Thursday, May 14, 2009
Obama Shuns Plan to Evade Gays-in-Military Law [Elaine Donnelly]
Much to the dismay of liberal activists, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs announced Wednesday that Pres. Barack Obama will not implement a plan to circumvent the 1993 law regarding gays in the military. This was a significant retreat from the one-word answer, “Yes,” that Gibbs gave in January when he was asked if Obama would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Now Gibbs is saying that Obama is working to achieve a “durable legislative solution,” which requires “more than the snapping of one’s fingers.”
Someone needs to break this news to the Michael D. Palm Center, an activist group based at the University of California–Santa Barbara that used to call itself the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military. On Monday the Palm Center issued a pretentious and legally absurd report claiming that President Obama can indeed snap his fingers with an executive order suspending enforcement of the 1993 law stating that homosexuals are not eligible to serve in the military. That law, Section 654, Title 10, differs from Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” administrative policy because it states that homosexuals are not eligible to serve in uniform.
Even Pennsylvania Democrat Joe Sestak, co-sponsor of a House bill (H.R. 1283) to repeal the 1993 law, recently told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that President Obama should not try to get around Congress on a matter such as this. “We are a nation of laws,” said Sestak, “and in the last administration we saw executive actions that seemed to bend if not break those laws.”
The Palm Center’s desperation strategy seemed to be reflected during last Sunday’s ABC News program “This Week.” Host George Stephanopoulos aggressively questioned Pres. Barack Obama’s national security adviser, James Jones, on the issue of homosexuals in the military. Acknowledging congressional and military resistance to Obama’s position on the issue, Stephanopoulos suggested that the president should try to circumvent the law by suspending enforcement.
The question reflected the Palm Center’s latest polemic, which encourages the president to stop enforcing the law, rendering it essentially meaningless. Using contrived arguments, the Palm Center gay-studies scholars unconvincingly tried to justify unilateral non-enforcement of the law. The document advocates an interpretation based on the rarely used authority that underlies presidential “stop-loss” orders that sometimes are issued to keep troops in the field during a military or national emergency.
On Monday, the Center for Military Readiness issued a statement reminding the Obama administration of certain realities: Any presidential order or Defense Department directive disregarding the law, handed down for reasons of political expediency, would constitute a serious, perhaps irreparable breach of faith with men and women who volunteer to serve.
An imperious presidential challenge to congressional authority on a matter as important as this would erode relationships and good will, and give rise to constitutional questions. History shows that in conflicts with Congress, presidents do not win.
If Obama issues an order suspending enforcement of the law, it would be perceived by the troops and the nation as an evasion of his oath to “faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States.” Having taken this oath, presidents do not get to pick and choose which laws to enforce and which to ignore.
In the Sunday interview, Stephanopoulos asked General Jones about the president’s plans to allow professed homosexuals in the military. Jones replied “We have had preliminary discussions with the leadership of the Pentagon, Secretary Gates, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.” Jones also compared the process to more of a “rheostat” than a “light switch.”
With regard to suspension of enforcement of the law, which Stephanopoulos incorrectly described as “prosecutions and investigations,” Jones walked a fine line: “Well, maybe that’s an option that eventually we’ll get to but we’re not there now.”
Then Stephanopoulos asked Jones what he would say to the more than 1,000 Flag and General Officers for the Military, including 50 retired four-stars, who recently released a statement expressing their professional judgment in support of the 1993 law.
The high-ranking officers’ open letter, delivered to the White House on March 31, respectfully asked the president and members of Congress to recognize this issue “as a matter of national security,” and to “oppose any legislative, judicial, or administrative effort to repeal the law.” (The list of officers personally signing the Flag and General Officers for the Military statement has since increased to 1,134.)
Former Marine Commandant Jones sidestepped that question, except to say that the open letter illustrated that “this is a very sensitive issue and it has to be discussed over time.” Jones indicated that the president will “reach out to fully understand both sides or all sides of the issue before he makes a decision.”
This sounds reasonable, except for one thing. Prominent LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) groups and activists have been visiting the White House regularly to discuss military/social policies and key Pentagon appointments.
If President Obama disregards the respectful recommendations of the retired flag officers and devotes more attention to civilian gay activists, he will inadvertently weaken bonds of trust that must exist between a Commander-in-Chief and the troops he leads. Military experts call this “vertical cohesion,” an essential element of military culture that is as important for morale as “horizontal cohesion,” the bonds of trust among military personnel who rely on each other for survival.
CMR has cautioned President Obama to be careful about taking advice from civilian gay activists and former Bill Clinton policy adviser Stephanopoulos, who played a substantial role in the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” fiasco of 1993. The ABC commentator's questioning of Jim Jones followed the admission by openly gay Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.) in a recent interview with Roll Call that advocates of gays in the military do not have sufficient votes to repeal the law.
The statement of Mr. Gibbs on Wednesday indicates that someone in the White House — perhaps President Obama himself — is starting to think this matter through with the seriousness it deserves. The president would be wise to continue refusing recommendations from LGBT groups that have little understanding of the culture of the military.
More news on this issue is posted and updated frequently on the CMR SITREP Blog.
05/14 05:49 PMShare