View From the Hill: "DADT" Momentum

COMMENTARY: The issue of repealing "don't ask, don't tell" has been at a virtual standstill for months, but this week the dam started to give way to movement from both the White House and HRC.

BY Kerry Eleveld

June 05 2009 12:00 AM ET

COMMENTARY: The tide is turning. We entered this week in the slump of inertia on "don't ask, don't tell" -- no Senate bill, no review commission, no preparation for a vote in the House -- and we went out with a bang.

First came Tuesday's statement from White House press secretary Robert Gibbs that President Obama and his nominee for secretary of the Army, GOP congressman John McHugh, "are in agreement on changing the policy they both don't think is working for this country." It was a seismic shift from Gibbs's standard set of talking points on the gay ban, which usually include some reminder that the only "durable solution" to the policy is congressional repeal and that the president "is working" with the Pentagon and Congress on the issue.

McHugh sits on the House Armed Services Committee and was quite vocal during last year's "DADT" hearings about wanting to see the military leadership confront this issue. If confirmed, he could serve as a counterbalance on the matter to the dead weight of Defense Secretary Gates and National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones. The behind-the-scenes buzz suggests that the White House tapped McHugh, at least in part, for this very reason.

If the Gibbs revelation weren't enough, the Human Rights Campaign's Joe Solmonese told Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball Thursday that he supported the idea of President Obama issuing a stop-loss order that would temporarily suspend the discharges of gay and lesbian soldiers. Until yesterday, HRC had been mute on the military's gay ban for months. In fact, this is really the first time they have publicly pressured the Obama administration on any LGBT issue.

The conversion came on the same day a controversial report surfaced from Daily Beast contributor Jason Bellini that gay leaders in Washington have been hamstringing efforts to repeal the policy -- something HRC vigorously denies -- as well as a statement from Aaron Belkin of the University of California, Santa Barbara's Palm Center suggesting that some organizations have been "proactively lobbying against" the issue.

I have spoken with HRC and Bellini -- both categorically reject each other's claim. An HRC spokesperson called Bellini's report "an outright lie" and "recklessly irresponsible" while Bellini said, "I strongly stand by this reporting. This is a multiple-source story."

Tags: Politics

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