This afternoon, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs listed repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as a priority for the lame duck session after the Thanksgiving recess and reiterated the now oft-repeated warning that if Congress fails to lift the ban, the matter could be decided by the courts. “Do this legislatively, which provides an avenue with which to implement the policy. A court doing this is not likely to provide the Pentagon and others with a pathway for doing this,” Gibbs explained.
He also said he expects Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) to hold hearings on the Pentagon’s Working Group study of the policy — whose release has now been bumped up to November 30 — on December 1, but would not say if President Obama personally asked Gates to expedite its release:
GIBBS: I’ll say several things, this is not a totally exhaustive list…There is no doubt that we’ve got to deal with issues around taxes. We’re going to have to deal with issues around unemployment insurance and compensation as well. You’ve heard the President make mention of START…There are issues around Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell that the President and I think many people believe are best dealt with through a legislative process and not through a legal system. [...]
Q: Did the President ask the Pentagon to hurry up to November 30th, its internal report…? [crosstalk]
GIBBS: I think the original date was December 1. Obviously the report is being released a day or so early to have some informal hearings on the survey and its results. I think those hearings, if I’m not mistaken start on the first [of December].
Asked by the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson if Obama anticipates the service chiefs — all of whom had previously opposed repeal — can be swayed by the report, Gibbs said that the chiefs are still engaged in ongoing discussions with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen about their positions. He added Obama hasn’t yet seen the report, but hinted that he would not necessarily need the support of the chiefs to go through with repeal.
“The President has known where people have stood on this policy for as long as he’s supported changing that policy, so I think it will be important to view the attitudes and to use those attitudes to craft a pathway to implementing a changed legislative policy,” Gibbs said.
Levin believes hearings about the Pentagon’s report will “boost” the chance of repealing DADT:
“I believe our hearings on the report will be a boost to the goal of passing a National Defense Authorization Act, including provisions related to repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell. Passage of the Defense Authorization Act is essential to our troops and their families and to our national defense.”