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Friday, September 24, 2010

Obama Strategists - What are they up to?

Yesterday, the Obama administration took a perplexing move, of supporting DADT in court, after pushing for a vote against the policy, just days before.

One can hardly understand their strategy, if there is one. In a potentially even larger failure, their spokesman is of little help in resolving this contradiction on face, satisfactorily.

If they acquiesce to a court injunction against DADT, rather than file against it as they did, they will likely be challenged by the supporters of DADT, of keeping gays out of the service.

From a strategic perspective, that eventual challenge would force the administration to be in a position they (a) either don't believe / have the stomach to fight or (b) don't believe they can win, all the way to the Supremes.

It's not clear, however, why they would NOT take the fight, even if it is a losing one in their view, ultimately, in court, unless they just have shaky knees or tenuous homo-support among the DOJ and Pentagon lawyers.


Well, because there are 57 Senators representing 75% or whatever of the population, behind this issue, as well as sizable general population opinion. That's a huge support going into a high-profile court battle.

What's more, there is an important principle at stake, one that goes beyond apparent trivialities that they are objecting to in their brief about overly broad language in the injunction as written.

Last, they have a key constituency involved, a minority for which the courts' own record shows that the legislative process is often a loser, except when the courts themselves take the lead in mustering change, with a nudge or an outright nod. Apparently, no liaison from the gay community or University Professor has the President's ear to tell him these things ...

So, why wouldn't the Administration take a new fight, by acquiescing to the injunction to end enforcement of DADT?:

  1. 1. They believe they have momentum behind-the-scenes, so it doesn't matter (if so, their communications strategy is still a failure, even if they ultimately win on substance).
  2. 2. They are in a battle-royale behind-the-scenes with the military, the military underlings are winning (either in details or in full), and the Administration is planning an exit strategy, already, or to accommodate a bogus "compromise"
  3. 3. They are buying time, maybe because they have an ideological view that they are clinging to,

    -about how to implement/lead the change that does not include court-leadership or court-imposed action, i.e. "it must be done right" or "it must be done our way", with any number of motivations, selfish and broad, including some calculus on which it is harmful to gay servicemembers to do an 'imperfect' or rush job of eliminating the policy

    -about what they can 'get away with politically' (a.k.a. "triangulation", either in the big picture, like some think of Clinton-era, or in the court, i.e. kick the can to the courts, like Schwarzenegger)

  4. 4..They simply do not have a strategy, haven't thought it through or aren't coordinating whatever effort they do have to success, political, practical, substantive, or otherwise.

So, based on that list of at least four things, it appears that there is just a 25% chance that they made a good strategic move by fighting a 9th circuit-led injunction on DADT, on an agnostic view that any of the above are equally likely.