Why Is Obama Making Joe Lieberman His DADT Pointman?


Is the White House so afraid of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell that it’s pawning off responsibility on non-Democrats? Barack Obama‘s minions are turning to none other than Sen. Joe Lieberman (Connecticut’s Democrat-cum-Independent John McCain supporter) to trudge ahead on killing DADT. It certainly helps that Lieberman sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

It’s hard to tell whether the White House’s Lieberman strategy is more talk, or true action. Lending evidence to the former is hearing gay Office of Personnel Management director John Berry confirm Obama’s camp is in talks with Lieberman . Generally when we hear the White House trumpet its “movement” on gay rights, it’s a smokescreen to buy time and trust.

But if Obama is truly trying to work with Lieberman on a DADT repeal bill, it might actually make sense to go the Independent route, since it could drum up bi-partisan support easier than a Democratic-led approach. Kerry Eleveld notes: “People familiar with the strategy around Senate introduction say the discussions generally involve two different tracks: the bipartisan track, with at least one of the cosponsors sitting on the SASC; and a second track, which would be a Democratic introduction by someone who sits on the SASC.”

The Leiberman strategy also begs the question: What about Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Majority Leader Harry Reid, each of whom have publicly shown support for ending DADT? Well, neither sits on the SASC, which holds jurisdiction over military matters.

But it’s not like there aren’t any willing Democrats on SASC; Colorado’s Sen. Mark Udall previously asked Adm. Mike Mullen to put together his DADT recommendations for this fall’s Gillibrand-led hearings on the law.

Then again, it could be Lieberman who’s most likely to drum up a few Republican votes for the bill (including Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe), something Democrats would struggle with.