White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs appeared to confirm growing suspicions among LGBT activists that President Obama, despite his ringing call for DADT repeal in this year’s State of the Union, has decided to let the Pentagon stall. In confirming the December first date of the Pentagon’s first report, Gibbs seems to indicate that legislative action is impossible in 2010.
Here is the transcript of questioning by The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld, via Pam:
Q Let me get back to the question. So there was the heckling on Monday night, there’s the veterans yesterday at the White House gates handcuffing themselves to the fence. All of these actions are aimed at getting repeal this year, something the White House has sort of declined to commit to since the State of the Union address. Has the White House misjudged the level of patience among LGBT and grassroots activists on this?
MR. GIBBS: No. Again, I would remind anybody on this issue — look, first of all, I will say this. Obviously the President made a commitment in the presidential campaign, and understands the passion that people hold the belief that all should be able to serve. The President holds that belief too.
But I would remind folks that wasn’t a belief that the President held in 2007 — that’s a belief that the President held in running for the Senate as far back as 2003.
The President has made and is committed to making this changed law. I don’t think he’s underestimated the — as you said, the patience of some. The President wants to see this law changed, just as you’ve heard the Chair of the Joint Chiefs and others in the military say that it’s time for that change to happen.
Q But he’s committed to them letting the Pentagon work through its working group process until December 1st, is that true? He’s committed to that?
MR. GIBBS: Yes. The President has set forward a process with the Joint — the Chair of the Joint Chiefs and with the Secretary of Defense to work through this issue.
Q Before any legislative action is taken — that rules out legislative action this year?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again — the House and the Senate are obviously a different branch of government. The President has a process and a proposal I think that he believes is the best way forward to seeing, again, the commitment that he’s made for many years in trying to — changing that law.
Here’s ThinkProgress’s take:
Indeed, with the military committed to maintaining the policy until it finished its review on December 1st, the White House has been reluctant to lobby moderate senators to include repeal legislation in this year’s defense authorization act.
Joe Sudbay at AmericaBlogGay:
The White House political team "misjudged the level of patience among LGBT and grassroots activists on this" and other issues. They’re making a calculation that it’s a better political move to hold off on repeal until next year or later. They probably expect cover from the Human Rights Campaign and other connected gays, and they’ll probably get it. But HRC is not the powerhouse it once was, or we wouldn’t be in the current predicament of voting for a President who is now breaking his top promises. I have no doubt that someone inside the White house political shop is asking: "What are they going to do? Vote Republican?" What I fear is that a lot of people – gays, enviros, women, labor, Latinos, and more, may simply not vote at all. Turnout matters. It’s Elections 101. So spare us the "who are you going to vote for, Palin?" talk. It’s condescending, and it ignores the reality of how much enthusiasm matters to a campaign.
So, while the repeal could conceivably be attached to a Department of Defense authorization bill to be considered next month, in line with the President’s promise made in the State of the Union address, this is the clearest indication yet that no support will be coming from the White House on that.
David Mixner reports on a possible Senate ‘revolt’ against the White House delay:
I have spent the day visiting on the phone with extremely reliable sources on Capitol Hill in both the Senate and House. With over twenty calls, I have been able to determine that the revolt is perhaps much larger than the media realizes. There is a sense of total frustration with the administration. They just don’t understand why the White House won’t move on this issue. Many of persons on the Hill that I spoke too are from states with large urban populations, including in the South. They feel the failure to vote this year on DADT will have a ‘chilling effect’ regarding voter turn out in the Fall elections. Those interviewed think that not only will many LGBT citizens stay home but also other progressives.
One high ranking staffer said, "We are going to get creamed in our district since we need the gay vote. It is just only a matter of time that what is happening to Pelosi in San Fran works it way down to our districts. We don’t fucking need it. For God sakes, lets get this out of the way." An elected official in DC told me, "If the President digs in, he then guarantees that the debate will be ugly and divisive. I am really concerned about their intransigence." Another Chief of Staff confided to me that this is a ‘huge mistake’ since it was the President himself that set the expectations.
And the White House is expected to oppose any attempt to move up repeal discussion into this year’s legislative calendar:
Congressional aides said both approaches are likely to face opposition from the White House, which in February laid a timetable built around an extensive Pentagon study that won’t be completed until Dec. 1, pushing a final move on the contentious issue past what’s expected to be Democrats’ toughest election cycle in years.
3 tales of careers ended
But the White House is facing pushback on several fronts at once. On Monday, repeal activists heckled President Barack Obama for several minutes at a fundraiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer in California.
"The sooner we can end this policy, the better," Polis said. "There have been plenty of studies about this policy and how it continues to weaken our military every day that it exists."
Joe Sudbay again:
I just think that the White House and the DNC are making a serious miscalculation as to how much damage they are causing with a core Democratic constituency.
Just a reminder, now, about President Obama’s expectation-setting on repeal of Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell in his State of the Union Address in January, three short months ago:
"My Administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination. We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate. This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It’s the right thing to do."