

Rob Randhava | May 28, 2010 4:59 PM

Like was said on another posting, if the Byrd review is like the review of DC laws, I just don't see it as a big deal. But I admit I haven't seen that language.

If it required Congress to affirmatively sign off again, it would negate the entire bill . . . and I have trouble believing that Levin would have agreed to that.

I don't dismiss your point about a filibuster, but please keep in mind that votes on cloture are subject to change. The recent debate over the financial reform bill is a pretty good example of that.

Bob Roehr | May 29, 2010 11:53 AM

>>Like was said on another posting, if the Byrd review is like the review of DC laws, I just don't see it as a big deal.


The review of DC law IS a big deal for folks like me who live here. It has meant holding up things like adoption by gays, domestic partnerships, needle exchange programs, and medical marijuana for years and sometimes decades. I fear that the far right will do the same with changes to DADT if it is given that power.


Rob Randhava | May 29, 2010 3:50 PM

I live in DC too. The other examples you've given were done as appropriations riders, not under the Congressional "veto" that is very rarely if ever used. You'll notice that Congress has been more protective of DC's independence in the past few years.

Is it possible that the far right will do really, really well in the elections this November, retake Congress, and rewrite the ban into law? Sure. That possibility exists regardless of whether Congress passes this compromise or an immediate repeal of DADT.

Mid-terms belong to the "church crowd." Filibustering the Defense Budget because of "those homosexuals" (and this DADT compromise) is the perfect get-out-the-vote strategy. Turn-out determines elections.

It's kind of hard to counter the "vote now and then look at the study" logic that we helped create. I think we've put ourselves in a "no-win" situation. Once Obama endorsed the idea of a "study," we were screwed.

Rob Randhava | May 29, 2010 6:33 PM

That same filibuster and "get-out-the-vote strategy" would have happened if Congress had tried to go for a full repeal, and we wouldn't even have conservative Dems like Byrd & Nelson on our side. Then where would we be?

Byrd and Nelson helped get the non-compromise, non-repeal "Repeal" out of Committee.

We only have 58 votes for passage in the Senate. Republicans will filibuster until there is no DADT Repeal (real or imaginary) and everyone will agree to "wait."

This "moral stand" will help them get out the "religious vote" and it will look at lot like Hell in November.

The ignored reality is that we have never had those "60 Votes" in the US Senate. This charade didn't change that.

Pulling a Veruca Salt? I know this is a drive-up-page-hits-survey type post, but it is dangerous.

I'll let you google the quote:

May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!

Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | May 28, 2010 6:07 PM

Most of these comments reveal blind belief in a MYTH.

That's understandable, to a degree, for two reasons:

1. "DADT" has become such a classic buzz term that people confuse ending "DADT" with ending DISCHARGES. After the nondiscrimination clause in the original repeal bills were trashed, that is no longer true. NOTHING in the amendments prevent the military from simply going back to their old antigay ban policies that existed pre 1993. Congress did not create the ban, they simply codified it to block Clinton's proposed Executive Order.

2. Most, even many who have harshly criticized him, cannot totally "give him up," finally accept the possibility that Obama is really as much just another craven politician as the last 16 months have suggested. So, despite all the evidence that he had decided to surrender all ban-related decisions to the military even before taking office, and evena after that is exactly what they forced Congress to allow [until Sen. Byrdshit demanded the power to certifiy the President's/Pentagon's certification just in case they went soft and might REALLY let a few out Fagroes serve], most still want to believe that Santa Claus is coming to down.

Well, Virginia, do I have news for you!

I know that you didn't mean to equate the drive for full and immediate equality with the actions of a spoiled child crying out for more candy.

You didn't, did you?

No, I don't think Aaron was saying that at all. I took it to mean the publicity stunts like Kip Williams heckling Obama or Dan Choi's hunger strike - all after a compromise and a path forward were revealed.

I'll let him speak for himself, but that's how I took it.

I agree. I got the implication that maybe NOW it's time to stop the childish demanding (GetEQUAL, etc.).

Changing minds applies pressure, not acting like we've lost ours.

Thinking about it... and bearing in mind that I'm about as far away from being a "radical progressive" as possible, I'm a conservative for goodness sake.....

Number 2.

More in sorrow than anger though. I think your system is broken. Not the basics, but the details.

All I can say is I fall closer to the #5 option from what I see offer.

What about:
8) The Realism Crowd: (Andrew had #7.) These are the people who see this for what it really is. Many in this group, (like myself) understand the military mindset and know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that when given the authority to make the final decision to allow LGB people to serve openly, their military bias will take over and they will say "No." We will be back to the pre-DADT days. The compromise is a bad idea and we need to ensure it goes the right way by keeping the pressure on. Thinking this was a victory is a dangerous path to take.

Rob Randhava | May 29, 2010 4:15 PM

What's interesting about your concern is that the people who voted against the DADT compromise expressed just as much certainty that the Pentagon study will be a sham, but with the opposite outcome.

I was agreeing with Bil, until I read #8 ...HERE is where I am, we need to keep the pressure on.Though, I will comment that as a physician I cannot support the proposed fast.
I believe Obama has two courses he can take. First, wait till Dec. 1, and then no matter what the report says, he can issue his EXEC ORDER. So that is based on a given time frame.
The other, is that now that it has passed the House, in order to get even the compromise through the Senate, if it doesn't happen soon, he can 'threaten' them to go ahead and issue a STOP-LOSS at any time. As a gifted politician, he is probably good at poker too... so he will keep back strong cards.
Now, if he doesn't play em, that's when we pull out all the stops, and we keep reminding everyone how long it took to get segregation in after Truman's order. FOUR YEARS! and that was just a policy reversal....KEEP reporting to anyone who will listen how there have ALWAYS been gays in the US military up to today....And get every soldier and family member who will admit to that and has no problem with it to say so,
Now Truman eventually had to fire the recalcitrant ARMY Chief who wouldn't comply. Obama can do so too... another of his strong cards.
He will play his hand as he wishes. We can help by keeping a hue and cry going... every person we can convert to see the moral honesty of our cause is one more card in his favor.

PS To all who don't know, for contact purposes. I am LEE DORSEY on facebook. I tweet with LOrion. But I cannot get movable type to change me to that here. (Spent over half hour trying yesterday.)

PPS. I had not a clue who/what VERUCA Salt was. Had to WIKI her.

Pam's categories are at least incomplete and #6 sounds stunningly personal (who was she thinking of when she wrote that, I want to know) but then all these little category systems are at some point.

The compromise sounds like it's going through, and the DADT folks are playing this right by not being satisfied. Liberals act satisfied much too easily.

And guest2, I always wonder why people think it's a real insult to stop by and say "You just want people to read your blog!" Yes, yes we do.

You assume too much, Alex.

I do not begrudge you page-hit posts as needed, only the nature of some of them.

I guess 4 from the options. If I described my own it'd be "Maybe the logistics for repealing DADT is harder for the military than we know."

If we were talking about a bill that really did repeal DADT right now, the Obama and the Democrats would take the exact same political hit and they're going to with this bill. This is really an unnecessary compromise. The political capital spent is exactly the same. So there must be something funky going on.

And then I'm a little bit of "The system is broken" in the sense that there's really something wrong with the system if Congress and the Commander-in-Chief don't feel like they can order the military to do something. The military doesn't have it's own branch of power and it doesn't direct the government what to do.

Rob Randhava | May 31, 2010 12:13 PM

So if (assuming arguendo) this compromise only has 58 votes, wouldn't the original bill have even less? You're basically telling me there is no hope whatsoever of a statutory repeal, which leaves me to wonder: what's the strategy for getting rid of DADT? Hope for better numbers in the next Congress?

We need 60 votes in the US Senate. This so-called "compromise" doesn't deliver 60 votes.

The Plan was, whether we like it or not (and most of us don't), that the study might provide political "cover" for some conservative Senators. We were supposed to bet on that outcome. That's how the White House sought to very pragmatically find a path to victory. That was interrupted by the very real fear of a blood bath in the mid-term elections.

The non-compromise, non-repeal "Repeal Amendment" was intended to take advantage of current support in the Congress. That's where it falls apart. We not only lack 60 votes, we have given the enemy real ammunition. We have enabled them to spin this as an affront to the "troops." We have also suggested that Congress can assign its responsibilities to the President and the Military.

For all of our struggles we have to be aware of the "middle." We have support and we have our enemies and that is rather black-and-white, yes-and-no. But, the "movable middle" determines our fate. We have empowered our enemies with a few arguments that don't even require any mention of "orientation" or "homosexuality." The "repeal and then study" argument and the "ignore the troops" argument. We have sealed our fate with this stupid compromise.

We must change the makeup of the Congress, especially the Senate. We can organize, and advocate and even make childish "demands," but until we change Senators OR their constituents minds - we're stuck.

The good news is the cultural conversation is creating much more progress than we are. Maybe not in Oklahoma or Alabama, but in most of the country.

The surest path to victory is one we must each take. Down the road to talk to neighbors, friends, co-workers and even strangers. Until they "get it," we never will. We need to create our equality by sharing our stories and our lives and enrolling people in the basic human principle of equality. No shouting required.

We do not need 60 votes in the Senate. It's already been attached the Defense Budget Authorization Bill by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Republicans will need 60 votes to strip it out of the Defense Authorization Bill.

Not true. Filibuster can be invoked at any time. Rule 22.

In 1975, the Senate reduced the number of votes needed to invoke cloture to three-fifths (60) of Senate membership. At the same time, they made the filibuster "invisible" by requiring only that 41 Senators state that they intend to filibuster; critics say this makes the modern filibuster "painless."

Currently we have 42 votes intending to filibuster.

Of course 60 votes are needed to invoke cloture. Everyone knows that. Perhaps I have not explained the process clear enough.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has included DADT repeal language in the Defense Authorization bill. This bill passes every year without fail. It is the bill that appropriates funds to the military.

To explain it another way, when the Defense Authorization Bill comes to the floor, it will already have the DADT repeal language in it.

The opposition only has two courses of action:

1) Is to introduce an amendment on the Senate floor to strip the DADT language from the bill. In this case they need 60 votes.

2) Filibuster the Defense Authorization Bill.

They cannot filibuster DADT repeal on it's own. It is already part of the Defense Authorization Bill.

They've already said they were going to filibuster the Defense Appropriations Bill and they have 42 votes. We have 58.

When people understand that the Byrd Amendment gives Congress "veto power" i think the whole thing falls apart anyway.

If it makes it that far, the Republicans would love to filibuster - it will help them in November.

Just because they say they're going to filibuster the Defense Budget Authorization bill doesn't mean they're going to.

Can you link to the source that says 42 people aren't going to vote for the Defense Authorization bill? I've not read this anywhere.

The Defense Authorization bill passes every year. It has to. It funds the military. I would love for the Republicans to filibuster the bill that funds the military. It will not help them in November.

http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/will-senate-filibuster-dont-ask-dont-tell-repeal

Pryor is #41

Byrd is #42 (if the Congress doesn't get the "post-certification veto power" in the final Bill).