CNN Political Producer Steve Brusk
At several fundraising events last spring, President Obama found himself the target of hecklers yelling over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.Overturning the military’s policy on gays openly serving was an early campaign promise of candidate Obama. And with his left flank pushing for action, Obama made it part of January’s State of the Union address.
But progress was slow. And as even Obama called for Congress to repeal the law, activists complained Washington wasn’t moving fast enough.
Obama responded to one heckler who interrupted his remarks at a San Francisco fundraiser for Senator Barbara Boxer in May, first saying “maybe he didn't read the newspapers, because we're working with Congress as we speak.’
Later, Obama chided the protester to laughter from the crowd, “C'mon, man, I'm dealing with Congress here. It takes a little bit of time.”
That little bit of time ended up being an additional seven months, with the Senate vote Saturday sending the repeal to President Obama’s desk. In a week where Obama was fending off criticism from liberal supporters over the compromise on tax cut extensions, the president was able to live up to deliver a victory to the left.
While Obama stayed out of sight of cameras Saturday, he called the Senate’s action ‘an historic step” in a written statement.
Obama said the policy “undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend”.
“No longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love”, he said.
He said, “As Commander-in-Chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known.”