I'm sure by now many of you have seen the Rachel Maddow Piece on Wednesday that focuses most of its attention on pressuring the White House, also bringing two more faces to the DADT repeal movement (John, Katie: Welcome. You have no idea what you're in for).
Though of course Rachel brought up That Thing Which We Don't Talk About, which is whether Obama should do an executive order halting discharges, and if so, when.
So let's talk about it.
First, context: what would an executive order mean?
Well, before Legislative Repeal TM, it would use vague 'stop-loss' legislation to halt discharges, maybe. Know that stop-loss is a very bad phrase in the defense community due to repeat deployments and the associated stress on psyche and families that are implied with the concept. Using it to stop discharges is shady and will be unpopular outside the progressive community and in the defense community.
More importantly, an executive order would very loudly buck the Pentagon review process in place. Like it or not, the legislation that is our only chance of Congressional repeal this year specifically is designed to allow the Pentagon working group's review to complete in December before any sort of implementation plan can be introduced. As it has been repeatedly stated the review is not about 'if' but 'when,' some see that as no big deal. We're going to end discharges anyway, right? Why not right now?
But it's important to consider that the review also allows the Pentagon to create an implementation plan - at least in the eyes of many of our more centrist supporters. An executive order would stop discharges without that 'plan,' which would strip away at least a few supporters of the bill as it stands, particularly as the method will be viewed by many as shady. Legislative repeal could very well be put in jeopardy, when we could knock out this very necessary piece in just a few months.
Now, ok. Let's say we get through Congress, and the President doesn't veto the defense bill over alternate engines or allocation of troops to the border. Or whatever else is thrown in there by showboating politicians looking to derail DADT,
Assuming the bill is signed in October, we have mid-terms in November to get ready for, and the completion of the review in December, so we probably won't see an executive order before then. January, following the winter recess, review is complete, and now implementation is waiting on the President, C/JCS, and SecDef to sign and pass on to Congress to review for 60 days. An executive order at this point, while not rife with the same political intricacies of Congress, would still be the President saying "I don't have confidence in this process set up by legislation I said I supported." And because implementation has not gone forward, halting discharges would still rest on stop-loss legislation.
So we wait until the 60 days are over. Now a plan is in place, and it's up to the Pentagon to implement the plan. The Executive Order at this point is very different than before. With DADT off the books, it is again within the President's power to end discharges absolutely, plan be damned. And if the Pentagon is taking too long to implement open service, this is definitely a tool that could speed up the process.
Executive order right now- probably unwise, as it could jeopardize legislative repeal, which may or may not cause more discharges in the long-term than simply wading through the existing process;
Executive order immediately after signing the bill - possible, but not likely given the language of the legislation;
Executive order next year - hopefully won't be necessary if the Pentagon is moving quickly enough to implement open service.
In super-short summary:
This is really complex, folks, and, whatever your stance, an executive order to halt discharges would not occur in a vacuum.
Anyway, would love to hear your thoughts on this.