The Democrats’ sloppy and so far inadequate attempts at repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” have led to all sorts of dramatic commentary: Repeal is dead! Obama is finished! He won’t run for re-election!
Repeal may or may not be dead, but let’s at least allow Sen. Harry Reid and the rest of the Senate to finish the lame duck session before making such dire pronouncements. Reid on Monday reiterated on the Senate floor his intent to push repeal during the lame duck; the administration must by now understand it needs to deliver a high-profile victory to its progressive base. The votes are there, all that’s needed is enough time to debate the full defense spending bill. So Reid and President Obama should demand that the Senate stay in session until their work is done.
Watching this process unfold over the past few months hasn’t exactly inspired confidence in the Democrats’ strategic prowess. Say what you want about George W. Bush, but if he’d wanted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and had Republican majorities in Congress, he would have just bloody done it.
Contrast that with Obama’s foolish, naïve inclination to seek common ground and friendship with everyone and you can’t help but wish the Democrats had their own decider-in-chief right now.
The Republicans have been clear from the very beginning of this presidency that they care about one thing: ensuring Obama is a one-term president. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell admitted it in an October interview. Achieving that goal supersedes all else, including salvaging the economy. But Obama keeps giving the GOP the benefit of the doubt.
Consider that a day after the much-hyped White House meeting with the new GOP House leaders that was supposed to signal a new era of cooperation between the parties, McConnell announced that all 42 Republican senators would oppose any legislation unrelated to tax cuts.
What will it take for Obama to understand that all the campaign rhetoric about changing the tone in Washington is just that — rhetoric? It’s a hopeless task, at least as long as McConnell and his ilk are in charge.
The result of waiting around for Republicans to play nice is squandered opportunities and a laundry list of priorities that are now frozen for at least two year. Let’s hope “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” isn’t on that list, but the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Uniting American Families Act and Defense of Marriage Act repeal certainly are on it.
There is much blame to go around for the sorry results delivered by this Congress: Obama for failing to lead and lobby lawmakers; our national advocacy organizations for the failed and now totally discredited strategy of aligning exclusively with Democrats; our supposed allies in Congress who continually demanded we wait for change rather than deliver on their promises. The fat lady has yet to sing in this Congress, so it’s premature to start calling for mass resignations within the LGBT movement leadership.
But if Congress doesn’t repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this month, then LGBT people across the country have a right to an explanation: How did the Democrats manage two years of wide majorities (remember they had those elusive 60 votes until Sen. Kennedy died) without repealing the gay ban or even holding hearings on ENDA?