Posted by Brad @ 11:45 am on March 30th 2009

Obama Punting on DADT

Not entirely unpredicted, but disappointing nonetheless:

Don’t expect any change soon to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about gays in the military.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says both he and President Barack Obama have “a lot on our plates right now.” As Gates puts it, “let’s push that one down the road a little bit.”

The White House has said Obama has begun consulting with Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on how to lift the ban. Gates says that dialogue has not really progressed very far at this point in the administration.

I guess I still just don’t get what the big deal is, or why people are so terrified to dip their toe in these waters. I can understand, with all that is indeed on Obama’s plate, not wanting to find himself mired in a culture war sort of issue—that’s probably the last thing he needs. But it still sounds like a cop out (not as bad as “I have to veto this gay marriage bill because it might distract from economic debate” cop out, but in the same ballpark anyway).

Obama does a very good job of somehow managing to wade into choppy political waters and, to mix metaphors, still sounding like the adult in the room (Rojas has written about this previously). This has served him well in economic debates, where he takes a pretty radical message and casts his position as being pragmatic middle-ground. That is exactly the sort of skill needed to cut through a debate like DADT (and, for that matter, marijuana prohibition stuff), where all it takes is one guy with that kind of air of authority to step in and simply say “Grow up. Who cares? Go find something more important to gin up furor about, these boys have a job to do.” I suppose Obama’s political fear is diminishing returns, diluting himself by doing that too much over too broad a swath of policy, and I can understand that. Still, somebody’s got to.

1 Comment »

  1. I’ve always seen the DADT backdowns as less a matter of electoral reprecussions than of internal dissent within the military.

    Yes, the military will follow the CoC’s orders no matter what. Still, it’s difficult to work towards military success in an environment where the structural leadership has no faith in the man at the top of the pyramid.

    Something like a DADT reform, to be fully effective, ought to be coupled with more internally popular military reforms in other areas; the proverbial “spoonfull of sugar”. Obama, by contrast, is going to be asking more of the military over the next couple of years, and there are going to be serious questions going forward about the financing of the Revolution in Military Affairs as well as various programs important to the common soldier.

    So, while it obviously bothers me that Obama is kicking DADT down the road in this manner, I can understand it from a standpoint of political logistics.

    Comment by Rojas — 3/30/2009 @ 12:41 pm

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