Don’t cave on DADT

DON’T CAVE ON DADT…. President Obama said last week he’d like to see the Senate take up repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during its lame-duck session, which begins next week. Over the weekend, Defense Secretary Robert Gates also urged lawmakers to act quickly on the issue, though he seemed pessimistic about its chances.

That seems to be emerging as something of a consensus. The Wall Street Journal reported today:

Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and John McCain of Arizona, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, are in talks on stripping the proposed repeal and other controversial provisions from a broader defense bill, leaving the repeal with no legislative vehicle to carry it. With a repeal attached, and amid Republican complaints over the terms of the debate, the defense bill had failed to win the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural hurdle in the Senate in September.

Now, the article was noticeably short on quotes. What’s more, the WSJ isn’t always the most reliable of outlets, especially when it comes to Democratic intentions.

But at this point, I can only hope Dems know better that to let this opportunity slip away. Adam Serwer noted, “Look, if Democrats can’t repeal a policy more than two thirds of the American people, including a majority of conservatives want gone then they can’t expect people to vote for them…. Truman ended segregation in the military because it was the right thing to do, despite the fact that it was unpopular. Ending DADT happens to be both popular and the right thing to do, and Democrats today still can’t get it done.”

I’m probably less inclined than Adam to blame Democrats, since it’s not entirely up to them. When this last came up in the Senate before adjournment, literally every Democrats was on the right side of the issue, and literally every Republican was on the wrong side. “Getting it done” in the face of unyielding GOP obstructionism is arguably harder than it sounds.

That said, the larger point about urging Dems not to cave on this issue is entirely right. It’s not as if Levin can strike a deal with McCain to bring the issue back up next year — either it gets done in the lame-duck, or we’ll have to wait years before even trying to get this through Congress again.

If lawmakers are inclined to wait until after Dec. 1, when a Pentagon study is due on servicemembers’ attitudes, fine. At that point, a majority of the troops, a majority of American civilians, a majority of the House, a majority of the Senate, the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and two of his recent predecessors will all be saying the exact same thing: it’s time to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Proponents of military readiness and common sense just need a Republican vote or two to finally move forward. Carl Levin has been solid on this issue; here’s hoping he resists the urge to trade away doing the right thing.