When Barack Obama sought the presidency, he pledged to reverse the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of gays and lesbians serving openly in the U.S. military. Yet on Monday, the Supreme Court rejected a gay Ohio soldier's challenge to the law — with the legal backing of none other than the Obama Administration.
Those two sentences from Time Magazine's Mark Thompson and the title of his article--"Dismay Over Obama's Turnabout on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' "-- pretty much sum up yet another flip-flop in positions by President Obama.
Some posters below plead for patience. Their mantra is: Obama is too busy, has too many problems; this will be fixed later. However another report from Yahoo says this about DADT and the Obama administration's real plans:
A Democratic aide to the Senate Armed Services Committee called a review of the law "not a high priority" and said the panel will look at the issue sometime before the end of Obama's term — but would not specify when. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely about the committee's plans.
Translation: the Obama administration will not attempt to change DADT until 2012; when 2012 comes, the spin will be: "it's too inflammatory, better wait until Obama's second term." And then the spin will be something else. Sorry, I'm lost faith in the Obama administration, especially on the issues of human rights and gay rights.
Let's return to the case referred to by Time Magazine. The case the Supremes turned down concerns James Pietrangelo II, a former Army infantryman and lawyer. Pietrangelo fought in Iraq in 1991 as an infantryman, and returned as a JAG officer for the second Iraq war. The army booted him out in 2004 for declaring he was gay just as he was readying for a third combat tour. He represented himself for his case with the high court. Obama's hand-picked Solicitor General, Elena Kagan, argued against Pietrangelo in a brief filed by the Obama administration's Justice Department. Kagan argued that a lower court acted correctly in upholding the ban. Time notes:
The endorsement of "don't ask, don't tell" by the Administration marks the latest rightward tack by Obama. The President denounced many of George W. Bush's national-security policies during the campaign, but in office has adopted more conservative positions, including endorsing military commissions to try purported terrorists, and declining to release a second batch of photographs depicting alleged U.S. maltreatment of Iraqi detainees. His stance on "don't ask, don't tell" may be more surprising, because Obama aides have made clear the President wants the ban lifted eventually.
SOURCE: Same Time magazine article as above; all quotes same source unless otherwise noted.
Obama's betrayal of his campaign promise comes, as Time notes, despite the fact that most conservatives — 58% — according to a Gallup Poll, now support openly gay people serving in uniform. The same Gallup Poll shows that nationally, 69% support the change. Back when Clinton assumed the presidency another Gallup Poll found 53% of those polled opposed lifting the ban; so there has been considerable shifting tn a more liberal position by the electorate even as Obama tacks to the right. Time further notes:
Perhaps even more surprising, 58% of self-described Republicans, and 60% of weekly church-goers, also support gay men and women serving openly in uniform. "While the Administration to date has not taken action on the issue," the polling firm reported last Friday, "the Gallup Poll data indicate that the public-opinion environment favors such a move."
Nor does Pietrangelo buy the line often put forth by defenders of the increasingly right-oriented Obama administration that Obama and the Pentagon are too busy fighting wars and trying to fix the economy to follow the trends in public opinion and change the government's policy on "don't ask, don't tell." Says Pietrangelo:
"...this is the guy who criticized Bush for not being able to multi-task. ...We have an old saying in the military — the maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters."
Pietrangelo had harsh words for the new President:
"He's a coward, a bigot and a pathological liar," Pietrangelo said in an interview with TIME shortly after the high court declined to hear his appeal. "This is a guy who spent more time picking out his dog, Bo, and playing with him on the White House lawn than he has working for equality for gay people," he added. "If there were millions of black people as second class citizens, or millions of Jews, or Irish, he would have acted immediately" upon taking office to begin working to lift "don't ask, don't tell."
Obama's policy reversal is yet another dismaying flip-flop on campaign promises he made including promises on FISA, immediately overturning tax breaks for those making over $250,000 a year, assault weapons, torture pictures, military commissions, reopening of negotiations on NAFTA, a five-year old commitment to support ending the Cuban embargo and a host of others. Obama too has backtracked from supporting "single payer" back when he was an Illinois Senator to pretty much taking it "off the table." In a recent article, "Obama's Broken Promises" David Sirota asks:
President Obama has reneged on many of his campaign promises. Why are we letting him get away with it? ...It's true that politicians have always broken promises, but rarely so proudly and with such impunity.
On another front, Obama's promise to lead a transparent, open government is also being called into question. David Swanson over at After Downing Street notes that President Obama created (with much fanfare about a new, online "open government") a web site in which people could brainstorm proposals and interact with the new administration. Trouble is, when the people do so, their proposals tend to get taken down from the system. This has happened three times recently. Thus Swanson noted that "far away the leading proposal in the category of "legal and policy challenges" dealt with ways to reduce the Imperial Presidency. This was not a radical proposal but asked for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to prosecute Bush, Cheney, and their top officials in order to deter in the future the crimes of aggressive war and to punish those involved in torture; to restore to Congress the power to legislate, the power to begin and end wars; to ban secret budgets; to end rendition and so on. Says Swanson about the proposal that was then taken down from the website despite its popularity:
"I'm not sure if you call this irony, but I definitely wouldn't call it Open Government. During the campaign, the top demand of Obama's supporters on his website was that he keep his promise to oppose and filibuster immunity for telecom companies. During the presidential transition, the top question was whether Obama would allow the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor for Bush-Cheney. Both of those proposals were rejected. Now this one has been rejected as well."
Given the record of the Obama administration on so many specifics, is it remarkable that Progressives are dismayed and disappointed? Maybe we should express our opinions directly to the Obama administration on its new interactive website. SURE, we know how that's gone! And we know that Obama is a "fierce defender" of gay rights too!
In another diary here, "New President--SAME OLD SH_T" I looked in detail at some of the policy shifts of the new administration. That diary begins:
Remember the heady days leading up to the November, 2008 election? It looked to the nation like there was a clear-cut alternative to the dark days of the George W. Bush administration. The newly chosen candidate of the Democratic party had promised to bring change to Washington, to bring new faces to Washington ("you can't have change with the same old faces" he said), to bring openness and accountability back to our government. He had ridden a groundswell of antiwar opposition by saying he had been right on Iraq and the other leaders had not. As a person, moreover, he seemed a polar opposite to Bush: brighter, younger, more articulate (at least with a teleprompter), able to use the Internet to advance his cause, and again promising change and transparency. But something happened, almost within 48 hours of the election results coming in Barack Obama flip- flopped his position on FISA. In the last few days, we have seen two more major flip-flops...
In addition to reporting that the Obama administration has not put a high priority on changing DADT and that it will put off any attempt at changing it until the end of Obama's term, Yahoo News is reporting this:
...The Supreme Court's decision comes in the first few months of a year that gay rights advocates initially believed would bring the repeal of the law they view as discriminatory and unconstitutional. But little evidence of action from the Obama administration and Congress has frustrated advocates who accused their usually allied Democratic leaders of selling out. "Every moment that the administration and Congress delay repealing 'don't ask, don't tell,' our nation is robbed of brave men and women who would risk their lives to keep our country safe," Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign, said after the court's denial. "The time to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell' is now," Solmonese said.
Without comment, the nation's highest court denied a review of an appeal from former Army Capt. James Pietrangelo II, who was in the Vermont National Guard when he was discharged in 2004. "I think this decision is an absolute travesty of justice and I think every judge on this court should be ashamed of themselves," said Pietrangelo, who served six years in the Army, seven years in the Vermont National Guard and fought in Iraq in 1991. "It's nothing short of rubber stamping legalized discrimination."
Clarknt67 has a great diary here on Dailykos complete with a Rachel Maddow video showing Candidate Obama vs. President Obama on GBLT. It's worth having a look at http://www.dailykos.com/...
UPDATE #4: Rachel Maddow blisters Obama on DADT.
In the video clip referred to above (and available on Clarknt67's diary) Maddow blisters Obama. She shows a video of candidate Obama saying to change DADT "All that is required is leadership." Well, he's got that right. Then Maddow explains that 13,000 gays have been fired from the military (when military numbers are low) because of DADT and that Obama as President could do away with this policy by executive order, with a penstroke. I liked this from Maddow: "What would Obama's record be if he wasn't such a "fierce advocate" of GBLT?" She also interviews Rep. Rush Holt of New York who is the writer of a bill that would overturn DADT and has 120 co-sponsors. Talking about his bill, Holt said "It would be good to have some leadership from the White House to move the ball along."