It was rather surprising, at least to this writer, that during the State of Union President Obama would come out and support the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy on homosexuals in the military. The reason that I found this so shocking is that currently the president is locked in 2 wars and one of the worst economic recessions since the Great Depression, but then I thought that this political strategy could be good for the Obama team, at least politically.
I will go ahead and say upfront that I support repealing DADT. I think that the policy is discriminatory towards homosexuals and that the claims that it hurts unit cohesion are really exaggerated. Many times the soldiers who have been discharged from the military are Arab linguists who are desperately needed in the military right now. Even top commanders such as Admiral Michael Mullen recently announced before Congress that he was against the policy. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates also announced his endorsement of repealing the act.
With that being said, I think from a political standpoint that this would be a great time for Obama to try and go after this issue. This is an issue that can unite the Democratic party in a time of political limbo. If Obama is lucky, he might even be able to get Scott Brown to go for the issue, since he recently announced that he was unsure about it. Columnist for the New York Times cited in a poll this morning that 61-75% of Americans support repealing DADT. It would also be a good time to go after the issue because of the Federal District Court case involving possible repeal of Prop 8 in California, the two lawyers who are working on the case opposed each other during the Bush v. Gore case reflecting some bipartisan support. Most believe that inevitably the case will end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
More importantly, President Obama has a duty to history. Social and progressive changes are often looked after better in history than in the moment. Civil Rights movements in the 1960s and 1970s were not always popular, but they did create badly needed changes. Even the social change of more economic and social regulation during the New Deal era created a better policy in the long run. I urge Obama to continue his quest to fight DADT. He has bipartisan support, weak Republican arguments (or plain waffling on the question altogether), and even a change support from the American public. History is calling, all Obama has to do is answer the phone.