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Feb. 18 2010 - 8:36 am | 731 views | 1 recommendation | 1 comment

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal in ‘grave peril’

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 02:  Defense Secretary R...

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen arrive at a hearing on reviewing the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Not good. Nathanial Frank, one of the country’s leading experts on DADT, reports that the repeal of the anti-gay military policy is in “grave peril.”

But wait! Top military brassColin Powell, the troops, and the Pentagon all support the repeal. A majority of Americans think DADT should be reversed, too. Perhaps most importantly of all, Dick Cheney supports the repeal. When was the last time liberals and Dick Cheney agreed on anything?

Surely, if there’s one thing Democrats can’t fuck up, it’s repealing DADT –a decision that enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support.

Sigh.

Yet despite the military’s move to relax and soon do away with “don’t ask, don’t tell,” repeal in Congress is in grave peril. This is so even though the much-vaunted super-majority in the senate is not necessary to repeal the current policy. As Sen. Carl Levin, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee explained to his colleague, Sen. Joe Lieberman, an amendment to repeal the policy can be added to the must-pass Defense Authorization bill, which would turn the tables on the “no-to-everything” Republicans: the amendment would require a supermajority not to pass, but to remove, meaning that in order to keep the ban in place, the GOP would have to block the entire Pentagon spending bill, publicly undercutting the military.

Frank’s beef is with the gay community, who he says often give Obama a pass on leading the charge. Obviously, the repeal’s fate rests with Congress, but Obama must tell the Pentagon to first put the repeal in the Defense Authorization bill. Frank says there isn’t enough pressure coming from the gay community for Obama to do that, and he says the biggest offender is Human Rights Campaign (HRC,) the most powerful gay rights group in the world.

Bloggers this week called for the President to take the lead, but also focused their attention on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) the most powerful gay rights group in the world, which has been accused of championing repeal publicly, while privately assuring the White House that it can continue to go slow. Some feel that HRC would rather fundraise for several years on the illusion of momentum than actually help to achieve repeal. If HRC wants to disabuse the community of that suspicion, it will need to ensure that its prized access to Washington power is used to have a real impact, rather than to enjoy that access for its own sake. One reasonable option would be to publicly tell the President that it will not endorse him for re-election if he does not secure repeal in his first term, a promise that Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he believed the President would keep.

Everyone keeps saying repeal is definitely coming this year, but the path is unclear.

“There is a clear path to repeal,” said an HRC spokesman this week, “and that’s the one we’re on.” Many of us would like to know what that path is if it does not include demanding the President put it in the base bill.

If the repeal isn’t in the Authorization bill, the clear path to repeal is lost. To accuse HRC of slacking on this for purposes of fundraising is a pretty nefarious charge, but it’s unusual that HRC isn’t leaning more aggressively on Obama to put the DADT repeal in the bill, which is pretty clearly the only hope for getting this thing done.


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