A Lasting Impression

Obama's idea of the ''long view'' on DADT repeal puts a potential landmark victory at risk

by Sean Bugg
Published on September 30, 2010, 3:23am | Comments

President Barack Obama would like you to be impressed with his progress on repealing the military ban on open gay and lesbian servicemembers.

"Here, I've got the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff both committed to changing the policy. That's a big deal," the president told Rolling Stone. He went on to add that, "I don't think it's too much to ask, to say 'Let's do this in an orderly way' — to ensure, by the way, that gays and lesbians who are serving honorably in our armed forces aren't subject to harassment and bullying and a whole bunch of other stuff once we implement the policy."

He also encouraged patience, of a sort.

"Understandably, everybody has a great sense of urgency about these issues. But one of the things that I constantly want to counsel my friends is to keep the long view in mind."

Of course, the problem here for those of us distressed over the state of DADT repeal is that most of us have had the long view in mind for a decade and half. American citizens didn't magically change their mind about the presence of gays and lesbians in the military on the night Obama was elected -- they changed their minds because of years of deliberate work on the parts of many organizations and, especially, gay servicemembers.

He wants us to be impressed with his progress; it would be nice if we were a bit more impressed with ours.

I get the idea that Obama wants an orderly process. Despite our command of majority opinion on the issue, the small and vocal minority that opposes equality brings the same misguided passion that they bring to every social issue, guaranteeing that they will fight loudly until the bitter end. Worse, that anti-gay minority has the ear of a congressional Republican leadership that's eager to play base-pleasing politics on gay issues rather than deal with economic issues of recession, recovery and government spending.

When the House Republican leader says of our country's economic woes, "Let's not talk about potential solutions," that means they're probably going to end up talking about us.

Worse, no matter how impressed we may be that Obama pulled together the support of the Pentagon leadership on repealing DADT -- and that support is vital to any chance for success -- the fact remains that he allowed repeal to be placed on a track that puts its legislative chances in serious peril.

Knowing full well that the economic climate of the country would make this a difficult election cycle for congressional Democrats, pegging repeal to the military "review" that won't be finished until after those elections amounts to playing an egregious political game with the lives and careers of gay and lesbian servicemembers.

The administration and those that signed on to this strategy are betting that once DADT is repealed, all will be forgotten as gays and lesbians can finally claim a political and moral victory on one of the cornerstone issues of our movement. But there is no guarantee it will succeed and, if congressional control swings to Republicans, our chance for a much desired and needed legislative victory will have passed, perhaps for years.

Failure would make quite an impression.


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