That Press Secretary Robert Gibbs takes Kerry Eleveld’s questions is a statement unto itself; Gibbs would not take her questions so often if he did not want to put the White House on record about LGBT issues. So when Gibbs today fielded one about the Justice Department’s latest DADT court filing in Log Cabin v. United States, it was an opportunity Gibbs latched on to in order to distance Obama from DoJ.
This is a risky tactic by any measure.
Beltway insiders will insist there’s much distance between the Oval Office and Eric Holder’s haunt at DoJ on the mundane operations of the department. But it would be naive to think Justice is filing briefs on such a sensitive subject like DADT — which the White House is clearly treading delicately around, at the risk of offending voters and lawmakers — without consulting with Obama’s top advisers first. But here we have Gibbs insisting exactly that is taking place, with his mild refutation of DoJ’s manipulation of statements made by the Palm Center’s Nathaniel Frank and Aaron Belkin.
Such a move gives cover to Obama. After all, how can anyone blame him for what DoJ is doing without his knowledge? There’s some truth to this argument, for the same reason President George W. Bush was faulted for his erroneous involvement in DoJ business (when it came to hiring attorneys sympathetic to the Bush administration’s agenda). But if the White House gets to take credit for Justice’s wise decisions, like intervening in a school bullying case involving perceived sexual orientation, then it also gets the burden of the criticism attached to DoJ’s utterly stupid actions.