President Obama said the repeal of
"don't ask, don't tell" still must be done in an "orderly fashion" while he was addressing a room full of reporters in a post-Election Day press conference Wednesday afternoon.
The president reiterated his support for repeal and said he expected that Defense
secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs chair Adm. Mike Mullen would
have "something to say" about the Pentagon's study of repeal
when it comes out in December. "But that will give us time to act in -- potentially during the lame-duck session to change this policy," he said.
Leaving the policy open to the back-and-forth in the courts, Obama added, would disrupt unit cohesion. "We need to provide certainty and it's time for us to move this policy forward," he said.
Obama also stated that "the overwhelming majority of Americans" feel gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly. "This should not be a partisan issue," he told CNN's Ed Henry, who had posed the question. But he diligently avoided answering the crux of Henry's question, which was whether he might have to admit defeat on the matter to his base now that the Democratic majority in the Senate has been cut to fewer than a handful of seats in the next Congress.
Here's the official transcript of the exchange:
Ed Henry: Just on a policy front, "don't ask, don't tell" is something that you promised to end. And when you had 60 votes and 59 votes in the Senate -- it's a tough issue -- you haven't been able to do it. Do you now have to tell your liberal base that with maybe 52 or 53 votes in the Senate, you're just not going to be able to get it done in the next two years?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me take the second issue first. I've been a strong believer in the notion that if somebody is willing to serve in our military, in uniform, putting their lives on the line for our security, that they should not be prevented from doing so because of their sexual orientation. And since there's been a lot of discussion about polls over the last 48 hours, I think it's worth noting that the overwhelming majority of Americans feel the same way. It's the right thing to do.
Now, as Commander-in-Chief, I've said that making this change needs to be done in an orderly fashion. I've worked with the Pentagon, worked with Secretary Gates, worked with Admiral Mullen to make sure that we are looking at this in a systemic way that maintains good order and discipline, but that we need to change this policy.
There's going to be a review that comes out at the beginning of the month that will have surveyed attitudes and opinions within the armed forces. I will expect that Secretary of Defense Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen will have something to say about that review. I will look at it very carefully. But that will give us time to act in -- potentially during the lame-duck session to change this policy.
Keep in mind we've got a bunch of court cases that are out there as well. And something that would be very disruptive to good order and discipline and unit cohesion is if we've got this issue bouncing around in the courts, as it already has over the last several weeks, where the Pentagon and the chain of command doesn't know at any given time what rules they're working under.
We need to provide certainty and it's time for us to move this policy forward. And this should not be a partisan issue. This is an issue, as I said, where you've got a sizable portion of the American people squarely behind the notion that folks who are willing to serve on our behalf should be treated fairly and equally.