The Corner

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Bite

I’m basically with Amy Holmes and Jim Geraghty on this one. Conservatives shouldn’t take Obama’s bait on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The Left seems entirely underwhelmed and unpersuaded by Obama’s rhetorical pandering. I’m not saying he doesn’t believe it should be repealed. But no one seems to think Obama will do anything to achieve this supposed goal. Democrats certainly aren’t going to push it in an election year when they’re supposed to be concentrating on jobs and tacking back to the center.

So why did Obama even throw it out there? Beyond the obvious desire to shore-up his left flank, I can’t help but wonder if — as Amy suggests — this is a deliberate wedge issue. It’s not aimed at voters, but at conservative talk radio and similar sectors of the Right. Obama wants to win back independents. And while I doubt that independents care very much — at least right now — about the issue, they also don’t like big fights over gays. Stirring-up social conservatives and eliciting the inevitable harsh soundbites from, say, Pat Robertson would provide the White House with an opportunity to reprise the anti-talk-radio storylines of early last year (remember the whole White House v. Limbaugh fuss?). Whatever the merits of the issues, and fair or not, independents tend to blame conservatives for those sorts of debates. So, as a matter of strategy, why have that debate if Obama and Pelosi aren’t actually going to do anything about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell for the foreseeable future.

I haven’t looked for any polling to back that up, it’s just my hunch.

Oh, one last thought. It did occur to me that Obama really dislikes all of the 1994 talk and, even more, rejects the idea that a left-leaning president has to be a center-hugger like Clinton to thrive. Who knows if that has anything to do with it. But, at minimum there’s a certain irony that Obama is (rhetorically) taking on gays in the military before his midterms, when it was precisely this issue that caused so many problems for Clinton when he was trying to get health care through Congress.

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