Boxer right vs. GOP on general

All three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate are blasting Barbara Boxer over her run-in with Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh. Here’s the exchange from June 2009, after the general replied to a question by calling her “ma’am.”:

Boxer: “You know, do me a favor. Could you say ‘senator’ instead of ‘ma’am?'”

General: “Yes, ma’am.”

Boxer: “It’s just a thing, I worked so hard to get that title, so I’d appreciate it, yes, thank you.”

General: “Yes, senator.”

And here’s what the three GOP candidates are doing today:

Get used to seeing a clip of Sen. Barbara Boxer asking a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers brigadier general to call her “senator” rather than “ma’am” during a 2009 hearing.

GOP Senate candidate Tom Campbell has launched a TV ad featuring the clip from last year. His campaign says the new ad is running on cable stations statewide.

“There’s an arrogance that I see right now in the federal government,” Campbell says, before the ad cuts to the Boxer footage….

All three Senate Republican candidates have seized upon the clip. Assemblyman Chuck DeVore has referenced it on the campaign trail, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina used it in her splashy state GOP convention video.

Is Campbell kidding? He must be, because he’s a smart guy who knows better and is a former congressman. The military also is part of the “federal government”! And it’s a subordinate part. Even the president, actually, is not in charge of the military. He’s only the “commander in chief” — that is, the top general.

The Constitution

So, who actually is in charge of the military? Here’s what the U.S. Constitution says, in Section I, Article 8:

The Congress shall have Power….To raise and support Armies….To provide and maintain a Navy….

Sen. Boxer, then, has every right to insist that a general call her whatever she wants. She, along with the rest of the Senate and the House of Representatives, are the true leaders of the military, not the president or the generals.

Chuck DeVore, especially, should understand this, as a retired lieutenant colonel in the California Army National Guard.

I was in the U.S. Army (the Regular Army) for four years myself, 1978-82, and certainly understand it. But so can anybody who just reads the Constitution.

Carly, I suppose, we can excuse because she never was in the military, and didn’t get interested in politics until recently and doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. But she might read the Constitution.

Perfumed princes

This shows how Republicans, especially, need to get over their military worship. The military are are our servants, not the other way around. And their top officers — the generals and admirals — too often are “perfumed princes,” as the late Col. Hackworth used to call them — the real arrogant ones.

And how well have our Perfumed Princes performed lately? We’re still stuck  in quagmires in Afghanistan after eight years, and in Iraq after seven years.  Why haven’t the top generals been fired the way Lincoln fired Gen. McClellan; or Gen. Lloyd Fredenall was relieved of his command, in favor of Gen. Patton, after America lost the Battle of the Kasserine Pass?

Barbara Boxer was right, and should stick to her guns. She should seize on this as an opportunity to remind her GOP opponents that America is a civilian democracy, not a military dictatorship.

— John Seiler


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  1. Mark Percich
    Mark Percich 22 April, 2010, 13:57

    For John Seiler:

    Get a life. I spent 21 years in the military with most of the time in the Pentagon. I guarantee you that everyone in the building understands Article 1 Section 8 much better than our bosses in Congress. Most of Congress was clueless about what the DoD did or why they did it. They were just interested in how to spend the DoD budget in their district. When I saw Barbara Boxer’s rudeness to BG Walsh, I just saw a spoiled, insecure little brat. On military performance, you have all of the qualifications to be a California Senator. It was petty and embarrassing. But then again, so is Senator Boxer.

    The “perfumed princes” of the Army/USMC team performed brilliantly in Iraq-1, Iraq-2, and Afghanistan. If we just had a little leadership at the POTUS level, we would finish off the job in Afghanistan quickly.

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