Tonight, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett will deliver remarks to the annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, DC. While the Human Rights Campaign does not speak for or represent the gay military community, Jarrett will no doubt deliver assurances to the gathered crowd that President Obama and his staff strongly support the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) -- the outdated law that continues to make the lives of many gay troops a living nightmare. After her remarks, the crowd of 3,000 will no doubt reward Jarrett with thunderous applause and administration officials will once again think that it has appeased those who have been hounding the administration for its failures and inaction on DADT this year. And the administration will once again be wrong.
Servicemembers United, the nation's largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, has thrown down the gauntlet with this latest attempt at appeasement. The days when grand gestures made at black-tie galas with no meaningful follow through are over. The days of appeasement speeches in front of the least-critical organizational voice in town are gone. Those who are actually serving under the cloud of DADT each and every day, and those who have actually been harmed in very real ways by this discriminatory law, want to be heard by this administration. And they want to be heard now.
Servicemembers United has asked that Jarrett at least also meet with a group of gay veterans before her gala appearance tonight to have a respectful but substantive dialogue about getting DADT repealed. Despite growing blog and media coverage of this request, the White House has so far been silent. And it's not just that they're not hearing the request -- they seem to have gone into one of their characteristic "communications lock-down" modes.
The White House has gone into communications lock-down mode before, primarily when it is being heavily -- but legitimately -- criticized and it wants to punish the critics by ceasing all engagement with them for a period of time. If this strikes the American public as funny and petty, it should, especially since the White House has an entire office dedicated to "public engagement." What are our taxpayer dollars funding in this operation if the "Office of Public Engagement" is refusing to engage affected constituencies at all at critical times? And isn't it even more ironic that Jarrett herself holds the official title of Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs!
As for Valerie Jarrett, the audience she owes a real speech to is not the one she will stand in front of tonight. It is those who sweat and toil around the clock to make sure that she continues to enjoy the freedom to snub them with another hollow appeasement attempt, as well as the committed veterans who are actually working and sacrificing day in and day out to ensure that the interests of their active duty brethren are looked out for. That audience, it is certain, will not be in attendance tonight.
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