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October, 13th 2009

Credit where credit is due... and where it maybe, possibly will be due

– Liz Mair

Gay Patriot's Dan Blatt gives it:

According to the Advocate,

Shortly after President Barack Obama pledged Saturday to end “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the Administration’s highest-ranking LGBT official said the White House is speaking with certain senators about strategies for repealing the policy — specifically Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“On ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ this administration is talking directly to the Hill — we are in direct discussions with Senator Lieberman,” John Berry, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, told The Advocate.

A spokesman for Senator Lieberman confirmed that the senator had been speaking to the White House about the bill.  “Senator Lieberman has had discussions with representatives of the Administration and others on the best way to reverse this policy, which he has opposed since it was first proposed in 1993,” said Marshall Wittmann, Lieberman’s press secretary.

Smart move to work with Lieberman.  Given the Connecticut Senator’s long-time support for a robust military, it’s makes a lot of sense to have him lead the effort to repeal this counterproductive measure.  More perhaps than any other member of the Democratic caucus, Lieberman enjoys the respect of the military and Republicans.  He can better frame repeal not as a gay rights’ issue but as a military issue, that the ban reduces the pool of recruits from which our armed services can draw.

That the Administration is in talk with Lieberman suggests a real commitment to repealing the ban.  It would be better if they had a timetable, to prompt more expeditious action.  With a solid majority even of conservatives favoring repeal, the time to act is now.

I, of course, agree that the time to act is now.  My personal gut instinct tells me that Obama regards that "now" as being of far less fierce urgency than I do.  And I'm not sure that the fact that representatives of the Administration have been talking with folks like Lieberman really does indicate a serious commitment to (as distinct from what I believe to be a genuine, if somewhat backburner interest in) repealing DADT on Obama's part (I'll believe it when I see something more than what he's done, by which I principally mean said, to date).

However, Dan is right: Reaching out to Lieberman is smart, and if Berry is spearheading this, he certainly deserves credit, as does Lieberman himself, of course.  National security hawks don't do things that could be argued to compromise national security just to please or curry favor or campaign donations from particular demographic groups (fellow hawks not being a "demographic group," at least not in the way I mean).  And we should not forget that Lieberman has in no small measure some sway with John McCain and Lindsey Graham (and his views on this would likely be noticed, and potentially tracked by other Republicans, like Susan Collins with whom he is close).  This is not to say that either of them vote with Lieberman on most issues or that Lieberman's support for something guarantees support from either of them.  However, months ago, McCain indicated that were he President, he would already have ordered a review of Don't Ask Don't Tell, something that is arguably indicative of his personal comfort with taking a more aggressive stance on this issue than Obama's actual actions would indicate he is.  Graham has of course come out in favor of climate change legislation involving cap-and-trade, a policy prescription that is arguably less popular, both within his party and throughout the country at-large, than is DADT repeal.  Ultimately, I won't argue that DADT repeal would be a totally easy sell for either McCain or Graham.  I'm just saying I don't think it's actually and wholly inconceivable that both could ultimately find themselves OK'ing repeal, especially were Lieberman leading the charge.

In any event, for what it's worth, I think it's very clear that Lieberman is serious about getting DADT repealed, and soon.  I've heard rumblings of this from numerous directions, all of which would know, for a long time now.  Maybe he's the man to get it done, or at least take one big, real, action-based, step forward. [intro]

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