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By Ed O'Keefe

The Eye fielded several queries during Tuesday's Post Politics Hour about health care, Fox News, the Nobel Peace Prize, "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and pay-for-performance programs. Highlights appear below:

Baltimore: Did Congress shoot down the idea of pay for performance this past Friday and decide to stay with the current GG scale.

Ed O'Keefe: The short answer is yes.

As I wrote last week, the longer answer is that the Defense authorization bill repealed the National Security Personnel System (NSPS) and suspended a similar pay-for-performance program used to compensate hundreds of thousands of DOD and intelligence community employees, but left open the possibility that future defense secretaries and OPM directors could present detailed alternatives for a pay-for-performance plan.

Lawmakers, federal employees, their unions and other outside observers generally agree that NSPS failed to achieve its goal and that federal employees should continue to use the GS system or a stronger, better executed pay-for-performance option.


Winnipeg, Canada: Can you tell me what's so complicated about abandoning the 'don't ask, don't tell' practice in your military? President Obama has repeatedly spoken out against it, and he's the commander-in-chief. Yet somehow, the time is never right to repeal it. As an outsider, it reminds me of the South African politicians of a few decades ago who said they wanted to repeal apartheid, but the time just wasn't right. This isn't like emptying Gitmo or bringing the troops home from Iraq, both of which pose complicated logistical problems. As far as I can tell, it's a stroke-of-the-pen thing, sort of like the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. What am I missing?

Ed O'Keefe: It requires a mix of executive and legislative action, and President Obama has said he wants to end it, but wants to make sure the government does so properly. That means a mix of executive actions that he can take and Congressional legislation that will make it law -- meaning his predecessors can't enter office and reverse his executive decisions.

It also requires a culture shift at the Pentagon, where many current and former officials support DADT's repeal, but others still oppose the idea.

I refer y'all back to what Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry -- the most senior openly gay federal official in American history -- said in June after Obama extended some benefits to the partners or spouses of gay federal employees: Berry basically said that when Obama leaves office, the gay community will be happy with what he did for them.

Stay tuned.


Minneapolis: Hi Ed -- Back to DADT for a moment. I'm a gay person, and I think the policy is a travesty, but did those in attendance at the HRC event Saturday really think that Obama, in what was a relatively brief speech, would lay out a specific timeline? Let's be real -- he's not going to box himself in like that. What do you think?

Ed O'Keefe: Nobody should have expected he'd state a clear timeline. As with most interest groups, they're just happy that the president devoted moments of his precious time to their organization or cause.

And look what he said: "I will repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell."

A good start yes, but I know of several gay rights activist impatiently waiting for more than just words.


Roberts Supreme Court: The SCOTUS is actually going to hear Jeff Skillings appeal. Can you believe this? The lower courts have upheld ALL of his convictions.

Is this what we can expect from the "Roberts Supreme Court?

Ed O'Keefe: Ehem, I have a rule about opining AFTER I read up on the facts.

Here are the facts on why SCOTUS took the Skilling case:

" asking the court to consider whether the federal "honest services" fraud statute was applied correctly. The justices already have two other cases on their schedule dealing with the honest services law, a favorite tool of federal prosecutors in white-collar crime and public corruption cases.

"The law has been criticized as vague and unfair because the government need not prove, in some instances, that a defendant personally benefited from the alleged fraud.

"Skilling also claims that he did not receive a fair trial in Houston following Enron's collapse, describing "blistering daily attacks" in the media. "Skilling was pronounced guilty throughout Houston long before trial," his lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli, said in his court filing.

"A ruling in his favor on the fair trial claim probably would result in a new trial. The effect of the ruling on honest services is unclear since Skilling was convicted on other charges as well, including securities fraud."

It seems, after reading the facts (read the story here), that Skilling has good legal grounds on which to ask SCOTUS to consider his case. A ruling on the "honest services" statute has already been requested in other cases, so it seems the legal community needs a ruling from the high court. And like him or hate him, Skilling's attorneys seem to have a fair argument to make about whether he got a fair trial in Houston.

Read Tuesday's entire Post Politics Hour live discussion here.

By Ed O'Keefe  | October 13, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
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