AmericaBlog’s John Aravosis notes significant edits made recently to the Civil Rights page on the whitehouse.gov website that seem to signal “a shift in policy, and a backward step from a clear campaign promise” to repeal the military’s discriminatory “don’t ask don’t tell” (DADT) policy. The website used to emphasize Obama’s firm commitment to repealing the discriminatory policy:
President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
However, after changes apparently made last night, the previous full, earnest paragraph was slashed to one half of a sentence promoting only “changing” the law “in a sensible way”:
[Obama] supports changing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security, and also believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation.
The edits seem to be Obama’s latest attempt to walk back his firm campaign promise to outright repeal the anti-gay policy. His 2010 budget included funding to enforce the policy; Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently admitted that a discussion about repeal “has really not progressed very far at this point in the administration,” and that it hoped to “push that one down the road a little bit.”
In this, Obama is out of touch with the mainstream. In fact, a poll released just yesterday showed that 56 percent of Americans, including 50 percent of military families, favor repealing DADT. (A poll last year found that 75 percent support gays serving openly in the military.) An even stronger majority — 58 percent — “reject” the argument that changing the law would be “divisive.”
ProPublica noted other changes made to WhiteHouse.gov last night:
— The Iraq page was deleted and replaced with a single paragraph on the foreign policy page.
— Like many issues pages the civil rights page was dramatically cut. 756 words devoted to supporting the LGBT community have been replaced with two sentences.
— And nearly all issues pages now begin with a mini-progress report detailing what Barack has done for you.