If you know anything about State of the Union speeches (or learned everything about them from watching The West Wing), you know everyone wants to get their issue mentioned in it, and if they do, that's A Very Big Deal.
The President: "And we need to make sure we do X!"
Advocates for X: "Yay!" pat each other on the back
Then much of the time, little or nothing gets done on X.
This morning, CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller wrote on Twitter:
On DADT, he's expected to call for gays to serve openly in the military.
A friend of mine, and no doubt lots of others, retweeted it as if it was A Very Big Deal. In truth, it's not, my friends. If my issue were, say, Electoral College reform, it would be A Very Big Deal. It would elevate attention dramatically, help me fundraise, etc. But on this issue, what is this, 2007? Obama calling for gays to serve openly in the military is nothing new, despite the forum. He, along with his press aides, have called for this over and over. What we need is action.
The President needs to do more than call for gays to serve openly. He needs to announce he will insert repeal language in the defense authorization bill he will submit to Congress in the next few months. Then, he needs to actually go out and round up the votes like he's doing on health care. Nothing less will suffice. If he does use the bully pulpit tonight as part of that case, great. That is part of it. But everyone should understand there's a difference between reiterating a policy commitment he made years ago, and announcing he will take action, then going out and doing it. If he does not do this, it will be a lot harder to pass repeal, and if he pushes it off until after we lose seats in the midterms, we may not have a chance at all.
You will tell how serious the President is about repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell not by a bland, fleeting mention, but by what he does to go out and get it done, and that needs to start tonight.