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What Obama Might Say on Don't Ask Don't Tell

What Obama Might Say on Don't Ask Don't Tell


If the president does address the policy, what might he say?

Robert Gibbs confirmed Tuesday that "don't ask, don't tell" was being considered for inclusion in President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Wednesday night, but if the president does address the policy, what might he say?

The options range from a passing mention or a reiteration of his intent to end the gay ban to the announcement of a commission to study the policy to laying out a specific strategy for repeal.

"We are encouraging the president to share his vision, his plan, and his time line for getting rid of the policy," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the pro-repeal lobby group Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Sarvis said he was not clear what the president would say and noted that some White House advisers believe the issue should not be raised in the address at all.

"He could also tee it up among a laundry list of objectives that he would like to see Congress address but not provide any specifics," he added.

But some LGBT advocates quietly worried that they might be watching a rerun of yesteryear and politicians past. Though several sources said the content of the president's speech was being tightly guarded, many had heard rumblings about stall tactics rather than action plans.

One community leader noted that President Obama has already gotten plenty of credit for merely mentioning LGBT people in speeches and for attending events like the Human Rights Campaign dinner last fall.

"At some point he cannot win the hearts of the people by simply showing up at the podium," said the activist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"If he calls for hearings and reports and engagement in the speech, that should not be seen as a victory in our community, it should be seen as a delay tactic," said the source, noting that numerous reports have already been written on the topic, including studies from the Palm Center, a think tank that studies sexual minorities in the armed services, and the Rand Corp., a global policy think tank. "What we need from the president is a specific action plan that results in an up or down vote," the source added.

If Obama recommends appointing a "don't ask, don't tell" commission, the telling question will be whether that commission simply researches the policy or if it studies how to implement a repeal plan.

"I think a protracted presidential commission to study 'don't ask, don't tell' would be a nonstarter for SLDN," said Sarvis. "If the president wants to bring together a working group to focus on implementation within a certain time frame, that is something we could get behind -- there has to be a specific road map and time line to get to repeal during this congress."

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, noted that the current repeal bill in the House, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, tasks the Department of Defense with executing implementation within 90 days but provides little guidance on how to achieve it.

"A task force could come out with a game plan for how to do it and answer some people's concerns up front," he said. "That could make a vote easier."

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