An Inconvenient Report for Obama

| Thu Jun. 25, 2009 9:40 AM PDT

Every few days at the White House press briefings, press secretary Robert Gibbs is grilled by a reporter (or several) on what President Barack Obama is doing to keep his promise to gay and lesbian Americans--particularly his pledge to deep-six the military's Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy and to press for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the awarding of federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples.

Earlier this month, Obama did sign an executive order to extend benefits to unmarried domestic partners of federal workers, including same-sex partners. But gay rights advocates are still grumbling that he's not been more proactive on the DADT and DOMA fronts--especially while hundreds of gay service members have been booted from the military since Obama became commander in chief. Obviously sensitive to the complaints, the White House has invited gay rights leaders to an East Room reception on Monday to mark the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, the New York City protests that birthed the gay rights movement.

Responding to these queries about DADT and DOMA, Gibbs usually gives a version of the same reply: we're waiting for the Pentagon and/or Congress. He essentially has been suggesting that Obama cannot do much on his own.

Well, the Center for American Progress--the policy shop run by John Podesta, who oversaw Obama's presidential transition, says that's not so. This week, CAP released a report proposing a rather simple 5-step program for dumping DADT.

1. Signing an Executive Order banning further military separations based on DADT and sending a legislative proposal on DADT repeal to Congress.
2.  Forming a presidential panel on how to implement the repeal
3. Repealing DADT in Congress and changing the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, or UCMS
4. Changing other necessary military guidelines to conform to the new policy
5. Following-up to ensure that the armed forces implement the policy changes

Obama cannot do all of this on his say-so. But he sure could get the ball rolling by inking an executive order and creating a presidential panel.

Clearly, the White House is not eager to leap into this particular foxhole, perhaps recalling how Bill Clinton's early days as president were undermined by a DADT controversy. So the White House, for now, is hiding behind the process. And that's why CAP's report is rather inconvenient for Obama, for it shows that the president could take swift and unilateral action to start undoing DADT. His hands aren't tied. He's just sitting on them.

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