In 1993, President Bill Clinton nearly derailed his presidency with an early move to end the military’s ban on gay service members. Aides scrambled to craft the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as a compromise to get the politically radioactive issue off the new administration’s back.Give them credit: They found a new way to screw things up.
President Barack Obama’s aides were intent, above all else, on not repeating that experience when it came to carrying out their campaign promise to open up the military to gays, so they moved cautiously.
The result: Obama now faces his own political crisis over the issue that threatens his support from key Democratic constituencies, undermines his relationship with the Pentagon and puts him in the odd position of defending a practice he has denounced as discriminatory and harmful to national security.So, this technique of going slow resulted in the troublesome matter heating up at exactly the point when they least wanted us to notice. Poetic justice.
“It’s crazy that all this is happening 2½ weeks before a national election,” said Richard Socarides, an adviser to Clinton on gay issues during the ’93 fiasco. “The timing could not be worse for them, but it was fairly predictable that their strategy of postponing and delaying getting into this stuff was, at some point, going to come back to haunt them.”
The article has a lot of detail on the way the lawsuits progressed in court, including the decision not to appeal the 9th Circuit case (Witt) that would have brought the question of the constitutionality of DADT to the Supreme Court — with Elena Kagan, then Solicitor General, defending the statute.
Meanwhile, there was the Log Cabin Republicans' lawsuit, which was filed in 2004 and proceeded terribly slowly under Judge George Schiavelli (a Bush appointee). Schiavelli resigned in 2008, and the new judge, Virginia Phillips, a Clinton appointee, got things going, and she hit Obama with her decision that DADT is unconstitutional on September 9th of this year. Ironically, her decision was based on the heightened scrutiny standard announced in the Witt case that the Obama administration chose not to appeal. Funny, the way a President can't control the courts.
Phillips said it was hard to accept the Justice Department’s arguments that the law was constitutionally sound when Obama was telling audiences that “reversing this policy ... is essential for national security.”Tangled in their own web.
“Obama’s made a lot of statements that we’ve been using as evidence against the government,” said Log Cabin attorney Dan Woods. “They’re in a very awkward position.”