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.

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  • Fitz

    Further translation (I was raised with assphats, I speak their language): If the COURT stops DADT, they will do it straight-up. But if we can get the Legislation to do it, we can get lots of nice homophobic loopholes.

  • Continuum

    If Gates expects reasoned, well-thought out legislation to come from the current group of crazy rightwing nutjobs in both the military (namely the USMC commandant), or the newly elected tea bagger, talibangelicals in the Congress, . . . . . then Gates has become truly delusional and is trying to sell a pile of bull crap.

  • Brutus

    He’s right.

    @Continuum: There’s still time for the current Congress to act. Those elected last week don’t take office for a couple of months yet.

  • reason

    Gates is an individual that is able to stay above the fray and commander respect from everyone in the military ranks, bigots and non-bigots alike, and the best chance to get a policy that works is while Gates is still at the helm. Gates not being a democrat and trying to get out of government means that he has nothing to gain or lose from the political realm, his main focus is making the military run efficiently. If you look at his record he has challenged the president when he has needed to and challenged people on both sides of the isle when he felt it was in the best interest of the military. The military is in a much better place today to have people serve openly because of the dialog and truth that came out of it. In the past people just went along with it whether they liked it or not refusing to express their true views from the top right on down the ranks, so I thank the president, secretary, and chairman for making this happen.

  • Cam

    Also, If Congress repeals it, it can be reinstated in a worst case scenario. If the Courts do it, it is gone.

    If Congress does it, they can leave in discriminatory language, if the courts do it, that is gone for good.

    If Congress does it, people kicked out can’t sue. If the Courts declare it unconstitutional, people kicked out under the policy can sue.

    The Courts desegregated schools, legalized interacial marraige and yet we seemed to have made it through all that..

    That Said, it will be interesting to see how McCain will respond to this, he kept saying he would do what the Pentagon wanted, now the Pentagon is saying ditch the Policy and once again flip flopper McCain is fighting them on it.

  • Change of mind?

    There was NO change of mind. He is simply voicing support because he knows it can’t pass. These weasels do this all the time.

  • Michael @

    Just another move in Little Caesar’s multi-dimensional game of chess, purely motivated by his desire to remain a virtual one-man fourth branch of government telling the traditional three what to do. He knows that if he can outmaneuver the courts, the worst thing that can happen is that if his plan to run out the clock on legislative repeal fails and they pass the insane amendment he forcd on them in May, he STILL is the one calling the shots about whether to repeal the law, and even if he does that, whether to actually END the discharges….neither of which, thanks to Obama backing Gates’ demand that the Military Readiness Enhancement Act be trashed, are now required.

    As Cam so well broke down, the “durable” legislative “solution” the Obama Mafia and their Bots used as an excuse for a year and a half for his not issuing an Executive Order pending repeal is no longer automatically a solution nor unequivocally durable at all.

    For more on Gates’ history in Washington, e.g., while at the CIA, proving NOTHING he says can be trusted, and a deconstruction of his various lies and distortions since February re the ban, go to:


  • reason

    @Michael @ You are a dangerous manipulator of information, and your lies lead a lot of people astray this past election. Stop loss does not effect GBLT discharges the pertinent part is on page 9. The cats that crossed the democratic party this election will suffer dearly for it. John Boehner is salivating at the idea of crushing this communities hopes and dreams come January. He will happily redistribute wealth to the top one percent and make sure that employers can continue to fire GBLT on the spot if they uncover ones sexuality. GBLT jobs can be used to appease the southern Mississippi bigots, and entice them to keep voting against their economic interest because for them making GBLT suffer is well worth it. Fire a GBLT and hire a bigot, that will be the motto of the new GOP house.

  • the crustybastard


    The corollary to “Republicans suck on gay rights” isn’t “so it must be true that Democrats are great on gay rights.” The fact is that Democrats just suck TOO. They’re both absolute failures.

    Yes, Boehner doesn’t want gays to have job protection. Apparently Democrats don’t either. Did Democrats make ENDA a legislative priority at any point in the last two years when they could have gotten it passed? NO. They left it to die in committee just like it died every year since 1994.

    ENDA is not a legislative priority like the “Indian Arts and Crafts Amendments Act of 2010,” introduced in January 2009 and signed by President Obama 6 months later.

  • Markie-Mark

    @Michael @ You are exactly right. Obama kept that republican bigot in his cabinet because Obama is a republican bigot.

  • Michael @

    @ LACK OF REASON: one understands how difficult it is for you to discern shit from shinola with your head perpetually in the dark depths of Obama’s asshole, but the military sources for the CRS report was simply doing what professional shills for the Pentagon have always done: LIED.

    Here are FACTS re stop-loss and gays:

    Allen Berube documented in his classic “Coming Out Under Fire,” that in World War II it once took an extreme form when “the adjutant general ordered the commanding general of the West Coast Air Corps Training Center in California to review the cases of some men ALREADY CONVICTED OF SODOMY “to determine their respective availability for military service” with “the view of conserving all available manpower for service in the Army.” He canceled the men’s dishonorable discharges and made them eligible for reassignment AFTER COMPLETING THEIR PRISON SENTENCES!

    In 1945, facing manpower shortages during the final European offensive in Europe, Secty of War, Harry Stimson, ordered a review of all gay discharges and ordered commanders to “salvage” homosexual soldiers for service whenever necessary.

    The number of men discharged for being gay during WWII was only in the low thousands out of 16 MILLION men who served. That’s A LOT of “looking the other way” no matter how low one thinks the incidence of homosexuality is in the population.

    The Palm Center has also documented that before and after both the Korean and Vietnam wars, gay discharge #s revealed an obvious stop-loss pattern.

    1950, during Korean War – 483 discharges.
    1953, when the Armistice was signed – 1353 discharges. Did the number of gays in the military suddenly more than DOUBLE?

    1966 – the Navy alone discharged 1708 gays.
    1970 – when the US was deep in Vietnam, they only discharged 461. Are we to believe that there were only one fourth as many gays in the military then, even with the draft still in effect?

    During the first Gulf War, a Pentagon spokesman said in relation to gay discharges, “Any administrative procedure is dependent on operational considerations of the unit that would administer such proceedings.”

    In the “Army Commander’s Handbook,” updated in 1999 and still in effect, under the criterion of homosexuality: “if discharge is not requested prior to the unit’s receipt of alert notification, discharge isn’t authorized. Member will enter active duty with the unit.” In other words, if they survive, THEN we’ll discharge them when we don’t need them anymore.

    In 2005, a military spokesperson acknowledged they were sending openly gay service members into combat in Iraq.

  • Michael @

    PS: The number of gay discharges in 2008, the last year Bush II was in office were less than half of what they were his first year in office? What changed? Did Georgie suddenly become gay friendly? SURE HE DID, and the fact that he went to war, needing bodies to invade two countries during those years had NOTHING to do with it.

    And, no, Girlfriend, I’ve NEVER encouraged anyone to vote Repug. On second thought, it may not be Obama’s ass you have your head up—it could just be your own.

  • B

    No. 3 · Brutus wrote, “He’s right. @Continuum: There’s still time for the current Congress to act. Those elected last week don’t take office for a couple of months yet.”

    To give an example of the advantage of having the legislature repeal the law rather than having the courts issue an order, a sensible transition policy might be termed “don’t ask, tell if you like.” The wording of a court ruling might not allow that.

    They really do need some time to set up training programs, not for gays but for recruits coming from the more backwards parts of the U.S. The training regarding sexual harassment probably would have to be updated (you need examples that include gays), and that takes time.

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