By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON _ While most political observers are anxious to hear what President Obama will say Wednesday night about health care reform and the economy, Washington is also abuzz today about what the State of the Union address might contain about gays in the military.
Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, set off the guessing game Monday when he told reporters that the White House asked him to postone an announcement about an upcoming hearing on the so-called 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy because the president plans to address the issue.
The Michigan Democrat said he didn't know what Obama plans to say, but speculation is mounting that he will call on Congress to repeal the 1993 law that established the policy that bars gays from serving openly in the ranks -- either by proposing his own legislation or backing a draft bill in the House sponsored by Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, an Iraq War veteran who represents suburban Philadelphia.
Such a move is bound to be controversial but could also be an effort by Democrats to bait Republicans into a debate over a social issue -- one that polling shows has the support of many independent voters -- while couching it in national security terms.
Obama, who made repeal of the ban a campaign pledge, has long said that in a time of war the military can't afford to lose a single qualified soldier.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.