POLITICS
06/21/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Gibbs Breaks From Pentagon: President In "Active" Discussions Over Don't Ask Don't Tell

White House Press Secretary indicated in Thursday afternoon's briefing that the White House is in the midst of "active" negotiations with the Pentagon to repeal "don't ask, don't tell."

Just two days ago, a Pentagon spokesperson said that there were no plans to repeal the policy, which President Obama promised to abolish during his campaign.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen are "aware of where the president wants to go on this issue, but I don't think that there is any sense of any immediate developments in the offing on efforts to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell,'" Morrell said.

Gibbs was asked about the Pentagon's statement during his daily press briefing.

Q: So you had said that the President is working with the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff on "don't ask, don't tell," but earlier this week the Pentagon said that the conversations were "initial" and that there is "no sense of any immediate developments in the offing on efforts to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell.'" So I wanted to give you a chance to correct the Pentagon on that. And I have two other questions. What other policies are there --

MR. GIBBS: If you ask like that you're going to get bumped up to, like, the first row. (Laughter.) Let me address the first question because, if I'm not mistaken, the Pentagon did correct that statement on efforts regarding the reform on "don't ask, don't tell."

Q: So there are active conversations happening now?

MR. GIBBS: Yes. Yes.

Q Okay. And then I wanted to know if there are any other policies that the President believes to be, as you said yesterday about "don't ask, don't tell," not in our national interest but is content to let Congress take the lead on? And second, President Truman didn't see it necessary to clear desegregation through Congress, so how is this different?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I don't want to put words in your mouth, but maybe I was -- maybe I used some poor language, but the President is involved in these discussions. It was the President's commitment to overturn the policy that's not in our national interest that is the reason for these discussions and for the effort to overturn this. So I think the notion somehow -- the reason Congress is involved is the only durable and lasting way with which to overturn the policy is to do it by law.

The president's lack of action on 'don't ask, don't tell' came into relief when Dan Choi, an officer in the Army National Guard and Arab linguist, came out on TV and was discharged for being gay. Lieutenant Colonel Victor J. Fehrenbach, a pilot who flew over Washington, D.C. on September 11, was also recently discharged because of his sexuality.

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