A 30-page report from the inspector general for the Department of Defense names President Obama's re-election campaign manager as one of the White House officials briefed on a confidential Pentagon task force survey about repealing the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) policy, the day before a Washington Post story leaked a misleading description of the survey results.
Jim Messina, then the president's deputy chief of staff, was one of five Obama administration staffers who attended a Nov. 9, 2010, meeting at the White House where two Pentagon officials discussed a draft report of the Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) study on DADT. A version of the report's results was included in a Nov. 11 Washington Post story (which first appeared on the Post's Web site at 9:50 p.m. on Nov. 10) with the headline: "Sources: Pentagon group finds there is minimal risk to lifting gay ban during war."
In fact, the CRWG survey of military personnel found that 29.7% of respondents believed there would be a negative impact to repealing the prohibition on open homosexuals in the service, compared to 18.4% who believed it would have a positive impact. Another 32.1% of respondents believed repealing DADT would have a "mixed" impact, while 19.9% said it would have "no impact."
The Post story described the report's result: "More than 70 percent of respondents . . . said the effect of repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy would be positive, mixed or nonexistent, said two sources familiar with the document."
The Pentagon inspector general's report concluded that "the source carefully disclosed specific survey data [to reporters] to support a pro-repeal agenda," and added: "We consider it likely that the primary source disclosed content from the draft [CRWG] Report prior to its release to gain momentum in support of a legislative change during the 'lame duck' session of Congress following the November 2, 2010, elections."
Congress, still under Democrat control during the lame-duck session, approved the repeal legislation which Obama signed into law Dec. 22. The Pentagon IG's report on the leak, prepared in April, was recently obtained by the Center for Military Readiness (CMR), which opposed repeal of the DADT policy that had been implemented by President Clinton in 1993.
The IG report shows that the Pentagon study "was a publicly-funded, pre-scripted production put on just for show," Elaine Donnelly of the CMR said in a statement, adding: "The purpose of the contrived CRWG process was to neutralize military opposition to repeal of the law by manufacturing an illusion of support. The administration misused military personnel, resources, and facilities to help President Obama to deliver on political promises to gay activists at the expense of unknowing troops who became props in the pro-repeal campaign."
Frank Gaffney of the conservative Center for Security Policy, called the inspector general's report a "smoking gun" explaining how Democrats pushed through DADT repeal during the lame-duck session "with scarcely any hearings and extremely limited opportunity for debate."
Messina, known as a "fixer" for the Obama administration, was praised as "unquestionably one of the great unsung heroes of DADT repeal" by Joe Solomonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay-rights group. According to an article in the liberal magazine The Nation, Messina and Solomonese "stood side by side on the Senate floor as the bill cleared the body on December 18. When the sixtieth vote came in, Solmonese said, Messina began to cry. After it was all over, Messina touted repeal as a major victory for the administration and an example of Obama's commitment to his base."
Messina, a former top aide to Montana Democrat Sen. Max Baucus, served as chief of staff on Obama's 2008 campaign and was announced in January as campaign manager for the president's 2012 re-election effort.