CHARLOTTE, NC — Each morning at the Democratic National Convention, delegations gather for breakfast to plan the day and hear from a couple of speakers. On Tuesday, the Rhode Island delegation was visited by the VP of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) David Rolf and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Douglas Wilson, one of the architects of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Wilson, who served as the highest-ranking openly gay senior official at the Pentagon shared his perspective on DADT and the Obama administration.
For Wilson, the most significant fact about the repeal was the way it was accepted by the men and women of the armed forces. “The greatest testament,” he said, “Was that nothing happened. The earth did not shift.”
He praised the Obama administration for the support they had shown to the troops — not just with the repeal of this measure, but also in hosting earlier this year the first state dinner ever for returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
And his respect extended to President Obama’s role as Commander in Chief as well. “I was glad to work for an administration where the President can show he’s tough — but not stupid.”
The other guest at yesterday’s breakfast offered thoughts on the election from the vantage point of the 2-million member SEIU. In remarks that presaged the floor speech by SEIU President Mary Kay Henry later that night, Rolf stressed the differing visions of labor rights offered by Obama and Romney.
The Republican party, he said, “Led a generation-long assault on every institution that supports the middle class.”
“And I’m not a conspiracy theorist,” he said of the Republicans. “They tell you everything they’re going to do.”
That’s why SEIU was working hard to re-elect the president with member contacts, outreach in swing states, and financial support through 527 groups. He lamented the necessary evil of large-dollar campaigns, but noted pragmatically, “There’s no reason you should bring a butter knife to a gun fight.”