I wonder who that “we” is that Barack Obama referred to in his campaign speeches when he said “We are the change that we seek.” Apparently “we” doesn’t include gays and lesbians, although he sure sounded like he meant to include a better world for everyone back then. But then that’s the definition of “rhetoric,” isn’t it? Making persuasive speeches? Influencing an audience?
And you wondered why I mocked his talk of “hope” and “change” during the primaries. Well, I just couldn’t take him seriously — his words rang hollow to me, and I know I was not alone. Obama the Candidate promised to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell because it is discrimination, pure and simple. Obama the President has dragged his feet , saying now that it should be a legislative initiative. This, when the reality is that President Obama could get rid of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell with an Executive Order. It has been done before. This columnist says it best:
The American Debate: Obama needs just a bit of Truman’s courage
That’s right. President Truman did a little thing called desegregating the US Military by issuing an executive Order. In 1948!
When will Barack Obama tap his inner Truman and take the initiative to end the ignominious ban on gays serving openly in the military?
Actually, he needs to exhibit only a fraction of Harry Truman’s political courage. When FDR’s successor announced in 1948 that he intended to racially integrate the armed forces, Americans recoiled in horror. Gallup reported that only 13 percent of the people endorsed the notion of blacks and whites serving together. Yet Truman signed the executive order anyway; as he liked to say, “I wonder how far Moses would have gone if he’d taken a poll in Egypt.”
Truman stood tall even though the wind was in his face; Obama, by taking the lead on ending the gay ban, would actually have the wind at his back. National resistance to open service has melted during the 15 years since the enactment of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Gallup now reports that 69 percent of Americans support gays and straights serving together without the caveat of the closet – a six-point hike since 2004, fueled by big gains among conservatives and weekly churchgoers.
The American people elected you to bring change to this country, President Obama. We didn’t elected you (and yes, I voted for Obama), to sit in the White House and shrug your shoulders, saying “Gee I’d love to right this civil injustice thingy, but see, my hands are kinda tied on this one.”
But what’s really weak is this notion that Obama is too overwhelmed with weighty matters to deal at this time with the serving gays. To put that argument in perspective, let’s return to Truman.
Here are just some of the weighty matters that plagued the president during the first half of 1948: Soviet aggression in Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria; China, on the verge of falling to the communists; a severe domestic housing crisis; a Republican-led Congress that was fiercely resisting his pitch for national health insurance, a higher minimum wage, stronger pro-labor laws, and expanded education aid. Moreover, all the polls predicted that, when Truman stood for reelection in November, he would be toast.
Wrongs must be righted, President Obama. Be the change.