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Obama Team Turns on Engines in Repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell

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Recently I had the opportunity to connect with some national security wonks and Obama team members in the White House Roosevelt Room. I was invited to meet some "senior administration officials" regarding the contours of the recently released "National Security Strategy" by the President.

While there I chatted with someone not to be named about whether the White House was caught off guard by Defense Secretary Robert Gates stating that he did not want to see legislation on Don't Ask Don't Tell until after the completion of an internal military review.

The short answer was "yes." Gates was cornering the President on Don't Ask Don't Tell.

But then to their credit, Senators Carl Levin and Joseph Lieberman as well as House Member Patrick Murphy refused to allow the Pentagon to drag its heals on the biggest civil rights agenda item of the day -- and pushed through legislation building in a repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell pending the military review.

A lot of gay community leaders got indigestion over this approach -- but the legislative maneuvering by this Congressional threesome robbed Gates of the ability to political squash progress on DADT who may have also hoped that if he stalled things that a Congress less supportive of repeal would keep this from every moving forward.

The DADT legislation makes it much, much tougher for Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen, or any holder of their positions when that review is done to sidestep their Commander in Chief's desire to repeal DADT.

But now, impressively, the President's team has made this a campaign. First, OMB czar Peter Orszag states that it is the position of the White House that Don't Ask Don't Tell be repealed, issuing support as well for the Levin/Lieberman/Murphy legislation. Gates and Mullen bristle -- but are being confronted strongly and pushed to the edge of the ring by Obama's inside team.

And now the Democratic National Committee and Obama's own "Organizing for America" are calling for Americans to line up in support of repeal, to sign petitions, and to kick up dust. Obama is now lining up support from his "outside team."

I support strongly what the President wants to do -- not the deference that Bob Gates wants to give the generals.

You may not agree with this policy issue -- some of my friends don't. But those of you who do would be sending a strong message if you sent the President an indication of the importance of moving forward here and signing this petition on the President's "Organizing for America" site.

It's time that civilians in this country remind the military command who they work for -- and that the social and moral gap that the military thinks it can maintain between itself and the rest of American society needs to be diminished, not widened.

-- Steve Clemons directs the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note