I spent late last night chewing over the deal on repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and hearing some other perspectives. It's worth considering what would have been if there were no deal. There seem to be two arguments for opposing it:
(1) That the law cedes control of the ballgame to the military/Administration (most articulated by Teddy at FDL)
(2) That this is a sell-out to the Administration and worse than what would have been
On the first, here's the language that is most concerning to those making such an argument:
(A) That the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the recommendations contained in the report and the report's proposed plan of action.
(B) That the Department of Defense has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to exercise the discretion provided by the amendments made by subsection (f).
(C) That the implementation of necessary policies and regulations pursuant to the discretion provided by the amendments made by sub-section (f) is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.
It essentially requires certification from the Administration prior to repeal taking place. I'm not as concerned as Teddy is because in my view, it is a step towards obtaining the votes for legislative repeal, and I would much rather have certifications as a hurdle than legislative repeal. Wrangling legislative repeal has always been the highest hurdle in this fight and has still proven elusive. If it comes down to three additional certifications (one of which- (A)- seems kind of to be a given) versus repeal shoved off for who knows how long, I would gladly take the former. This, in other words, shifts the ballgame to a different venue- the Administration- which is, in my view, much better for us to play in.
And on implementation in general, a lot of this is the entire point of the Pentagon review. It's not like that wasn't going to have to take place. And Gates and Mullen have already gone up to Capitol Hill and stated in testimony that repeal would not adversely affect cohesion, that it is the right thing to do, etc. It's not like we're starting from scratch with having to get them onboard. Yes, it sets up new checkpoints, but in my view, it's geared towards making legislators on Capitol Hill comfortable in their shoes that there is certification from the Administration/Pentagon that repeal is 100% good for the military and our country. If that's the price of legislative repeal- which, as I said, is still the biggest hurdle- I'll take it. I have no illusions that the DoD holds a lot of sway over the President when it comes to military matters, and Lucy could pull away the football next year. But when it comes down to it, I'd rather have three men certify something they've already stated to be so in order to obtain legislative repeal, and then continue pressuring the Administration if necessary.
On the 2nd argument, it's worth taking a second and thinking about the alternatives. This time yesterday we were talking about not having the votes and repeal of this law being off the table for years to come. Keep in mind we are still talking about not having the votes- we're not there yet- but we are a step closer to getting them with the deal. Having the Administration and the Pentagon endorse a legislative vote prior to the review being completed (a move opposed by Gates in his letter of just a few weeks ago) is something advocates in the pro-repeal community, myself included, have been clamoring for for months. It is a significant step. Why? Because, like the Pentagon review and the certification, it helps people on Capitol Hill get comfortable in their shoes. I would argue there's even the chance this gets Ben Nelson back onboard. That's what's missing in all this. Folks are asking what we got out of this, and I would say the Administration essentially reversing its position on opposing a repeal vote prior to the review being completed as a big get. If you read between the lines of Gates' statement this morning, he's clear he lost this fight.
If you want to find fault with the deal, it's not the certification, but that there is no date certain for open service to be implemented, which is still my most pressing concern, because it could mean open service is delayed for who knows how long. On the other hand, it's not certain heading into the vote this week that a timeline was definitely in the cards. Reps. Patrick Murphy and Susan Davis say they have the votes in the House for a good amendment, but it's not clear at all such a proposal with "teeth" is going to pass the Senate or win in conference. It's not like we were set up to win on this. So, we could have this deal, or we could let the chips fall where they may in Congress this week, or we could have no repeal at all, which, this time yesterday, we were staring in the face. We're now a step closer to obtaining legislative repeal, which in my view was still the biggest hurdle, and that's a good thing.
In the meantime, we still do not have the votes on the Senate Armed Services Committee, so it's still all hands on deck. The Congressional switchboard is 202-224-3121. Please hit your members, especially if you or family/friends/colleagues are constituents of Sens. Bayh, Byrd, Nelson (FL), Nelson (NE) or Webb. Sen. Brown (MA), who was one of the swing targets, just announced this morning he is voting no, which makes getting the votes ever more difficult.