DADT Repeal Hopes Fade; UPDATE: WH Pushback, uh-oh
After today’s Armed Forces Committee second hearing, during which two service chiefs said their branches wouldn’t welcome and weren’t ready for open service, it appears that hopes for repeal of Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell have faded. There’s a calendar problem, too — but mainly, it seems that the Marines and Air Force service chiefs gave repeal opponents the ammunition they need to stop this thing.
The maneuvering for floor time comes as two senior service branch officials — Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and Air Force chief of staff Gen. Norton “Norty” Schwartz — told the Senate Armed Services Committee Friday they do not recommend Congress allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, at least for now. Although they would implement the law if passed, they said.
“Based on what I know about the very tough fight on the ground in Afghanistan, the almost singular focus of our combat forces as they train up and deploy into theater, the necessary tightly woven culture of those combat forces that we are asking so much of at this time, and finally the direct feedback from the survey, my recommendation is that we should not implement repeal at this time,” Amos said.
“My best military judgment does not agree with the study assessment that the short-term risk to military effectiveness is low,” Schwartz said, adding that full implementation of repeal should not occur until 2012.
While the Navy and Army Chiefs agreed that repeal could occur without disruption, it appears that the Administration’s appetite for other December goodies — a deal on the Bush tax cuts, ratification of START II, passage of the DREAM Act, and some accommodation for the unemployed — will likely crowd out DADT repeal. . . .
Any chance for passage now rests with the Obama administration, and how much it wants to push to lift the ban, especially given other concerns, such as the START nuclear arms reduction treaty. But advocates Friday were not enthusiastic.
“I’m very concerned that the White House waited too long to move, Democrats have not pushed hard enough, and that the pressure to do tax cuts, unemployment and START mean this won’t get done,” Richard Socarides, an attorney who consulted with the Clinton White House on gay rights issues, told POLITICO.
“Republicans will have to agree to cooperate,” he added. “What’s the chance of that?”
But President Barack Obama will have to get involved to make it happen, said another gay advocate, Justin Elzie, a former Marine who outed himself on national television in 1993 and was the first Marine removed under the policy.
“We’d like him to pick up the phone and make some phone calls,” Elzie said.
AmericaBlogGAY points out that the Majority Leader has some home-state priorities as well:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pushing behind the scenes for lame-duck legislation that would allow poker games over the Internet but restrict initial licenses to casinos and racetrack operators that have been in businesses at least five years.
Some of the biggest casino operators in Reid’s home state of Nevada are eager to get a piece of the online gambling industry, which generates an estimated $5 billion a year for offshore operators.
Congratulations to Senator James Webb (D-Va) for raising the human element during today’s hearings, largely missing and overlooked by all participants:
Indeed, when Senator James Webb today asked the Service Chiefs a simple question about the gay human beings impacted by this discriminatory policy, everyone at the hearing acted a bit startled. Webb asked: What should we do with gay patriotic Americans who have already served our country for years, and want to lead free and open lives? Everyone looked uncomfortable, as if Webb had gone way off topic.
Yes, what SHOULD we do? After all this year’s DADT sturm-und-drang, are we to do NOTHING about open service for these loyal patriots who serve in silence? And in no way accommodate those discharged under this disruptive policy? Does the president’s promise — and the Speaker’s — mean NOTHING?
Apparently, it’s all about to wind down, with hardly a whimper.
UPDATE: This can’t be good news.
The White House called a meeting Friday afternoon to assure gay rights advocates that there’s no deal for President Barack Obama to sidetrack the effort to dismantle the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, even though time is quickly winding down in the lame-duck Congress, sources familiar with the session said.
About a dozen gay rights activists were summoned to the session, which lasted just over an hour and occurred in one of the federally-owned buildings facing Lafayette Park across from the White House, according to a participant.
A source said the White House staffers at the session, who included Office of Public Engagement director Tina Tchen, her deputy Brian Bond, and legislative affairs aide Chris Kang, told repeal advocates that Senate action on the defense bill containing language repealing “don’t ask” might not come next week in part because of a judicial impeachment trial.
One gay rights advocate said Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett – one of the president’s confidantes – was expected at the session, but she did not attend, according to another source.
During the session, the White House aides also criticized some advocates for having shared word of the meeting with the press, the attendee said.