Alex Blaze

Should Joe Solmonese be congratulated for DADT repeal?

Filed By Alex Blaze | December 21, 2010 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Andrea Mitchell, beltway, Don't Ask Don't Tell, gays in the military, joe solmonese, pam spaulding, repeal

Now that DADT repeal passed the Senate, does Joe Solmonese deserve congratulations? Andrea Mitchell, who probably hasn't been following the fight, says yes:

I don't really see how HRC or Solmonese were at the center of this fight, "leading the way" or anything like that, but that's the nature of the nonprofit industry. One of the things HRC has perfected is taking credit for other people's work.

But it's interesting to compare this to what many LGBT people were saying just a week ago, that Solmonese should resign because DADT repeal didn't get through the Senate. I didn't think he should resign for something that he wasn't at the center of (my words: "I just don't see[...] why HRC is particularly to blame for the Senate's failure on DADT when there there are so many other actors involved, like the Senators themselves and all those other orgs that sprang up to specifically focus on DADT"), but other folks took a different position.

Like Pam Spaulding:

Joe Solmonese should do the honorable thing and step down. It is shameful to cash all those checks without the follow through on the job. The White House was never put under serious pressure; the late calls now in the e-blasts for the President to do something ring hollow after the toadying that has gone on for two years.

As we saw, Reid couldn't get it together in the Senate and the wingnuts will have more control in January. The watered-down repeal doesn't do much of anything at this point (even if it passes as a separate bill during the lame duck session -- good luck with that), and we're still dealing with all the GOP squawking by McCain and others who want a "do-over" of the Pentagon's implementation report. It's a big f'ing mess because there has been piss-poor leadership by those who are lobbied in government.

In turn it's the unelected, highly marketed, well-tailored representative of the entire LGBT community, Joe Solmonese of HRC, who also has to be held accountable for these failures. It's clear that those in power had no fear of the vast war chest of HRC being used to turn up the heat. No, the heat came from less well-heeled activists who didn't have the access to power, only voices and fearlessness to call out the purposeful foot-dragging and inaction.

It did seem like a big mess last week, but why did Solmonese "ha[ve] to be held accountable for these failures"? I couldn't really figure out why he was particularly at fault here and the posts linked by Spaulding to support her argument criticized him for his wardrobe and the tone of HRC's press releases, as if one look at Solmonese's D&G suits and Senators decided he wasn't Real American enough to influence their vote.

As it turns out, not having a great reason for believing something means that one won't believe it for too long. Here's Spaulding on Saturday:

It's been a long historic day and the reactions have run the gamut from "you know it played out just as the President planned" (the brilliant 12 dimensional chess strategy meme), to "HRC claiming any responsibility for this is BS" to "it couldn't be done without "X" (as in there's a single reason for DADT's legislative repeal).

As always, I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I'm not sure why any one faction has to "claim" victory -- that seems very Beltway, as opposed to the big picture that there was a win today, one with an incomplete asterisk next to it.

Yeah, it's very strange that anyone would think that one faction has to be responsible for any given political move. It's so "very Beltway." I can't think of anyone outside the beltway who thinks along those lines.

There may still be reasons Solmonese should resign, although my opinion is that if someone has a problem with the way HRC acts then he'd be replaced by someone else with similar faults. The various ideological problems with HRC have always been caused by their big donors, both in what they believe and in how they use their money to have an disproportionate influence in both queer and straight politics, so attacking just one piece of the puzzle is unlikely to solve anything.

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

JonathonEdwards | December 21, 2010 2:10 PM

I agree with both of your recent Solomonese related posts. I have said in the past the he should resign, but after reading your reasons, I suppose what I really meant to say is that HRC itself should go away. Or be radically re-worked. I realize that there are some projects they do that are excellent and helpful, but the main reason they exist - as an inside the beltway pro-gay lobby - is, in my view an utter failure. They trade way too much of our agenda for access. Their incrementalism actually hurts our movement.

And in the case of DADT, their cooperation with the deal that brokered this DADT 'repeal' mess very nearly lost us the whole thing. DADT hasn't been repealed yet, so congratulating anyone seems premature, but given the fact that this "repeal" strategy could be stalled for months or years based on what the Pentagon decides to do. And what roadblocks the newly conservative congress might decide to throw in the way. And the possibility that Pres. Obama will use certification as political leverage to move Republicans on other items on his legislative agenda...

The truth is that, if DADT actually gets repealed and glb soldiers and sailors actually get to serve openly, it will only be by the seat of our pants that that has been accomplished. And that "cat's whisker" margin only happened because Gay Inc. refused to put pressure on the White House to move agressively when we had a supermajority. DADT could have been repealed legislatively within months of Obama taking office and HRC is partially to blame for that not happening.

So, no. Solomonese should not be congratulated . And we should all be happy about the senate vote but realistic that we almost got badly burned and the jury is still out on whether open service will happen any time soon.

I have to agree with Spaulding in large measure, although I think it's a misreading to put all the weight on DADT repeal -- I think that's just her point of entry. And, as far as your last comment goes, I think you're very close to the truth: it's not just Solmonese, but the entire HRC mindset: they have become too much part of the "wait until the time is right" contingent, and of course, if you just wait around, the time will never be right. (Witness that outrageous comment by Sainz that "we don't have to say anything." Idiot.)

This is the organization that had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the marriage equality fight, and even then tried to act as a brake on the whole thing. Remember how they criticized Boies and Olson, and then tried to sign onto the suit? And that was already late in the game. And somehow, I'm not convinced that repeal of DOMA is in the works, at least not from anything that HRC has done. There's been a consistent pattern of avoiding the contests that are actually happening while "working behind the scenes" on their own agenda.

Yes, what they are working on is necessary, but forgive me, I'm results oriented, and I haven't seen much in the way of results from HRC. It may very well be the priorities of their major donors. So what? These are not people who are having to put up with the crap -- by the very fact that they are able to be major donors, they're somewhat insulated from what the rest of us have to face.

HRC has shown a lamentable lack of acuity when it comes to adding their weight to the momentum that others are building on our issues, instead, it seems, wanting to dictate the direction and scope of the movement. Y'know what? Trying to herd us is a lot worse than herding cats. We're much more a flash mob kind of thing.

And for Solmonese to take credit for the passage of the "repeal," when he and HRC have been all but invisible, is -- well, words fail me.

These are not people who are having to put up with the crap -- by the very fact that they are able to be major donors, they're somewhat insulated from what the rest of us have to face.

Welcome to America's neo-feudal state.

What repeal?
" (b) Effective Date- The amendments made by subsection (f) shall take effect 60 days after the date on which the last of the following occurs:

(1) The Secretary of Defense has received the report required by the memorandum of the Secretary referred to in subsection (a).

(2) The President transmits to the congressional defense committees a written certification, signed by the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stating each of the following:

(A) That the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the recommendations contained in the report and the report's proposed plan of action.

(B) That the Department of Defense has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to exercise the discretion provided by the amendments made by subsection (f).

(C) That the implementation of necessary policies and regulations pursuant to the discretion provided by the amendments made by subsection (f) is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.

(c) No Immediate Effect on Current Policy- Section 654 of title 10, United States Code, shall remain in effect until such time that all of the requirements and certifications required by subsection (b) are met. If these requirements and certifications are not met, section 654 of title 10, United States Code, shall remain in effect."

Beating up on Pam again? Can you give us an estimated date when you will be giving these constant attacks a rest. I wish to mark it on my calendar.

If you think this is about Pam, who's a lovely person and the reason I'm involved in LGBT blogging at all, then I'd suggest re-reading the two (OMG SO MANY) posts on this topic. There are lots of people who hold the same views as her, as evidenced in this thread.

It's using the blogosphere for what it was originally intended: to discuss ideas.

Kathy Padilla | December 21, 2010 3:33 PM

"One of the things HRC has perfected is taking credit for other people's work."......

"It did seem like a big mess last week, but why did Solmonese "have to be held accountable for these failures"?

With great undeserved credit comes great undeserved accountability. It's part and parcel of being bitten by a radioactive Gucci tasseled loafer.

I agree, which is why I wonder how the same people aren't doing the praising and critiquing.

The other side of the coin is: if DADT had failed in the Senate and that was the end of the story, would Andrea Mitchell have blamed Solmonese? I doubt it.

Kathy Padilla | December 22, 2010 6:46 AM

Well, there's no personal downside or risk to Mitchell in supporting HRC. She's not effected if they fail miserably, she's not effected if they succeed and she's never been effected by their betrayals. She does have risk of being seen as homophobic if she criticizes them being an outsider.

For others, dealing with them is all risk - all the time.

Thank most of you! I love HRC taking heat! Glad to hear anyone complaining about HRC! Thank you again!

SkepticalCidada | December 21, 2010 4:25 PM


The question is WHEN should Solmonese be FIRED and replaced by Aubry Sarvis, who knows what the hell he's doing even if he may not be Washington's best-dressed empty suit.

lol. That's another thread: if you were the board of HRC, who would you choose?

Easy one: The perfect choice for the job is also the last person they'd probably pick: Donna Rose.

Angela Brightfeather | December 21, 2010 4:42 PM

Someone might have said that Joe Solomonese should be fired because of DADT inaction, but it sure wasn't me. He should have been fired long ago for lying to the Transgender Community and allowing ENDA to slip into Never Never Land and for agreeing in whole or part with the idea that HRC should just stop worrying about Trans objectives.

Even here in little Raleigh, NC I get the news about how repeal of DADT came down and it had little or nothing to do with HRC and a lot to do with "Activism", a relentless, never give up the ship attitude from SLDN, people like Dan Choi giving their time and sanity to a cause that they could not give up on, and very little from HRC.

As recently as a few months ago, it was noted by insiders that DADT had been taken of the table by the POTUS, until he started to get hounded openly at gatherings and people started to chain themselves to the White House fence and get arrested every other weekend. He and his staff only came on board over the last few weeks to repeal DADT and only after they understood that it wasn't going to go away and they needed this victory before it would be totally lost in a few weeks when the reinforcements for McCain's point of view got stationed inside the Beltway. They couldn't let that happen in the face of overwhelming polls that insisted a big ground change in public opinion regarding DADT and their failure to deliver to the GLBT Community who they need to continue to contribute time and money in just a few short months towards 2012.

All of these things and conditions had nothing to do with HRC and HRC had very little to do with them, if anything to do with them. Joe should have been gone way back when and as far as getting credit to anyone, for once, get it straight....This was an act of pure, outward activism that turned the tide on DADT, not a bunch of blathering lip waggers at HRC who refused to go to the fence with Dan Choi and Autumn Sandeen and the others when they had the chance to do so.

For once, give the activists credit and recognize that what they did and how they did it, made a huge difference and perhaps it might catch on when it comes to ENDA, which was simply put back on the shelf after the constant bombardment about DADT. Lets hope that those who sit and still support incrementalism have learned their lesson on this. There is nothing like going out and getting in someone's face to make you point, politely or inpolitely it works.

By the way, if Joe does get booted and Dan Choi doesn't go back in the service, then Dan would get the phone call and the nod if I had anything to say about it.

Can you imagine that.....someone like Dan Choi as the boss at HRC? That would shake up a few people and make them smell the piping hot (Pam's Blend) coffee.

No he should not. No one person brought this to an end. Many of us struggled to bring change about. From the person standing int the cold and rain to protest to those who advocated. Congratulations should be given to all those who worked for it. And in a measure it has. We have our victory.

um... what SkeptialCidada said.

A rumor is going around via email that HRC received, at last count, thirty-two invitations to the signing ceremony.

I am not clear whether 32 HRC staffers were invited ... or whether Buffalo Joe insisted on bringing his entourage of make-up and fashion consultants.

But if it is the former ... gee, considering all the Power Bottoms there must be in that group, they could have RSVP'ed: "By the way, we will be bringing our own rose garden."

If congratulations are due to anyone, then it ought to go first to Olson / Boies and the folks who brought them into the movement. Whatever the issue du jour, their eloquent and artful framing of the fundamental constitutional struggle was, is, and will be a game changer for every LBGTQ Domino on the table. Secondly, congratulate 70+ percent of the responding service personnel who know what it is they are sworn to fight for, FREEDOM. And third, let's give some credit where credit is due and tip our hats to the president and his staff. They worked hard on our behalf. Perhaps a thimble full of graciousness is in order.
Pastor Scott
West Hollywood

Simply put, NO! Joe the lapdog deserves nothing but a bad cocktail for his "efforts", not $325K a year.

At today's signing ceremony I asked Joe if he thought all the people calling for his head just last week were going to be offering him kudos anytime soon. We both agreed that it was doubtful.

People like to have a scapegoat. HRC is the queer community's scapegoat and they're helped along by their own hamfisted communications with the community. :(

I can see giving HRC *some* degree of the credit, and in fact I think they did a lot of work to get DADT repealed, however, at the same time, they weren't the only people that contributed to this watershed moment in Gay history. Likewise, I don't think Joe Solomese should be fired because he personally didn't get it passed (at that time). Who should be fired are the assholes who voted against it!


Every documented evil of HRC is now absolved?

If there is but one thing to point to in order to show why, ultimately, the vast majority of LGBT people will never enjoy equality, this is it. A wafer-thin slice of the GLB populace gets a law supporting their personal job preference, while the rest of the GLBT masses live with de facto pink triangles on our clothing and we're supposed to pay tribute to the overpaid chief clown of the continuing criminal enterprise whose insider duplicity allowed that DADT repeal bill to get pushed back a year-plus until now?

Where is Rorschach when we need him?

HRC got the job done. I remember when they organized the DADT repeal with the White House and Gay Inc. It worked.

Give credit where credit is due. That's only fair.