Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reality on Obama and DADT

Here's how I see it: it's pretty clear that Obama made a deal some time ago with the top military brass, Bob Gates and Mike Mullen specifically--in exchange for their public support for ending DADT, the Administration would wait until the military's review to be over in December to push for change. When you read about the Administration not really pressuring Congress to get the repeal done last month, I suspect this is the reason. Without the buy-in of the brass, it doesn't really matter what the polling looks like: DADT repeal is going to fail. Let's be realistic here. The numbers for letting LGBT people serve openly were decent when Bill Clinton tried to push it in 1993, but the brass fought him tooth and nail and it never happened. December seems to be the price Obama agreed to pay for Mullen's and Gates's support, and it's a narrative that fits the facts unless you want to go the FDL route and assume that Obama secretly hates gay people. I do not.

Now, I do think that the nine-month review period seems agonizingly long and Obama should have tried to trim that. Maybe that's normal for government work, I don't know. But I don't think Obama will order Holder to drop the current case because if I'm right, that would basically involve him going back on the whole review promise that was made. Gates could make the whole process difficult if he wanted to, and I think his and Mullen's deliberatness is due to neither Gates nor Mullen not wanting to be seen as pushing a social agenda onto the military. Frankly, I could care less, but I'm not them, my job doesn't depend on my credibility with the military and I don't have to worry about any of those sorts of things. My strong feeling is that Obama's reticence here is the result of an agreement and not a lack of conviction. Maybe he could have gotten a better one, I don't know. But when I hear talk about executive orders and lawsuits and all the rest it seems beside the point. Sure, the guy has some tools to make it happen, but issuing an executive order or dropping the DADT lawsuit would present very real risks and preclude any other options. Doing things Gates's way has some downsides, but it doesn't rule out other avenues if the Senate continues its dickishness.

As for Andrew Sullivan's disparagement of Obama on gay rights, I totally understand where it's coming from but I think it's misplaced. No Republicans voted to proceed on the Defense Bill, and that's not because they all support DADT (Snowe, Collins and Brown publicly don't) but rather because ending DADT would give Obama a big win with his base, and they didn't want that to happen. Sue Collins's bullshit editorial more or less confirms the cynicism--she complains about not being able to offer amendments on the bill, but she voted not to proceed on the bill, which ensured she would be able to offer no amendments. It's not as if the bill were debated, her amendments were ignored, and Reid moved for cloture and final passage. No amendments can be considered at all if the vote to proceed is filibustered. Republicans unsurprisingly want other Republicans to win elections, and getting Democrats to yell at each other isn't a bad way of doing this. I understand everyone's frustration, but Obama simply isn't to blame for Republican cynicism. To blame Obama for any of this is to play right into the hands of a cynical party that just wants to win.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.