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Change We Can Believe In, VI

September 26, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Change We Can Believe In: Defending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

President Obama spoke during his campaign of his intention to work for the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He even repeated his goal of repealing DADT in his 2010 State of the Union Address. He must mean it. But, you know, not too fast. Gotta take our time on change like this. Just the other night, in New York, he explained to DADT protestors that they should find Republicans to complain to. “Think about — think about what happened in Congress two days ago where you got 56 Democrats voting to debate this issue, and zero Republicans. And as a consequence, some of those signs should be going up at the other folks’ events.”

Well, yes, I suppose. The thing is, what did the administration do early in the current Congressional session? Might Obama, at the height of his popularity, with the 2010 election far away, have been able to twist some arms on the Democratic side and get repeal through?

But let’s put Congressional action aside and turn to the Justice Department’s spirited defense of DADT in the courts. Is this the change Obama was talking about? On Thursday, as reported by the AP’s Julie Watson, “Attorneys for the Obama administration objected . . . to a proposed worldwide injunction being considered by a California federal judge that would halt the military’s ban on openly gay troops. Calling the possible move “untenable,” Department of Justice attorneys filed their objections in U.S. District Court in Riverside. They said Judge Virginia Phillips, who declared the policy unconstitutional earlier this month, would be overstepping her bounds if she tried to stop it in its tracks.”

In a related development, on Friday in nearby Tacoma, Federal District Court judge Ronald Leighton (a Republican and George W. Bush appointee) ruled that Major Margaret Witt should be given back her Air Force nurse’s job, from which she was removed in 2004 in accordance with DADT. Addressing Major Witt from the bench, Judge Leighton hoped that she “will request reinstatement with the Air Force Reserves and the 446th,” noting that “You will provide the best evidence that open service of gays and lesbians will have no adverse effect on cohesion, morale or readiness in this or perhaps any Air Force or military unit.”

Commenting at the emptywheel blog, bmaz reviewed the details of the decision, concluding:

In a nutshell, Leighton called bullshit on the government, and rightly so. The government came out of the earlier appeal in Witt with the order that it only seek DADT discharges where it was provably appropriate, and then went and tried to continue to do just that in the most absurd case imaginable, and after having been excoriated on the facts by the 9th Circuit. And the decision to so proceed in the face of such overwhelming absurdity was made squarely by the Obama DOJ, the tools of the Administration that ran for, and took, office promising to do the opposite.

. . . the Obama Administration, by and through the actions of their Department of Justice, have proven that their current rhetoric about being dedicated to ending DADT is as empty as their similar campaign promises were hollow.

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Categories: Law, Politics
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