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Thread: Is Barack Obama backing off repealing the ban on gays in the military?

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Question Is Barack Obama backing off repealing the ban on gays in the military?

    WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is telling the Pentagon and gay-rights advocates that it will have to study the implications for national security and enlist more support in Congress before trying to overturn the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" law and allow gays to serve openly in the military, according to people involved in the discussions.

    They said Obama, who pledged during the campaign to overturn the law, does not want to ask lawmakers to do so until the military has completed a comprehensive assessment of the impact that such a move would have on military discipline. Then, the president hopes to be able to make a case to members of both parties that overturning the 1993 law would be in the best interest of national security.

    Obama is hoping to avoid the missteps of the Clinton administration when it tried to open the ranks to gays and lesbians, only to be confronted by fierce resistance from lawmakers and commanders. Early in his presidency, Bill Clinton signed an order allowing gays to serve but was forced to back off. A compromise made it illegal for gays to serve openly, but also restricted investigations into service members' sexual behavior.

    "The Clinton experience makes a lot of folks [in the administration] apprehensive," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund, which represents gay military personnel discharged under the current policy. Sarvis, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, recently met with Obama advisers on the subject.

    At the Pentagon, officials say they have been told not to expect the administration to seek to lift the ban quickly. One senior officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press, said staff officers for Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have been told it will be several months at the earliest - possibly not even this year - until the top brass will be formally asked to weigh in on a change in policy.

    And even then, he said, the military has been assured it will have wide latitude to undertake a detailed study of how a change in the policy would affect the military.

    Mullen told reporters earlier this month that he is aware of the president's "intent to do this," but "there are no more specifics with respect to when." When the time comes, he said, he will give the president "my best military advice" on "the impact of what a potential change could be."

    During the campaign, Obama signaled his intention to allow gays to serve openly in the military, but did not commit to any timetable.

    Last April, Obama told the Advocate, a national gay and lesbian newsmagazine, that he believes there is "increasing recognition within the armed forces that [don't ask, don't tell] is a counterproductive strategy."

    As recently as Jan. 15, his spokesman made Obama's ultimate intentions clear. "You don't hear politicians give a one-word answer much," Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, responded when asked whether the new president would take action to overturn the 1993 law. "But it's 'Yes.' "

    But in addition to winning over the military, Obama and allies in Congress will also have to convince lawmakers in both parties that reversing the policy is necessary, according to several Capitol Hill sources involved in the deliberations. Only legislation approved by the House and Senate and signed by the president can reverse "don't ask, don't tell."

    Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts and a senior member of the Armed Service Committee, is preparing to introduce legislation to lift the ban, but not until he can get a Republican co-sponsor, according to a congressional aide. The aide said Kennedy's office is lobbying several GOP colleagues to join him, including Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, John McCain of Arizona, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Some powerful members of his own party also appear unconvinced.

    "I still think we have significant issues with a lot of the Midwestern Democrats being on the fence," the aide said, adding that some Democratic senators are considered "shaky." Some of those include Evan Bayh of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska - all representing states with significant conservative constituencies. All three declined to provide their views.

    The House of Representatives, with a larger Democratic margin than the Senate, is considered more likely to vote for overturning the current law when a companion bill is introduced by Representative Ellen Tauscher, Democrat of California, whose office confirmed that she is drafting legislation.

    Still, Democratic boosters in the House face hurdles of their own. For example, Representative Ike Skelton of Missouri, the chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee that would have to vet any such legislation, "isn't there yet," said the congressional aide.

    Lauren Dealy, a spokeswoman for the committee, said Skelton supports "don't ask, don't tell" but added that he also believes the panel has a responsibility to reassess the policy at some point.

    In the meantime, longtime opponents of repealing "don't ask, don't tell" are preparing to fight any efforts to allow gays to serve openly. Elaine Donnelly, president of the conservative Center for Military Readiness, has testified before Congress on the issue and says that open homosexuality in the military would severely weaken discipline. "Such a policy would impose new, unneeded burdens of sexual tension on men and women serving in high-pressure working conditions," Donnelly said in an interview.

    "I think the burden of proof is on those why say the [don't ask, don't tell] law should be repealed," she added.

    Advocates for lifting the ban say such arguments are outdated because national attitudes have changed considerably since the law was passed.

    And supporters of lifting the ban are arming themselves with a different argument they hope will tip the scales: that allowing gays to serve openly will improve the military.

    Government reports show that many of the servicemembers who have been discharged under the policy had critical skills, such as foreign-language proficiency, that are in short supply for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - a point Obama raised in his April interview with the Advocate.

    Gay-rights groups also point to research by the University of California, Los Angeles that suggests allowing gays to serve openly would draw tens of thousands of additional recruits - patriotic Americans who have not enlisted because the current policy is perceived as hostile to gays.

    To help make their case they have also enlisted more than 100 retired generals and admirals who say the law should be changed.

    But Nathaniel Frank, a researcher at the Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara that has studied the issue, believes there is good reason for the Obama administration to move cautiously on the issue that harmed Clinton's relationship with the military. Yet Frank also said waiting too long could jeopardize the entire effort: "A delay could let opposition fester and build."

    Obama seeks assessment on gays in military - The Boston Globe
    On the surface, it doesn't sound SO bad... but...

    There are a few problems here.

    1. Why do a study on the effect lifting the ban will have on "national security"? Obama has already committed to lifting the ban. Yet now, after the fact, we're looking at whether it's a good, safe idea? That doesn't send a very confident message about Obama's decision-making - investigating the wisdom of a decision after he's already made it.

    2. If that study says that lifting the ban will harm national security (and we all know the results of the study will be leaked), then will Obama really still lift the ban? What's to guarantee that the study won't completely undercut Obama's promise?

    3. Does anyone doubt for a minute what conclusion the Pentagon brass is going to reach in this study about whether or not it's a good idea to lift the ban? If the intent is to use this study to lobby Congress in favor of lifting the ban, the study will have the opposite effect if it reaches the wrong conclusion.

    4. It almost sounds as if Obama is planning on using the study to help him determine whether he even wants to lift the ban at all - again, in direct contradiction to his repeated promises on the issue.

    I think Obama is wise to get his ducks in a row, and wise to court Congress, before trying to lift the ban (and in any case, the ban is now written into law, so Obama will need Congress in order to lift it). But this decision to have the Pentagon do a "study" on the national security implications of lifting the ban sounds like we're walking into a bit of a buzz saw. It also sounds, from the article, like Obama hasn't quite made up his mind, and may actually be waiting to see what the study says before making up his mind as to whether to proceed - if so, that would be a major, and devastating, flip-flop.

    We have no idea what the Obama administration is actually planning, as we're forced to rely exclusively on news stories to read the tea leaves. Joe and I have been waiting two years to hear from Obama's head of gay and lesbian outreach, in spite of repeated requests to meet, talk, or just give us an occasional royal wave from a safe distance. Gay and lesbian Obama supporters shouldn't have to divine Obama's civil rights policy from two poorly written paragraphs in a newspaper, but that's where we still are.

    Obama is going to need to learn the concept of outreach if he is going to govern effectively. Relationships aren't built in a vacuum. Distrust, and misunderstandings, however, are.

    AMERICAblog News| A great nation deserves the truth
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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Good commentary:

    We don't need another "study" and why should we continue to have our citizenship and patriotism insulted by conducting another "study" to investigate the myths and the hysteria created about us by the looney tune Right?

    If there is a need for a study about "unit cohesion" and "national security" then the Prez should be asking the Pentagon to start investigating how the presence of right-wing evangelicals in the military threaten our effectiveness in conducting foreign policy and cohesive military operations. Wasn't it just a couple of years ago, John, when you posted something on this blog about a tank in Iraq which advertised a gun barrel with the "Christian" cross on it as it rumbled through streets of predominantly Muslim Iraq?
    And what about that wingnut military officer who ran around the country proclaiming the Iraqi war to be a Christian struggle and a war for God? Let alone all of the stories about the American Taliban using the armed forces to bully other service personnel into serving their "God" rather than country or their own right to a private religous belief. And then there is the wingnut uproar over evangelical ministers in the armed forces who get their panties in a wad if they are forced to serve as chaplains without reference to their own separatist, evangelical, my-way-or-the-highway personally selected "religious" belief. Does Obama seriously not consider these people NOT a threat to unit cohesion and national security? Then why in the hell aren't THEY "studied" and considered for dismissal?

    This don't ask, don't tell nonsense was nothing but a means of kissing right wing ass - along with this notion of another "study." The military has had no problem sending SOME LGBT members, after they've come out, to the combat zones - with a promise that they'll discharge them AFTER their tour of duty. Moreover, the military is supported by the tax dollars of all citizens, and the notion that gay taxpayers must continue to provide an exclusive employment/service option for heterosexuals is just another slap in the face. I shouldn't owe my country the dollars to fund "protection" of my homeland when that "protection" includes the continuation of discrimination and abuse by that same government. And I shouldn't be forced into patriotic worship of heterosexual-imaged service personnel.

    When I think back to the constant images in newspapers, magazines, and television over the past few years of the Iraqi/AfghanLand wars, how many pictures ever depicted a GLBT member coming home to the embrace of a partner or family? And yet these media outlets have no problem showing hugs-and-kisses on the front page between heterosexual service personnel. Our invisibility, along with the utter disrespect of our distinguished service performance before we are drummed out for being gay, should be a national embarassment.

    And Obama needs to see it that way. An embarassment which, if it perpetuates, is much more damaging to American homeland cohesion and national security.
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    Gold Member mamaste's Avatar
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    Although I support lifting the ban, I've been secretly worried about what will happen when it is lifted. That's no reason for it not be lifted, but I'm a worrier by nature. I hope no one gets hurt or killed as a result.

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    Elite Member RevellingInSane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamaste View Post
    Although I support lifting the ban, I've been secretly worried about what will happen when it is lifted. That's no reason for it not be lifted, but I'm a worrier by nature. I hope no one gets hurt or killed as a result.
    I agree. If the ban is lifted before any laws specifically protecting gay personnel are put into place, there will be violence. Let gays in and protect them from the hateful asses in the military.



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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    ^^Agree that you have to put laws in place to protect gay military personnel, just like they had to do for blacks and women, before you lift any bans.

    But all of this 'more study' is code for Obama isn't going to make the same mistake Clinton did and tackle this issue early on in his presidency.

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    Elite Member RevellingInSane's Avatar
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    ^^Agree. While the desire for swift action is completely understandable, it is not a viable option at this time. Clinton had to step back and compromise, ending with DADT, when it became quite clear the atmosphere at the time would accept nothing else.

    If someone is willing to enter the military, and not be dragged kicking and screaming into it, the government should do a backflip, throw a party, and let them in.



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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    ^^I think Obama will address DADT. But I don't see him doing it while we still have two wars going on. Plus, the conservative Democrats and definitely the conservative Republicans will do their best to block any lift of the ban.

    And I agree that anybody that wants to join the military willingly shouldn't be kept from doing it. Plus, it's a threat to national security when you see them kicking out arabic translators just because their gay.

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    I still think it's a bit masochistic to want to put your life on the line for a country that sees you as a second class citizen, but hey.. takes all kinds... cough log cabin republicans cough...
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    Elite Member RevellingInSane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingcap72 View Post
    ^^I think Obama will address DADT. But I don't see him doing it while we still have two wars going on. Plus, the conservative Democrats and definitely the conservative Republicans will do their best to block any lift of the ban.

    And I agree that anybody that wants to join the military willingly shouldn't be kept from doing it. Plus, it's a threat to national security when you see them kicking out arabic translators just because their gay.
    I, too, think he will address it, when other issues become less pressing. I honestly don't know if it can be repealed at this time or in the foreseeable future. Those who are conservative on gay issues in both parties will not give up quietly. The Republicans will throw themselves wholeheartedly into anything which gives them the endorphic rush of stomping on someone.

    Yes, it is harmful to national security to discharge those who have very refined skills we desperately need at this tim. Even if gays are banned in the military completely, who is naive enough to believe no sexual contact will occur if there are only member of one gender together for months, even years? As if keeping gays out will completely eradicate the need for human touch, even if it means engaging in homosexual intimate activity to satisfy that need.



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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RevellingInSane View Post
    I, too, think he will address it, when other issues become less pressing. I honestly don't know if it can be repealed at this time or in the foreseeable future. Those who are conservative on gay issues in both parties will not give up quietly. The Republicans will throw themselves wholeheartedly into anything which gives them the endorphic rush of stomping on someone..

    Obama won't risk the heat from the Republicans anytime soon, especially since he's on this bipartisan kick and wants some Republican support.

    Quote Originally Posted by RevellingInSane View Post
    Yes, it is harmful to national security to discharge those who have very refined skills we desperately need at this tim. Even if gays are banned in the military completely, who is naive enough to believe no sexual contact will occur if there are only member of one gender together for months, even years? As if keeping gays out will completely eradicate the need for human touch, even if it means engaging in homosexual intimate activity to satisfy that need.
    Somebody who never saw Oz or any prison movies.

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    I'm tired of people kowtowing to the batshit repubs.
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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    While I wish Obama would just tell the Republicans to fuck off completely that would make him no better than Dubya, when he did it to the Dems.

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    but the repubs are BATSHIT
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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    True. But Obama's going to need some of their batshit crazy to get some of his big projects pushed through. Just like Dubya needed to get some of the Dems to support the invasion of Iraq, even though Republicans controlled Congress.

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    Elite Member RevellingInSane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingcap72 View Post
    Obama won't risk the heat from the Republicans anytime soon, especially since he's on this bipartisan kick and wants some Republican support.

    Somebody who never saw Oz or any prison movies.
    Exactly. The Repubs are just lying in wait to pounce on him and rip him to shreds. He can't make a move on this now.

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