The President of the United States wears many hats. He or she is the Chief Executive, the Chief of State, Commander in Chief and arguably the world's most important Chief Diplomat, etc. Among these many roles, I would argue that the role of Commander in Chief, leader of the world's strongest military, is the most challenging and important hats to be worn. As a veteran, I ask for a bit of bias latitude on this point for two reasons. First, as Commander in Chief you are not only expected to make life and death decisions that have worldwide impact, you are also expected to do so with a level of prejudice and due diligence that honors the lives in your hands. Every service member that has enlisted, has pledged their life in service to their country, and by default, you. They have dedicated not only the very breath in their bodies, but the livelihoods of their families. Spouses and children sacrifice logistic ties to family and friends, for years of service. They do this in return for humble pay and the honor of serving at the pleasure of their country and their the president. This is a tremendous act of faith, as they sacrifice their very freedom by becoming government property in defense of their countryman's freedoms and values. Second, the Commander in Chief is expected to serve as a role model to the rest of the civilized world. World leaders have long look to the United States for leadership in the fight for civil rights, humanitarian efforts, and overall diplomacy.
If we can concede that these expectations, and responsibilities are all a part of being the Commander in Chief of the United States, then one must question why it is that a military service member is held accountable to the Uniform Military Code of Justice, and the Commander in Chief seems to be immune from such scrutiny?
There is an iconic movie, "A Few Good Men," where a young lawyer (Tom Cruise) must make the dangerous choice to accuse a highly decorated General (Jack Nicholson) of treason. If the accusation cannot be substantiated, he will not only destroy his career, but face court martial himself. While we all know this was a fun and powerful piece of fiction, the premise of this risk is based in fact. You had better be damn sure you are right, before you throw accusations of treason around in the military. Now imagine if the accusation in that movie had been made against a former President, not a General? What do we think would have happened had Jack Nicholson's character never had a reason to speak the famous quote, "you can't handle the truth!" Where would that have left the young lawyer, if not the brigg? Donald J Trump has accused former president Obama of "wiretapping," a slanderous accusation in a civilian court of law, let alone a military court, that is far less forgiving. We are currently watching daily, as a sitting President is accusing a former President of the treasonous act of launching unsanctioned "wiretapping," proves to be baseless. Is this not a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, if no other way by meeting the standard of conduct unbecoming?
What about the notion that a Commander in Chief should be leading by example?To illustrate this point, allow me to share an experience with you. When I was in the Navy, going through my Aircrew training, I was stationed with sailors and marines. A young marine who had come from a long line of marines, was in a common area telling a joke. The joke seemed to be a bit off color and another service member that was in earshot of the young marine, overheard the story being told and took offense. The service member walked over to the young marine and stated that the joke was offensive and asked the marine to refrain from delivering the punchline. The young marine knew that the joke appeared to be heading in a direction that might be offensive, however, he was convinced that the punchline would coarse correct the service members feeling about the joke as the punchline took a dramatic twist. The young marine protested and insisted that the service member just give him a chance to finish, as he was sure it would produce a laugh. He completed the joke, and his friends erupted with laughter. However, the offended service member did not. The service member was so put off by his insistence to complete the joke, that the punchline itself had no relevance. It had now become a matter of principle to the service member. A simple request to desist from an offensive action was ignored, and he service member filed a complaint. Long story short, the young marine who had intended to dedicate his life to the Corp as his father before him, found himself dishonorably discharged for conduct unbecoming. While I was very put off by the harsh manner in which justice was served, it was very clear that the code of conduct was not to be taken lightly. The question must then be raised, how can a man who expects to hold the "yuge" responsibility of leading the men and women of our military, be a man who dismissed the objectification of women as "locker room" talk? How can he be the man who supports the use of a racist slogan "drain the swamp" as a way of bragging about overturning the country's first African American President's policies? This young marine's life was screwed over "bigly" by a moment of poor judgement, with a stigma that will follow him to his grave. Trump remains unscathed.
How is then, that the Commander in Chief, the leader of all branches of the United States Military not being held to the same standard if not a higher standards of conduct that that of his subordinates? Leadership in the military is communicated first and foremost by example. Additionally, Trump has been engaged in advocating behavior that is contrary to Geneva Convention, making statement that endorse the use of torture and "enhanced" interrogation. He has faced 12 separate allegations of sexual harassment (including the rape of his ex-wife), remains tied to various business deals that have clear conflict if interest concerns (China's recent decision to quickly approve trademarks previously denied prior to his presidency) and repeated lies to the public. How is it that a president, with a laundry list of offenses, has managed to remain free from accountability? Clinton faced impeachment charges based on an interoffice consensual fling with an aid. Something,that while offensive, had no world wide impact. He was not accepting favors from countries, only sexual favors for a hot young aid in the Oval. Offensive? Yes, and he faced impeachment for it. A young marine ready to live in lifelong service to the Corp, is exiled over a bad punchline. Trump proves to be offensive almost daily, with baseless accusations, racially charged innuendo, and questionable business ties and he faces nothing? Where's the justice in this? Could anything be more disrespectful to the men and women who serve our nation? The hypocrisy is shameful to say the least. The legality is questionable and we must ask ourselves, where is the line drawn between service member and Commander in Chief? Is he truly living up to his Oath, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States,[...]", Is he is not meeting the basic standards of conduct becoming an officer? As veteran my vote is a resounding, no! No this man does not deserve, nor has he earned, the salute of any service member. No, this man does not deserve the title of Commander in Chief, an office he clearly does not respect. No, this man should not be President of the United States. After all, NO, he has not and will not honor his Oath.