Monday, October 19, 2009

First day, second term

Andrew Sullivan has an excellent take on why Obama isn't the wishy-washy weakling some people in the media are claiming him to be.

And he contains a throwaway line that surprised me:

"My sense is that on the really divisive issues -- accountability for torture and gay rights, for example -- he intends to wait for a second term."

This was always the obvious approach... but it's surprising to hear Sullivan say it. The two issues that Sullivan's been hammering Obama on are an investigation of the CIA and a repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (the last of which he's been hitting hard for the last couple of weeks.)

Even though I agree with Sullivan on the substance of gay rights/an investigation of enhanced interrogation -- they're both no-brainers -- they're also certainly not worth throwing a presidency away on right now.

Not that these aren't important issues. They are. But health care, Iraq, Afghanistan and the economy are also important issues. As commander-in-chief, Obama can repeal DADT any time he likes by executive order.

I think Jim DeMint was on to something when he said that healthcare was "Obama's Waterloo." Getting it through Congress is his most important priority right now. Anything that weakens that goal is a political misstep. After all, let's not forget that was exactly how Clinton played things in 1993: He figured that making a reversal on gays in the military would be easy (something he could just sign by executive order) and was unprepared for the huge fallout from that -- which led directly to DADT and weakened Clinton for the truly hard battle of healthcare later that year. The rest is history.

Obama still needs all his political capital to get that monster passed, and when he does he's going to need capital for a second stimulus (or jobs creation bill) as well as the two wars the U.S. is currently engaged in. Then he'll need to see how the political map looks after the 2010 elections.

My prediction: A repeal of DOMA and DADT on the first day, second term.