View From Washington: DADT 2010?

COMMENTARY: Even as President Bill Clinton begins to open up on LGBT issues, the question becomes whether LGBT rights can compete with health and immigration reform.

BY Kerry Eleveld

August 17 2009 12:00 AM ET

Former President Bill Clinton is back to talking about LGBT issues -- hat tip to Netroots Nation and activist Lane Hudson, who interrupted Clinton during his keynote address to the gathering of progressive bloggers.

In case you missed this rather gripping video of President Clinton vigorously defending his actions in enacting "don't ask, don't tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act, it's really the first time we've heard this type of fire and candor from Clinton on the subject.

"You want to talk about 'don't ask, don't tell'?" Clinton said. "I'll tell you exactly what happened. You couldn't deliver me any support in the Congress and they voted by a veto-proof majority in both houses against my attempt to let gays serve in the military."

And on DOMA: "We were attempting at the time, in a very reactionary Congress, to head off an attempt to send a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to the states."

The accuracy of Clinton's explanations will most certainly be chewed over by the LGBT politically obsessed -- myself included -- but what's paramount in all of this is that the most prominent political figure on our national stage besides President Obama publicly and forcefully disparaged both laws in today's context.

"Can you believe they spent -- whatever they spent -- $150,000 to get rid of a valued Arabic speaker recently?" Clinton said of discharging Lt. Dan Choi.

"And, you know," he continued, "the thing that changed me forever on 'don't ask, don't tell' was when I learned that 130 gay service people were allowed to serve and risk their lives in the first Gulf War, and all their commanders knew they were gay. They let them go out there and risk their lives because they needed them, and then as soon as the first Gulf War was over, they kicked them out ... that's all anybody needs to know, to know that this policy should be changed."

Now, people can say what they want about too little, too late, but this appearance will certainly invite more questions on the subject, and probably from mainstream reporters in high-profile venues. And every time President Clinton opens his mouth on DOMA and DADT, President Obama's present passivity on the two matters will become a little more glaring and a little less admissible.

Or as Richard Socarides, former LGBT adviser and special assistant to President Clinton, put it, "For President Obama, as well as for any and all other national Democratic Party officials, this will become an increasingly difficult equation to maneuver around because we're at the tipping point on these issues."

Tags: Politics

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