Many so-called progressives are reluctant to give President Obama any credit for the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. This is an opinion not borne out by “the facts on the ground”, so to speak.
Early in his administration, the President brought in military leaders like Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and got them on board with his intent to repeal this odious policy. They both began showing their support to repeal DADT early in 2010. They, like the president, told Americans in general and Congress in particular that the policy should be repealed legislatively (by law) and not judicially (by the courts).
Their support was essential for making sure that many in Congress would eventually support the repeal. The President’s decision not act through an Executive Order, although it was bitterly criticized by many commentators and activists, made sure that this was an issue that remained in the forefront of people’s minds. Although the number of service members discharged through DADT diminished significantly during his first half-term, the fact that they did not go away completely ensured that pressure was kept on Congress to act and act quickly.
These two items, as much as anything else, were crucial to the final success of this process. While I have nothing but admiration for the activists from the LGBT community who chained themselves to the White House fence and constantly kept their issue in the news and in the minds of Americans, it is, in my opinion, completely incorrect to suggest that (a) the President would not have acted without their actions or (b) that the President’s efforts meant less than their own.
Just after the repeal passed, both Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates issued statements on the repeal of DADT. I’m reprinting them here because they are a dramatic capstone on this achievement.
First we have Admiral Mullen’s statement:
Statement by Adm. Mike Mullen on Senate Vote to Repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
“I am pleased to see the Congress vote to repeal the law governing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Handling this through legislation preserves the military’s prerogative to implement change in a responsible, deliberate manner.
“More critically, it is the right thing to do. No longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so. We will be a better military as a result.
“I look forward to working with Secretary Gates and the Service chiefs as we set about the task of preparing and certifying the joint force to implement the new law. And I am committed to making sure that process is well-led, maintains our combat readiness and upholds our high standards.”
Now Secretary Gates’ statement:
Statement by Secretary Robert Gates on Senate Vote to Repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
“I welcome today’s vote by the Senate clearing the way for a legislative repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ law.
“Once this legislation is signed into law by the President, the Department of Defense will immediately proceed with the planning necessary to carry out this change carefully and methodically, but purposefully. This effort will be led by Dr. Clifford Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and himself a retired Marine Corps major general and infantry officer.
“The legislation provides that repeal will take effect once the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that implementation of the new policies and regulations written by the Department is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces. As I have stated before, I will approach this process deliberately and will make such certification only after careful consultation with the military service chiefs and our combatant commanders and when I am satisfied that those conditions have been met for all the Services, commands and units.
“It is therefore important that our men and women in uniform understand that while today’s historic vote means that this policy will change, the implementation and certification process will take an additional period of time. In the meantime, the current law and policy will remain in effect.
“Successful implementation will depend upon strong leadership, a clear message and proactive education throughout the force. With a continued and sustained commitment to core values of leadership, professionalism and respect for all, I am convinced that the U.S. military can successfully accommodate and implement this change, as it has others in history.”
Without the support of these two men, support ensured by the President’s own actions and ability to develop relationships and partnerships, DADT repeal would never have happened. There many kudos to hand out in regard to the this historic development and the President himself deserves many of them.
I’m just sayin’…
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