The Issues at Stake

The story of Gary Stein as portrayed in the mainstream media reads this way: an active-duty United States Marine was discharged for criticizing the president on facebook. NBC (via msnbc.com) says:

“The U.S. Marine Corps has decided to discharge a sergeant for criticizing President Barack Obama on Facebook.”

If true, this would represent a gross violation of the rights to self-expression all Americans hold very dear.

Conservative media and activist groups have adopted the proudly conservative Stein as a poster boy, saying he was railroaded because his political views differed from the current president’s. From the website of Oath Keepers, a conservative group:

“This [situation] is all because Sgt. Stein dared to found the Armed Forces Tea Party Facebook page, and because, on a separate Facebook page run by someone else, in a discussion thread conversation with other Marines, Sgt. Stein strongly expressed his opposition to some of Obama’s unconstitutional policies and expressed his intent to refuse unlawful orders.”

Fortunately for our society, not to mention the fabric of our armed forces, (1) the mainstream media has oversimplified the issues involved and gotten this case’s interpretation completely wrong, and (2) the conservative media and its allies have also missed the major point of Stein’s discharge.

Here are three examples of Stein’s publicly available writing:

“Screw Obama…I will not follow all orders from him.” (source: CNN, April 14, 2012)

Sergeant Stein has called the president “the economic and religious enemy.” (source: Christian Science Monitor, April 6, 2012)

Stein called the president a “domestic enemy,” echoing words in the Marine Corps enlistment oath (source: The Hill, April 25, 2012). What Stein seems to miss, ironically, is the rest of the oath. Here it is, in its entirety [my emphasis added in bold]:

“I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

So, this is not a matter of an American citizen expressing political opinions, whether on facebook or elsewhere. This is a matter of maintaining our trust in civilian authority over our military. By his writings, Stein has called into question his commitment to fulfilling his sacred oath as a Marine, specifically, his intention to follow the orders of the democratically elected President of the United States, no matter who that president happens to be. Marines don’t get to decide whether or not they’ll follow the president’s orders based on their particular party or political philosophy.

The American electorate gets to make that call.

13 thoughts on “The Issues at Stake

  1. Sorry Brent this one is off course. This man made it to the rank of seargent following orders and now he is in direct opposition of his commander in chief. He’s wrong and he should have quit the marines to serve as a journalist, blogger or creative writer. His job is to defend freedom and follow all orders of his commander in chief. Save the opinion for the bar. End of story

  2. Oh FFS- you do realize that anyone that signs up for the armed forces is covered by the uniform code of justice- which forbids critisizing the chain of command? Not unlike those like me who went/was sent to a private school- where our constitutional rights were essentially forfeit.

    Is it right? In my opinion, no. Is there a reason for it- most certainly yes.

    But don’t try and paint this as some travesty of justice- which it is not. It is part and parcel of what everyone who signs on agrees to.

    1. Thanks for your help but I didn’t miss anything in the oath. I chose to emphasize the part I wanted to talk about – namely, that Marines promise to obey the orders of our democratically elected president. You can emphasize whatever you want on your blog (I see that you do.). Lots of people have lots of opinions about any president, including this one. I, for one, don’t want Marines, Sailors, or Soldiers deciding that their commander-in-chief is the enemy of the people. We (the people) decided otherwise, thank you.

      1. Ahh, the grandiose idea that because Obama was elected by a majority, somehow, that in itself means that he’s not an enemy of the Constitution. A falsely defined and illogical argument, I’d say. When Hitler defeated France and Poland, he was rooted on by a multiple million majority of Germans, and yet, Hitler was, even at that time, and enemy of Germany. Defending the constitution is the greatest American cause. It’s a greater cause than supporting one man, even if that man favored the Constitution as written, which Barack Obama does not. Obama has defiled the office of the Presidency. Time to throw him out and start over, as the constitution says.

      2. Ahh, indeed. I’ve heard it so many times before I could have had it tattooed. The electorate is so uniformed and stupid but you, you know better. Of course.

  3. “The danger to America is not Barack Obama but a citizenry capable of entrusting an inexperienced man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama Presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their President. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America . Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive a Barack Obama. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools such as those who made him their President.”

    1. I don’t know the source of this quote (you didn’t provide it) but Americans have proven time and again we can outlive the fools we elect, not that I’ve ever suggest Barack Obama is one. He isn’t.

  4. it doesn’t matter a fig if Mr. Obama was elected by a majority or not. He was elected, and not selected by the Supreme Court. He is our president. and that Marine broke his oath. End of story.

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