My reaction to Obama’s DADT language


I think it was good.

“This year I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are — it’s the right thing to do.”

Here’s why:

1. The SOTU matters. No, no one remembers it after a week, but it still is the most important speech of the year, and a lot of thought and politics goes into what is and isn’t included. A few days ago, Joe wrote that obviously DADT wouldn’t be in the SOTU, because we never imagined the President or his people would want to come with 100 miles of the repeal. Yet they did.

2. The President said “this year.” That’s a timeline, baby.

3. The President said he would work with Congress and the military. He didn’t call on Congress to act, putting the burden on them, which many of us feared he might. He took responsibility for working with Congress and the military. That’s good.

4. He said “repeal.” He didn’t say “change,” which he and his people have been saying a lot lately, especially in front of straight audiences. He said “repeal.” That’s good.

5. He added the “it’s the right thing to do” remark. That wasn’t in his prepared statements. It’s subtle, but it means he knows this specific promise matters.

Look, I’m not letting the man off the hook. It’s not been a great year for gay civil rights, or for the President’s relations with our community. But if he says he’s going to work with congress and the military to repeal DADT this year, I say we take him at his word, offer to help, and by time Congress goes out of session this year, probably by early October since the elections are in November, we’d better have a repeal just as the President promised.

Now he’s on the clock.

And a good first way to show he means it is for the President to include DADT repeal in his budget next week.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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57 Responses to “My reaction to Obama’s DADT language”

  1. Kuan Yin says:

    Looking forward to your commentary on Tuesday’s Senate Armed Services committee hearing on DADT featuring the Generals.

  2. You have my deepest respect. I can’t get up at 3:30. If I have to be up that early, I then must get up at 2:30 just to put on my face. I use those emergency beauty masks that come in those disaster kits from Cost Plus.

  3. wmforr says:

    It’s three hours later here on the East Coast.

    Actually, I get up at 3:30 to miss rush hour and get my favorite parking place. But it takes a few hours before I am human enough to post here.

  4. teddy b says:

    “offer to help”? does that mean the boycott on dem donations has been lifted? or are we still don’t ask, don’t give?

  5. John, you are lovely and fabulous and out of your f’ing mind. Obama’s statement on DODT was absolutely, categorically the worst possible political, philosophical, and emotional positioning of this issue that his team could have come up with. DODT repeal should NEVER, ever be presented as a civil rights issue, even though we know that in part it is, and the beneficiaries of the repeal should never ever be said to be homosexuals. Publicly the issue must, always and only, be military preparedness and national security, and the beneficiary of the repeal MUST always and only be the United States military, its soldiers, and the Americans they protect. Which it also is. Obama is so insanely tone deaf on virtually every single gay issue, which he invariably presents as civil rights rather than as changes that benefit Americans and strengthen all of us (gay marriage is a perfect example; you don’t do it because homos want it but because the equal protection clause demands it), that one has to wonder if he’s completely clueless on anything having anything to do with gay people in the political realm. Astonishingly and devastatingly bad.

  6. sdv says:

    Am I the only one troubled by the fact that he misrepresented DADT? He said, “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. ”
    Gay’s can serve in the military, they just can’t be openly gay. I know I’m being a super cynical skeptic here, but it seems kind of fishy to me that he phrased it this way. I feel like the sentiment he expressed is the exact same sentiment that led to DADT in the first place.

  7. Lol. What are you doing up at 4:07 AM?

  8. ChitownKev says:


    Now that would be a very specific action putting the weight of the Administration behind DADT repeal.

  9. devlzadvocate says:

    Will bold statements morph into wimpy, runny policy changes and fun, new phrases ala “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? With a little pressure from the right, will equality become “Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil”?

  10. SPB says:

    OK, maybe I’m the only one, but I felt differently about the “It’s the right thing to do” comment. It left me with a distinct feeling that he was trying to say “oh, yeah the gays are icky, but they’re not asking for anything too big so let’s give it to them, despite all of our reservations.” Did anybody else feel a little not-right about it?

  11. “Felt” implies past tense.

    And hat material.

  12. It opens the door to ENDA.

  13. Guest says:

    Right. I misspoke. That’s what I meant. Thanks for the correction.

  14. Rich says:

    We’ll know very shortly if there is substance behind these words, and I agree they were the right choice of words. The President’s budget that comes out next week will be a major indicator. Also, a Pentagon spokesman indicated there would be additional guidance from the DOD in the days ahead. If the Pentago stays quiet or shows no signs of planning for a a repeal, then we know there is nothing in the works. Congress is much more difficult. We’ve already seen how poorly the President manages the sausage making process with health care reform. We need to see real leadership from folks that matter in the House and Senate, namely Sen. Levin and Rep. Skelton. The Senate hearings on 11 Feb should also be an early indicator of how this will go, although I expect the hearings to be vague and inconclusive in terms of a roadmap for repeal.

  15. KarenMrsLloydRichards says:

    Charlie Brown, meet football.

  16. fritzrth says:

    I say we take him at his word …

    Sorry, John. We too him at his word when we voted to elect him. The man’s word means nothing to him, why should it mean anything to us?

  17. wmforr says:

    Ritorna, my dear, what are you doing up at three o’clock in the morning on a week day?

  18. wmforr says:

    Sorry, John, but I, the eternal optimist, am much more cynical than you about this. The other posters have made my main points:

    1. If it is the “right thing to do” (thank you, Spike Lee), then issue a stop-loss yesterday and reinstate everyone who has been tossed out under your leadership in the past year.

    2. If “this year” means “I’ll get back to you in December”, then it’s just a ploy to get our help in November.

    I would have preferred “this week”.

  19. wmforr says:

    My junior-high English teacher would tell me I could parse this sentence two ways:”I will work with Congress… to repeal DADT.” …………..|___ this year”I will work with Congress… to repeal DADT.” ………………………………………………|__this yearSurely Obama studied Aristotle’s Rhetoric in college. He knows how to do ambiguity (all seven types).

  20. kujhawker says:

    There are plenty of SOTU speeches made where the President has called for working on congress for something that just hasn’t happened. Sometimes it is congresses fault sometimes the Administration drops it.

    We have heard this rhetoric from Obama before. As much as people hype the SOTU address it doesn’t carry and more or less weight in things being delivered.

    It is nice to hear him use the language of repeal and not change. Though they could repeal it and still put in some separate but equal thing in its place.

    Obama has lost me. While I still have “hope” I will not be positive about anything till I actually see some movement. Rhetoric no longer makes this gay’s heart swell.

  21. I agree with you, John, on all the points you made. I am, however, keenly aware that while Obama works on this, the witch hunts continue. At least Obama is now on record promising to work on repeal this year. He did not merely restate a desire to see DADT repealed, nor pass it entirely off to congress and the military. I don’t see your willingness to work with him on this as letting him off the hook. We’ll be watching closely. The budget is next week, and repeal should be part of it. Obama will need to deliver on this if he wants to start winning back our support.

  22. Guana…what?

  23. Last year, I wanted to give Democrats money, but couldn’t ever manage to get it done. My neighbors are Republicans, and I simply couldn’t persuade them that giving Democrats my money was good policy.

    We finally agreed on a compromise, where I did everything they wanted. It was the neighborly thing to do.

    This year I’m definitely going to work on giving Democrats money. I can’t say how or when it will happen, but only that they can count on it. See, I’m positive that when I persuade my neighbors that it’s the right thing to do, they’ll totally be on board.

  24. JamesR says:

    Two words: Guantanamo Bay

    That was on a one year timeline too. Still there. Not in the speech anymore.

    More words 1/4 the way into an administration = just more Unicorn shit.

    Not tasty. Had enough.

  25. offspring says:

    sorry but I dont see it happening, mainly because it opens up alot more doors on other fronts such as marriage and they know it, plus if it doesnt happen before the election it wont, as I dont believe the house and senate will stay the way they are right now. I knew they would pull this dance, to do it prior to the elections as to say hey if you dont help keep us in then you loose to, well the dems have been there longer than a year and …….nothing, he comes in and ….nothing, oh look its election time.

  26. JC7 says:

    Yeah, speaking of Gitmo… Did he even mention Guantanamo?

  27. Joe Beese says:

    Set a timeline in stone? What the hell are you talking about?

    “I will close Guantanamo in a year” is setting a timeline in stone. And we all know how that one worked out.

    “This year I will work with Congress” means literally nothing. On December 31, he chats about it with Barney Frank for five seconds in the elevator. There you go. This year, he worked with Congress.

  28. FunMe says:

    words … plans … actions … not interested.

    RESULTS … that’s when I will be interested.

    And it better be before the November election! Otherwise, “no can do”.

  29. Joe Beese says:

    John, this is honestly the most pathetic thing I’ve ever read. “Take him at his word”? As if he hasn’t long since forfeited the benefit of the doubt on gay equality? And such words! “I will work with Congress”. WTF does that amount to? If the Senate manages to pass a bill – as if! – he’ll be happy to make a photo op of the signing ceremony. This isn’t even scraps from the table. Don’t be a goddamned fool.

  30. MaxH says:

    I tend to agree – instead of simply saying “it must be repealed,” his language set a timeline in stone.

    Could he still weasel out? Yes. But it’ll be that much harder because he declared to the nation that it’s the ‘right thing to do.’

    Then again, the nation could forget about this speech by next week, then we’ll be the only ones holding him to it.

  31. MaxH says:

    I loved the “It’s the right thing to do,” as well as the timeline… it really hammered the seriousness home for me.

    However. While I’m holding out hope for this to be resolved this year, I think Obama’ll make the mistake of not trying to roll it into the Defense Bill (so Republicans will be forced to vote for it or be labeled unpatriotic), but instead try and stand it on its own.

    If this doesn’t happen, I’ll send him flowers. But I think it will.

  32. You have him…what?

  33. Obama’s slow-walking gay civil rights has been nothing short of contemptible. If you’re cool with President Comeheregoaway, you have a very short memory.Candidate Obama promised to repeal DADT, then five short months after his inauguration, President Obama’s solicitor general was in the Supreme Court arguing FOR the status quo AGAINST a gay soldier attempting to challenge the discriminatory policy in court.Obama’s appointee even put the administration’s imprimatur on the offensive nonsense that gays, by their very existence, interfere with military discipline and unit cohesion.Then, five months after winning that case that further buttressed DADT, Obama has the gall to stand in front of a gay audience at the HRC and say, “I’m here with a simple message: I’m here with you in that fight.”Three months later, the administration concedes it has “no plan.” Suddenly tonight there’s a plan!And even if it’s true that he’s done a 360° on DADT, Obama still espouses second-class citizenship for the majority of gay Americans who aren’t in the military. He’s dispatched his agents to the Supreme Court to vigorously defend the Defense of Marriage Act as well.He’s not gay America’s worst enemy, but he’s hardly gay America’s best friend, either.

  34. Peter says:

    If you read the transcript, Obama didn’t say he was going to end DADT this year; he said he was going to work on it this year — BIG difference!

  35. sonofloud says:

    He’ll work with congress on DADT the same way he worked with them on health care reform and it will be his same excuse when nothing happens, it was the fault of congress.

  36. Peter says:

    If you read the transcript, Obama didn’t say he was going to end DADT, he said he was going to work on it this year — BIG difference!

  37. superstition says:

    This is the same man who also said DOMA is “abhorrent” before the DOMA brief.

    This is the same man who said he supports our marriages “unequivocally”.

    Just keep being Charlie Brown with the football, boys. Lucy really has a good heart!

  38. superstition says:

    This is the same man who felt the right thing to do was to fire hundreds of troops for the crime of being gay.

  39. Except now he’s given us a timeline. If he doesn’t do this year, then we have him.

  40. ezpz says:

    Yup, and he could have done that in the name of national security (many arabic translators were let go) AND in the first weeks of his administration.

  41. I say it’s the budget submitted next week.

  42. LOL agreed ;)

  43. Keith says:

    If the DADT policy is wrong, like he claims, he should have said he was issuing an executive order suspending any discharge due to sexual orientation until the repeal is completed. That would have been powerful.

  44. deant says:

    I’ll be holding on to my golden DADG membership card.

  45. Keith says:

    If he doesn’t repeal it by October, the gay vote will be lost for the dems.

  46. cowboyneok says:

    Yep… exactly. Call me a big ol’ pessimist, but I’m not going to be popping any champagne bottles (for all my friends who choose to drink, of course…)

    I feel like he would have ALREADY moved on DADT if he was truly going to do it. Hope I’m wrong.

  47. Guest says:

    I don’t disagree with John, but the authorization bill is the first test of the words. Let’s see if a repeal is in there.

  48. ezpz says:


  49. PeteWa says:

    when you’re right, you’re right.

  50. leliorisen says:

    I did not listen to the SOTU, because I am tired of ‘Obama the orator.’ However, the words he chose on DADT lead me to believe he is truly going to do it this year.Why? 2 Reasons.The first is, it is a no-brainer. The global model disputes the fallacious argument that it would destroy unit cohesion. All of our Western allies allow gays to serve and the sky has not fallen. Plus, even among conservatives, polling shows this repeal to have solid majority support.Second…they know they need all the help they can get come November. They know that gays are one of the prime groups that have pushed back at this White House.
    Obama wants and needs our money and our energy, yet, he will never speak out in support of gay marriage. So this gives him the least controversial way to secure the glbt vote…and dollars.I think this is a deliberate political calculation on Obama’s part, and think he will repeal DADT. I also think this is about where his pro-glbt advocacy will end.

  51. Holy Cow says:

    I guess I’ve grown skeptical too. “This year” sounds like an empty promise.

  52. ezpz says:

    To repeat from another thread….

    Somehow, he was able to issue an executive order to create his ridiculous deficit commission the very next day after congress voted against it.

    But, DADT?


    No executive order there from the fierce advocate to even just stop the military from enforcing it UNTIL congress passes a law to once and for all repeal it.

    What a hypocrite!

  53. Tom says:

    I’m incredibly disappointed. Gibbs already made the promise that DADT would be “changed”. Obama said absolutely nothing new. In fact we’ve still not been given a single piece of evidence that anyone is actively working with the military on this.

  54. Jim Olson says:

    Trust, but verify. I’ll believe it when I see it, and will be writing to my congress critters tomorrow.

  55. Care for another helping of bullshiat?

  56. Lia says:

    concur. actions > words, but these words at this time are important. was a good SOTU and a definite step forward. Hopefully with support it will translate to reality.

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