Homosexuals waiting to serve openly in the armed forces will have to keep waiting. President Obama is effectively putting this issue to bed until after the November elections.
The administration is giving high profile attention to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law that restricts homosexuals from serving in the military. Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen informed the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon is conducting a year-long review of ideas how to implement a change in policy, should Congress take legislative action to lift the ban.
But Mr. Obama is playing the Washington shell game, pretending to seek change while actually preventing it. Congress gets a pass for the rest of the year while waiting for the Defense Department to complete its study. Liberal members can tell their constituents they are fighting the good fight, and moderate Democrats won't have to defend a potentially troublesome vote on their records come election time. The debate is dead for this election cycle. Mission accomplished.
Mr. Obama's supporters among the homosexual activist community have been increasingly restive over his failure to address the issue. A liberal Democratic president with huge margins in both houses should be able to deliver on such an important election promise, but Mr. Obama lacks stamina even on issues he says he cares about passionately. In order to claim some forward movement, the administration is reportedly constructing a more lenient enforcement framework, but this had already been the practice under George W. Bush's administration, during which gay discharges dropped more than 50 percent.
The White House may see this as a way to rally the base and firm up Mr. Obama's softening poll numbers, but the homosexual constituency is unlikely to desert the Democrats. Sen. Scott Brown's worst performance in last month's special senatorial election in Massachusetts was in homosexual-friendly Provincetown. Recent polling shows that a majority of Americans would support changing the law, but it is not a priority issue nationally, and for those who follow the debate closely, it is strongly polarizing. If nothing else, it can serve as a distraction from the ruinous trillion-and-a-half-dollar deficit in Mr. Obama's irresponsible 2011 budget proposal.
Now is not the time for a change in the law. The country is fighting two wars and mounting a major relief operation in Haiti. The force is stretched thin and under stress. It would be difficult for our fighting men and women to cope with implementing such a radical policy change.
But the good news is that nothing substantive will happen anytime soon. President Obama is hiding behind process and rhetoric. Homosexual activists may want a victory on this issue, but Mr. Obama is unlikely to be the president to give it to them.