UPDATE FROM BRUCE: Even Clinton’s adviser on gay issues blames the Democrats, Obama and the Gay Borg for this disaster.
“The Democrats have been against ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ for more than a decade and why we allowed this law to remain in effect for another two years is beyond me,” said Richard Soccarides, who served as an adviser to Clinton on gay rights. “The Washington-based gay rights groups made a decision early on that they were better off going along with the president’s timeline and that right now that looks like a serious miscalculation.”
In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton moved too quickly in trying to overturn the ban on gay people serving in the military, seeking to effect the change in the first days of his Administration. President Barack Obama — or at least his party’s Senate leadership — made the opposite mistake, waiting until election season was well underway to vote on repeal.
The former president wasn’t prepared for the media firestorm. The current Democrats let the issue become a political football.
It seems neither really had a political strategy to seek repeal. There were times, though, particularly at the beginning of this year where the Administration did seem to have a plan, dispatching, in February, “the nation’s top two defense officials,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, to Capitol Hill to press for repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell (DADT). Having learned from Clinton’s mistakes, the incumbent president wisely sought to work with the military, having them make the case.
But, they didn’t have a timetable for a vote.
And that made it more difficult for pro-repeal groups to rally their troops and to try to persuade wavering lawmakers, particularly Republicans, of the merits of repeal. While John McCain has not distinguished himself in the current debate, walking back from his previous position that he would listen to military leaders on repeal, Harry Reid deserves the brunt of the blame. Were he sincere about repeal, he would have pressed the Senate to act soon after the House voted on repeal in May.
Then, by tacking the controversial DREAM Act onto the “defense policy bill” onto which he had already tacked DADT repeal, Reid made passage even more difficult. Republicans Susan Collins (Maine) “voted to block the bill for procedural reasons despite supporting the provision to” allow repeal of’ DADT. Scott Brown (Massachusetts) offered a similar rationale, saying “his vote against considering the bill was not necessarily an endorsement of keeping the ‘don’t ask’ policy, but a protest against Democratic political maneuvering to limit debate while adding unrelated amendments.”
Reid’s political machinations cost him the support of Republicans favorable to repeal.
The headlines may read that the GOP blocked a vote on repeal, but the real story is that this is just another, as Manu Raju and Jonathan Allen put it in Politico, of “Harry Reid’s botched battles”
But while blaming Republicans for obstruction — a well-worn pattern for Reid — the majority leader also seemed to alienate some of his moderates, who were not eager to jump into a debate about immigration and gays in the military at the end of the session and with the economy slumping.
Alexander Nicholson of Servicemembers United said Reid’s failure to allow Republicans to offer amendments “blew the votes we had lined up . . . . We’re certainly disappointed [Republican senators] didn’t break ranks with their party [but] Sen. Reid made it much harder for them to do the right thing.” Nicholson’s colleague, Jarrod Chlapowski called Reid’s shenanigans “cynical” and “pretty much a recipe for failure,” adding that “will be part of our education plan that Democratic leaders are just as accountable as the Republicans that are obstructing this right now”.
Nice to hear leaders of gay group take Democratic leaders to task.
Republican Senators may have blocked a vote, but because of his “incompetence and his ambition“, Harry Reid set the stage for failure.