Until recently, I had been quite critical of President Obama’s apparent inaction on his campaign promise to repeal Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell (DADT), but now I’m beginning to see evidence that the way he may well be handling this issue better than he’s handled any other policy issue since taking office. And that’s not hyperbole.
Shortly after his inauguration now more than seventeen years ago, the then-new President Bill Clinton rushed to repeal the ban on gays serving in the military, something he could (then) have done with the stroke of a pen. But, he barely consulted the military brass, if at all nor did he secure the support of key Democrats in Congress, like Sam Nunn, then-Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Controversy ensued and DADT was the result.
The incumbent has taken a different tack. Instead of rushing ahead, as if speed were needed to fulfill a promise to an interest group, Obama has instructed his top defense officials to develop a plan to repeal the ban while preserving the morale and readiness of our armed forces:
“We have received our orders from the commander in chief, and we are moving out accordingly,” [Defense Secretary Robert M]. Gates told the committee. “However, we can also take this process only so far, as the ultimate decision rests with you, the Congress.”
Any change in the policy would not come any time soon, the two officials made clear. Both Admiral Mullen and Mr. Gates told the committee that there would be a Pentagon review, taking up to a year, to study how to implement any change before they expected Congress to act on a repeal.
Look, I wish the Administration had set the process in motion last year. But, the key thing is that he is doing it now and going about it the right way. He’s showing that he understands it’s not just an issue of gay rights, but more importantly one involving national security. You can just ask our armed forces to change a policy, no matter how wrong-headed that policy is, willy-nilly.
As Commander in Chief, as Chief Executive, he tells the officials responsible for administering a policy that he’d like to change it and asks them to implement the change so as not to impede the smooth operation of their organization. A very conservative method of promoting change.
Let’s hope we see it in other departments.