I find this to be a rather peculiar statement from Obama on the Department of Defense’s report on the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”:
The President released the statement below on the DOD report released earlier today on the impact of repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”:
As Commander in Chief, I have pledged to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law because it weakens our national security, diminishes our military readiness, and violates fundamental American principles of fairness and equality by preventing patriotic Americans who are gay from serving openly in our armed forces. At the same time, as Commander in Chief, I am committed to ensuring that we understand the implications of this transition, and maintain good order and discipline within our military ranks. That is why I directed the Department of Defense earlier this year to begin preparing for a transition to a new policy.
Today’s report confirms that a strong majority of our military men and women and their families—more than two thirds—are prepared to serve alongside Americans who are openly gay and lesbian. This report also confirms that, by every measure—from unit cohesion to recruitment and retention to family readiness—we can transition to a new policy in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and national security. And for the first time since this law was enacted 17 years ago today, both the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have publicly endorsed ending this policy.
With our nation at war and so many Americans serving on the front lines, our troops and their families deserve the certainty that can only come when an act of Congress ends this discriminatory policy once and for all. The House of Representatives has already passed the necessary legislation. Today I call on the Senate to act as soon as possible so I can sign this repeal into law this year and ensure that Americans who are willing to risk their lives for their country are treated fairly and equally. Our troops represent the virtues of selfless sacrifice and love of country that have enabled our freedoms. I am absolutely confident that they will adapt to this change and remain the best led, best trained, best equipped fighting force the world has ever known.
I guess I find it peculiar in two ways.
First, and more tangentially, Obama shows that he appreciates that even where the possibility of filibuster exists he does have strategic options like commending congress to do what he urges with his presidential platform and letting them wear it when they don’t. Many of the policies that Obama has been timid on progressing in the system were very popular policies. Past presidents did exactly what he is doing here: lining up his ducks, including public opinion, and then letting the Senate wear it if they want to stand in the way. Too bad he did not embrace this tactic two years ago.
Second, and on point, the statement in my mind reads like 1) someone who is crystal clear that the policy he is looking at repeal violates fundamental rights; but, 2) someone who is only willing to address the violation to the degree that is convenient. I could be convinced otherwise, though not easily.
Why is he going out of his way to assure us that the troops, DoD brass and context all support this move now and hence it is time to roll with the repeal? Put another way had one of these three not pointed in favour of repeal would he be putting it off? For how long?
Look, we are talking about an actively engaged military, so obviously knee-jerk reforms are likely a bad idea. And considering context goes to not making knee jerk reforms. But what are the limits to that consideration. People have being priming the pump for a repeal of DADT for years. It is prioritization of the opinion of the brass and troops that chaff me the most. Had a strong majority of our military men and women and their families or their commanders not been prepared to serve alongside Americans who are openly gay and lesbian would we Obama be willing to allow this violation to continue? I can only assume so given how much emphasis he places on these points in the statement and that he states them rather like conditions instead of convenient facts, or that he felt it necessary to address these points at all, frankly.
It is all the more peculiar given that he also made clear in the opening of the statement that he recognizes that he is the Commander in Chief and that maintaining “good order and discipline within our military ranks” (read hierarchical control) is important. Why is he (implicitly) suggesting his subordinates opinions dictate military policy?