A federal court ruled this week that the enforcement of the Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) must be halted, a ruling that the Obama administration is preparing to appeal. Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Gates has stated that ending DADT abruptly would have "enormous consequences" and that he believes that the decision should lie in the hands of Congress only after the Pentagon has completed their study of the issue.
As I discussed previously, President Truman ordered the integration of the armed forces by issuing Executive Order 9981 in 1948. Congressional approval was not required in 1948. In fact, if Harry Truman had waited for an assessment of desegregation's consequences and approval from Congress, does anyone honestly think we would have seen the desegregation of the military until the 60's?
So why is the Obama Administration pretending that this is an issue for Congress to decide? In 2008, candidate Obama stated that he would repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and put an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation in the military. Now he is trying to have the judge's ruling against DADT challenged while simultaneously pretending that he doesn't the authority to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.
It is clear that:
- The president still has the authority to issue executive orders. The Constitution hasn't been amended on this issue, so if executive orders were constitutional in the days of Harry Truman, then they are still constitutional.
- The president has the authority to issue executive orders that overrule "Don't Ask Don't Tell" according to military law experts.
- The president is passing this hot-button topic over to Congress rather than issuing an executive order so he can wipe his hands of this campaign promise.
President Obama is very focused... on his re-election. Midterms-shmidterms he might be saying. He knows that very few people are going to make a decision about his re-election in 2012 based on his lack of action concerning DADT in 2010.
Leadership requires many traits, including the courage to take a position that is morally correct, even if it isn't politically expedient. Leaders defend their beliefs. Leaders don't pretend to lack authority when they know they are the decision-maker.
Whether or not you think DADT is important enough to be receiving the current media coverage, whether or not you think DADT should remain or be repealed and whether or not you voted for Obama, there is little question that the president has displayed a lack of leadership, shunned responsibility and exhibited cowardice on this issue.