White House Corrects Pentagon: Somebody, Somewhere Is Discussing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell


The assault on the Obama administration’s lack of action on repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell — which the now-sitting president promised to do — continues in earnest. And we’re glad to see it. At today’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs once again got nailed on the discriminatory military policy that Obama refuses to act on. Except it also gave him a chance to clarify, or flip-flop, on where the government stands on repealing the law.

Obama, you see, says he’s working with Congress and military officials on killing the law. Except there is no legislation introduced in either the House or the Senate. And? The Pentagon isn’t even thinking about it. Gibbs tripped over himself when addressing the issues yesterday. Today, he got a chance to update everyone.

Turns out the Pentagon was not correct — it lied? — on where these conversations stood. Or, ya know, they were telling the truth and now Gibbs is saving face.

To the transcript! (Update: Video from Rachel Maddow.)

ANA MARIE COX: So you had said that the President is working with the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff on “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but earlier this week the Pentagon said that the conversations were “initial” and that there is “no sense of any immediate developments in the offing on efforts to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.'” So I wanted to give you a chance to correct the Pentagon on that.

And I have two other questions. What other policies are there —

MR. GIBBS: If you ask like that you’re going to get bumped up to, like, the first row. (Laughter.)

Let me address the first question because, if I’m not mistaken, the Pentagon did correct that statement on efforts regarding the reform on “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

ANA MARIE COX: So there are active conversations happening now?

MR. GIBBS: Yes. Yes.

ANA MARIE COX: Okay. And then I wanted to know if there are any other policies that the President believes to be, as you said yesterday about “don’t ask, don’t tell,” not in our national interest but is content to let Congress take the lead on? And second, President Truman didn’t see it necessary to clear desegregation through Congress, so how is this different?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but maybe I was — maybe I used some poor language, but the President is involved in these discussions. It was the President’s commitment to overturn the policy that’s not in our national interest that is the reason for these discussions and for the effort to overturn this. So I think the notion somehow — the reason Congress is involved is the only durable and lasting way with which to overturn the policy is to do it by law. That’s the —

ANA MARIE COX: So when can we expect a durable policy on racial desegregation in the military, since that’s never gone through Congress?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I’m out of my depth as a lawyer. And I’m not exactly sure the timing of when President Truman did that, but my sense is that there were also some legal proceedings around that. Try as one may, a President can’t simply whisk away standing law of the United States of America. I think that’s maybe been the undercurrent of some of the conversations we’ve had over the past few days on Guantanamo Bay. But if you’re going to change the policy, if it is the law of the land, you have to do it through an act of Congress.

ANA MARIE COX: And so there’s pending legislation? I didn’t see any.

MR. GIBBS: I don’t know what’s been introduced in Congress.

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