strategy

Defense Sec. Robert Gates: Courts Striking Down DADT Offers ‘No Flexibility’

Defense Sec. Robert Gates suddenly favoring an immediate legislative repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell — before, even, the Pentagon completes its still review next month — can be explained quite easily, it turns out: He knows the policy is on its last legs, and doesn’t want America’s court system dictating military policy.

It’s that inevitability of DADT’s demise that has Gates hoping lawmakers repeal it, he tells ABC News’ Cynthia McFadden: “I would say that the leaving Don’t Ask Don’t Tell behind us is inevitable. The question is whether it is done by legislation that allows us to do it in a thoughtful and careful way, or whether it is struck down by the courts. Because recent court decisions are certainly pointing in that direction. And we went through a period of two weeks in October where we had four different policy changes in the space of, as I say, two weeks, from striking it down totally, to a stay, to appeal, and so on. So I think we have the least flexibility. We have the least opportunity to do this intelligently and carefully and with the kind of preparation that is necessary, if the courts take this action as opposed to there being legislation.”

Leaving the decision to the courts, says Gates, is a terrible idea: “My hope frankly is that if they — if we can make the case that having this struck down by the courts is the worst outcome, because it gives us no flexibility, that people will think I’m called a realist, a pragmatist, I’m looking at this realistically. This thing is gonna go one way or the other. And I wanted and I — when I testified last February I said, you know, there’s smart ways to do things and there’s stupid ways to do things. And trying to do this all at once and under some kind of fiat, I think is not the way to do it.”

Gates’ animosity toward the courts calling the shots isn’t new: This time last month he was calling on Congress to repeal the law instead of letting jurists do it for them. But Gates, who is making his exit in the coming months, has also been a big fan of this big gay survey, and in April was writing Congress members pleading with them not to repeal the law until the survey was complete.

Alas, things change. Like Democrats losing power in the House — which means the upcoming lame duck session is the only time to repeal the law in the immediate future, since there’s no way House Republicans will let a DADT repeal move forward.