Gibbs Vague on Path to End DADT

By Kerry Eleveld

Originally published on Advocate.com October 04 2010 3:20 PM ET

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated on Monday President Barack Obama’s “deeply held view” that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy should be overturned, but he stopped short of saying what the White House would do if the legislative effort failed.

“Obviously, the president has a deeply held view that this is a law that can and should be changed,” Gibbs said during the daily press briefing. “We worked to make sure that that happened in the House and we regrettably were unsuccessful in the Senate, but it’s not going to stop the president from trying.”

The answer came in response to a question from The Advocate about the likelihood of President Obama instructing his Department of Justice not to appeal a recent federal ruling that found the policy unconstitutional.

“The Department of Justice, last I heard, was reviewing the case,” Gibbs said, adding that he did not know the specifics of the discussions at the White House and the Justice Department surrounding the case.

Two weeks ago 69 House members sent a letter to the president urging him not to appeal the case, and according to those familiar with the effort, 16 senators have now signed onto a similar letter. Senators Mark Udall and Kirsten Gillibrand launched a public campaign Monday asking constituents to contact their senators and urge them to become signatories.

Full text of the exchange follows:

The Advocate: It looks like the defense authorization bill and with it “don’t ask don’t tell” repeal is sort of barreling toward a dead end — 69 House members and now 16 Senators have signed on to a letter urging the president to instruct his Justice Department not to appeal a recent decision that ruled “don’t ask, don’t tell” unconstitutional. Is that something that's even being discussed within the walls of the White House right now — not appealing that decision?

Robert Gibbs: I think the Department of Justice, last I heard, was reviewing the case. Obviously, the president has a deeply held view that this is a law that can and should be changed. We worked to make sure that that happened in the House and we regrettably were unsuccessful in the Senate, but it’s not going to stop the president from trying.

Not being aware of all the discussions around here, I know that the Justice Department is weighing a series of arguments as they make those decisions.

Right, but ultimately that power resides with the president. I mean, he can instruct his Justice Department not to appeal.

I’ll be honest with you, Kerry, I don’t have an update on whether that’s something that’s (inaudible)…

Any contingency plans at all? I mean, I’ve listened to you talk about the priorities for lame-duck — you rattled through them on Thursday, Friday, and today and not once has defense authorization been mentioned…

I will say, and I think I’ve said on a couple of occasions that, off the top of my head, I wouldn’t say that this list is completely exhaustive. Let me see if I can get better guidance on that, but understanding again, the president’s deeply held belief that we have to make the change.