Pres. Obama on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

On Wednesday, President Obama met with a group of bloggers to discuss current events. The full transcript is available on HuffingtonPost.com but there’s one piece in particular that caught my eye: the President responding to dissatisfaction among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans about the lack of decisive action on issues like repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Check it out:

Questions by blogger Joe Sudbay of AMERICABlog:

Q We’ve been more than willing to offer that. We’ve certainly been more than willing to offer than from AMERICAblog, particularly on issues related to the LGBT community, which, you know, there is a certain amount of disillusionment and disappointment in our community right now.

And one of the things I’d like to ask you — and I think it’s a simple yes or no question too — is do you think that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is unconstitutional?

THE PRESIDENT: It’s not a simple yes or no question, because I’m not sitting on the Supreme Court. And I’ve got to be careful, as President of the United States, to make sure that when I’m making pronouncements about laws that Congress passed I don’t do so just off the top of my head.

I think that — but here’s what I can say. I think “don’t ask, don’t tell” is wrong. I think it doesn’t serve our national security, which is why I want it overturned. I think that the best way to overturn it is for Congress to act. In theory, we should be able to get 60 votes out of the Senate. The House has already passed it. And I’ve gotten the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to say that they think this policy needs to be overturned — something that’s unprecedented.

And so my hope and expectation is, is that we get this law passed. It is not just harmful to the brave men and women who are serving, and in some cases have been discharged unjustly, but it doesn’t serve our interests — and I speak as Commander-in-Chief on that issue.

Let me go to the larger issue, though, Joe, about disillusionment and disappointment. I guess my attitude is that we have been as vocal, as supportive of the LGBT community as any President in history. I’ve appointed more openly gay people to more positions in this government than any President in history. We have moved forward on a whole range of issues that were directly under my control, including, for example, hospital visitation.

On “don’t ask, don’t tell,” I have been as systematic and methodical in trying to move that agenda forward as I could be given my legal constraints, given that Congress had explicitly passed a law designed to tie my hands on the issue.

And so, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think that the disillusionment is justified.

Now, I say that as somebody who appreciates that the LGBT community very legitimately feels these issues in very personal terms. So it’s not my place to counsel patience. One of my favorite pieces of literature is “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and Dr. King had to battle people counseling patience and time. And he rightly said that time is neutral. And things don’t automatically get better unless people push to try to get things better.

So I don’t begrudge the LGBT community pushing, but the flip side of it is that this notion somehow that this administration has been a source of disappointment to the LGBT community, as opposed to a stalwart ally of the LGBT community, I think is wrong.

[Later in this interview]

THE PRESIDENT: Anything else?

Q Well, can I ask you just about “don’t ask, don’t tell,” just following up? (Laughter.) I just want to follow up. Because you mentioned it –

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, sure. Go ahead.

Q Is there a strategy for the lame-duck session to —

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q — and you’re going to be involved?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q Will Secretary Gates be involved?

THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to tip my hand now. But there is a strategy.

Q Okay.

THE PRESIDENT: And, look, as I said —

Q Can we call it a secret plan? (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: I was very deliberate in working with the Pentagon so that I’ve got the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs being very clear about the need to end this policy. That is part of a strategy that I have been pursuing since I came into office. And my hope is that will culminate in getting this thing overturned before the end of the year.

Now, as usual, I need 60 votes. So I think that, Joe, the folks that you need to be having a really good conversation with — and I had that conversation with them directly yesterday, but you may have more influence than I do — is making sure that all those Log Cabin Republicans who helped to finance this lawsuit and who feel about this issue so passionately are working the handful of Republicans that we need to get this thing done.

Q Yes, I don’t have that relationship with them. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: But, I mean, it’s just — I don’t understand the logic of it.

Q Nor do I.

THE PRESIDENT: You’re financing a very successful, very effective legal strategy, and yet the only really thing you need to do is make sure that we get two to five Republican votes in the Senate.

And I said directly to the Log Cabin Republican who was here yesterday, I said, that can’t be that hard. Get me those votes.

Because what I do anticipate is that John McCain and maybe some others will filibuster this issue, and we’re going to have to have a cloture vote. If we can get through that cloture vote, this is done.

Interesting, getting some perspective on this from the President… Lots of liberal/gay handwringing over the issue, but I do feel a bit better about the whole thing after seeing this.

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2 Responses to Pres. Obama on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

  1. Obama says again that he’ll take care of it. I swear, he said he was gonna end it before the end of the year LAST year…but my partner’s still serving in silence. Any time now, Big O.

  2. […] already mentioned an intriguing conversation between President Obama and blogger Joe Sudbay of AMERICABlog, focused on the President’s views on ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t […]

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