Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Adam Serwer has a proposal on Don't Ask, Don't Tell that's brilliant for several reasons (as I'll explain below), notwithstanding the fact that it's almost impossible to imagine the president carrying it out:

...If Republicans continue to block DADT repeal from even coming to a vote, the president should take a page from Truman [on military desegregation] and end the policy through an executive order advising the military not to enforce the policy and cease defending it from challenges in court.... The military in Truman's time was deeply opposed to integration, and if he had waited for a favorable political climate to act desegregation might not have occurred for decades.

... the use of an executive order to end a policy a majority of Americans, including conservatives, want to end, is no more undemocratic than Republicans' use of procedural maneuvers to thwart an up or down vote.

... The president has met his political promise to the military to allow them to do this at their own pace. He has fulfilled his constitutional obligation as president to defend in court even the laws he disagrees with. If Republicans successfully strip repeal from the bill, or continue to prevent the matter from coming to a vote, then Obama has every right to handle this Truman's way.

Obviously this a way to defend equality and do so boldly and in keeping with the popular will. But it's also a way to manipulate the coming chaos.

If President Obama does this right now, the first congressional calls for his impeachment will follow almost immediately, and they'll be on this subject, not on the economy or bailouts or "czars" or any of the other issues the teabaggers and GOP have recently emphasized, while taking great pains to deemphasize the culture war.

The calls for Obama's removal will therefore come right away -- so much for the nonsense about the potential for working with Republicans -- and they'll come on a subject on which the public backs the side of the White House. They'll come while the mainstream press is rolling out stories about how Truman acted in just the same way to end military segregation by race. And they'll come while Republicans are also threatening to shut down the government over the debt ceiling or Bush tax cuts or health care appropriations (while still trying to pretend that they're right-centrist and sane).

I know I said yesterday that this issue works for the GOP because the minority of voters who oppose DADT repeal are far more likely to vote to punish a DADT repealer than supporters of repeal are to reward a repealer, but this takes the issue out of that realm -- relax, vulnerable swing-staters -- and puts it on the president's shoulders. And he's going to win or lose on much bigger issues. And it makes the case, far better than ditch/Slurpee metaphors, that the new Republicans are a hell of a lot like the old Republicans.

So, Mr. President, issue the executive order. Serve justice and let the lunatics fail, spectacularly and publicly, at rebranding and self-management. (I'm just sorry you won't have the nerve to do it.)

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