Friday, April 27, 2012

Marine Jackass Poster Gets The Boot

This past Wednesday, Brigadier General Daniel Yoo accepted the recommendation of the Marine Discharge Board and ordered that Sgt. Gary Stein receive an other-than-honorable discharge for posting an unfavorable picture depicting Barack Obama on a doctored Jackass movie poster. I’ve been having mixed feelings about the discharge during the entire course of the proceedings.

Sgt. Stein was first demoted to lance corporal as a result of his activities on Facebook. That seemed like sufficient punishment to me. But General Yoo and the Board decided that was not sufficient. Even a Commander-in-Chief who is in a permanent Jackass hole has a right to expect that his own men won’t attempt to embarrass him publicly. It also seems to me that anyone using Facebook should know by now that there is no such thing as a “private comment” on a site which is the epitome of the very public social network.

Nobody is more of a First Amendment believer than I. But Sgt. Stein forgot that he is a member of the Armed Forces, and the rules are different for them. The Uniform Code of Military Justice restricts the rights of active-duty service personnel from making disparaging public remarks about their commanding officers, and Supreme Court decisions have upheld those restrictions. The First Amendment doesn’t even protect employees who publicly criticize their companies and their bosses in the private sector. You’re free to say whatever you want, but you can’t say it while you’re working for the person or company you’re criticizing.

Which brings me to the point of truly admiring Sgt. Stein while at the same time wondering what his motivation was. Oh, I know the obvious part. He thinks Barack Obama is a dangerous, weak-spined, dishonest politician who shouldn’t be the commander-in-chief of a boy scout troop. But why now? The sergeant was months away from having his full military pension kick in. With an other-than-honorable discharge, he loses those benefits. That seemed foolhardy to me. Discretion is the better part of valor, after all, and nobody knows that better than a Marine for whom honor is a basic belief.

But I kept thinking about it, and began to wonder if rather than foolhardy, his actions were actually a high form of valor. The presidential election is mere months away, and when we elect a president, we elect a commander-in-chief. Perhaps Sgt. Stein had the same thought as Obama—“we can’t wait.” The safe course would have been to wait, collect his pension, and then go public after retirement. But the safe course would have meant that Sgt. Stein’s views wouldn’t have been heard until after the elections. Surely he must have known that his actions were not going to go unnoticed and unpunished.

The rules about making disparaging remarks are sufficiently vague such that the Department of Defense will be revising the rules to clarify what can be said and what can’t. That does seem to mitigate in Sgt. Stein’s favor. But long-standing civil and military legal precedent says that making a correction after the fact does not prove that those who made the corrections were wrong in the first place. The law favors improvement, and therefore doesn’t allow it as evidence of wrongdoing.

Sgt. Stein has received support from many sources, some obvious, others less so. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California), who is a Marine Corps reservist, says that “there’s only one upside to this whole thing which is that the Marine Corps recognizes its guidelines are out of date and that they need to be updated.” But Sgt. Stein has also received legal advice and support from the ACLU, which believes that the First Amendment does apply to Sgt. Stein’s actions.

In the words of Yogi Berra, “it ain’t over till it’s over.” I have no doubt that Sgt. Stein will not go quietly. There are still procedures for having the decision overturned. It also seems unlikely to me that a man brave enough (or foolhardy enough) to call Obama a “domestic enemy” on a site he created (while on active duty) called The Armed Forces Tea Party is suddenly going to go mum. After all, Obama is a disaster both as president and as commander-in-chief, and as a civilian Stein will have access to an even larger audience to address with that obvious truth.

Moreover, whether Obama and the political generals like it or not, Stein will now have the full protection of the First Amendment as to political speech which he lacked as an active duty Marine. Whether he comes off as a man who risked his career to point out that the government is rotting from the head down or simply an angry dissident is up to Stein himself.

Thoughts, anyone?

26 comments:

AndrewPrice said...

The guy should be discharged.

Like Obama or not, it is simply not acceptable in our military to have soldiers taking public shots at their commanders or their president. The military is not a playground for people looking to stir up partisan politics. And I don't care if they are taking shots at a Republican or a Democrat, it is simply not something we should be encouraging or allowing.

Conservatives talk about respecting unit cohesion and keeping the military depoliticized, and this is the perfect example where conservatives need to stand on principle. Glorifying or excusing his actions just because we don't like Obama goes against everything conservative believe about the relationship between the military and our society. To support this idiot risks opening floodgates that will endanger soldiers in the future as it breaks down the bonds which hold the military together.

Moreover, if this idiot had serious concerns he could have reported those to his chain of command and then even testified before Congress about them. That is allowable. Going this route was childish and stupid -- and a guy near retirement should have known that.

So let's hope conservatives (especially talk radio -- who seem to have gotten stupid these days and no long worry about their own hypocrisy or the long term effects of the things they blather) don't embrace this guy just because they are suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome. This idiot is not a hero.

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

I am with Andrew. The Marine was not supposed to show his political stripes while he is in uniform. Yes, in private bull sessions you can sound off and even be commended, but in public, you are to be as indifferent as possible.

What the ACLU is seeking here is to break the block of voters and create a politicized military. That is a compromised military.

Tennessee Jed said...

agreed; a no brainer

Tehachapi Tom said...

Hawk
You made a thoughtful and interesting point where, as I read, you allow that possibly the Sgt. placed country above self.
That thinking and action is typical of a US Marine.
Possibly the Sgt. feels the countries enemies,
both within and outside MUST be confronted.
Tough call is whether it is a military version
of civil unrest or a bad choice of timing on
the part of the Sgt.
As for First Amendment rights what about the fellow, in Georgia I think, who blogged about his method of weight loss. He stated what his diet was and how much weight he had lost. He did not say or recommend this was something others had to or should follow. Now he is facing 120 days in jail because this Government claims he needed a license to offer health advise. Mooshell does it on National TV, between vacations, and I'm sure she does not have a license. Government double standards?
In any case Semper Fi

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: As I said, I have mixed emotions about this, but I not about the discharge. I absolutely support what he said, but where he said it and whom he said it to required his dismissal. If he did it not expecting to be cashiered out of the service, then he is indeed an idiot. But my musings were about whether he did it knowing he would be discharged in order to make a point that he couldn't have made so forcefully had he not risked his job and his military pension.

We're free to make all the nasty remarks about Obama that we choose to make as civilians, at least until Obama and his liberal fascists figure out a way to shut us down. I just find it very hard to believe that Stein actually thought he wouldn't suffer serious consequences that we civilians wouldn't suffer when he made his remarks. So my query, which will undoubtedly be answered sometime in the future, was why did he do it? His dismissal wasn't the point of the article, his motives were.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: As I said to Andrew, I am not questioning the right and perhaps even the obligation of the military to discharge active military personnel who publicly criticize their commanders, particularly their commander-in-chief. In fact, I made that clear in the second and third paragraphs of the article, which you might want to re-read then reconsider your response.

There have been many bloggers who have criticized the military for discharging Stein. Please note that I did not do that. In fact, the point of the article was to get our readers thinking about why he would do something that would almost inevitably result in his discharge and loss of pension. Was he stupid? Was he foolhardy? Or did he choose a course of action that would destroy his career in order to make a point that would require no risk at all had he been a civilian?

As the nephew of a much-decorated (now deceased) Marine Corps colonel who got his field commission at Iwo Jima, I am fully aware of the vital necessity of good military order and respect for the chain of command. He would have agreed with Stein's discharge, as do I. But like me, he would have asked "why did he do it?" That was the question the article asked, not whether he should have been discharged.

T-Rav said...

Good summation, LawHawk.

I don't object to the discharge per se, I do object to what seems like an inconsistent response from the military. Either discharge him or bust him down a few ranks, don't do one and then the other because you're worried how it looks. But the last institution we need to be politicized is the military, so this was regretfully necessary.

I can't imagine why he did it, though. Sometimes, there's just no explanation for these things.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: The no-brainer is the discharge. Done, and done. As to why Stein did what he did, I'm not so sure that's as clear as even I thought originally. My first reaction was the same as Andrew's and Joel's--"what an idiot." I'm just not nearly so clear on his motivation. If he thought he'd get away with it, then he is indeed an idiot. If he had other motivations, such as the ones I mused on in the article, then I'm not so sure that what he did was idiotic. Punishable, yes. Idiotic? Maybe, but I'm not entirely convinced of that, yet.

rlaWTX said...

If you read Micheal Yon, then you've been hearing about this for a while. From his coverage, it seems there is a huge difference in how the branches handle this type of infraction (Army would have stopped with the demotion) and other online-based bad behavior.

As for this particular case, I wonder how much is the USMC brass kissing up to the CinC as military budget cuts are looming.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tehachapi Tom: We always question the right of the government to interfere in public expressions of opinion for the civilian population. Your example of the case in Georgia is an example of the government squelching free speech by hiding behind rules and regulations while ignoring the Constitution. However, that doesn't really fit into the mold of the military limiting free speech when it potentially interferes with good military discipline and respect for command.

But you did catch my point in the article. Whatever his motivations, Stein was almost begging to be discharged, losing his rank, his job, and his pension. Given that fact, why did he do it? Others have concluded he's an idiot. I'm not so sure, but it's possible.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: That there is no explanation might actually be the right explanation. LOL As we've discussed, no military man has the right to make such inflammatory remarks about his commander-in-chief that we as civilians have a right and an obligation to do. And that's not the issue. He was discharged, and rightfully so. So my question remains, why did he do it? Maybe we'll find out once he's completely out of the service and free to say many of the things we've said here on the site (and will continue to say). On the other hand, he may just fade into obscurity after his fifteen minutes of fame.

StanH said...

I do believe the discharge is appropriate, however I wont call his move idiocy, but that of a principled Marine believing it an act of valor. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing several Marines in my life, stupid doesn’t come to mind, foolish may be more apt.

LawHawkRFD said...

rlaWTX: I actually handled a small matter for Michael Yon when he first started writing his dispatches from Iraq (a local radical newspaper in San Francisco had misstated something he had written). Yon has been right in the thick of things with the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I suspect he would have to agree that the discharge was proper even if a reduction in rank might have been preferable.

I don't see this as a matter of the political generals rushing to curry favor with the temporary commander-in-chief as I did with the prosecution of the SEALs. The discharge was well within the discretion of the military authorities, so I keep going back to the question "why did he do it?" I haven't gotten a firm, dispositive answer to that question yet.

LawHawkRFD said...

Stan: That was certainly one of the thoughts I had behind Stein's action. I'm not ready to declare him an idiot or a hero until I see more of what he says was his motivation and what the facts ultimately support.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: I agree on the punishment, I agree on the need for military discipline, and I still want to know what his motivation was. As I said in the article: "That seemed foolhardy to me. Discretion is the better part of valor, after all, and nobody knows that better than a Marine for whom honor is a basic belief."

In the meantime, I have a corresponding thought. The last thing this country needs is a commander-in-chief who doesn't know what to do. I'm free to say that. Stein knew or should have known that he wasn't free to say that.

tryanmax said...

This story is coming out in bibs and bobs, and after only a few minutes research, the only thing I’m convinced of is that the story we are hearing is not reflective of actual events. The media is making a really big deal about his Facebook group, but as far as I can tell the page itself falls comfortably into what is allowable under DOD Directive 1344.10, even without the disclaimer he was ordered to post.

That said, Stein’s damning remark is this: "As an active Marine I say, 'Screw Obama' and I will not follow orders from him," which he posted on a separate Facebook page. That statement is a clear violation of 10 USC § 888 - Art. 88, as referenced by DOD Directive 1344.10. (LawHawk, let me quibble with you a bit and say that it was not where and to whom he said it that requires dismissal, but that he directly associated his words with his position.) Stein is also convicted of violating Article 134, UCMJ, which is simply a troublemaker clause. I found all this online in only a few minutes, and that should be the entire story.

Directive 1344 is extremely permissible and even the "Jackass" post could be counted tolerable by it. I think it only gets included in news stories for sensationalism. It is certainly far less onerous than the Hatch Act, which a relative of mine is subject to.

As to his motives, they are obvious. He wants to be Joe the Plumber. (Gary the Marine?) I don’t think he’s an idiot or an opportunist but a combination of the two.

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: Interesting stuff, and thanks. Your mention of the rules under which he was discharged were mentioned in passing in the article, but you have fleshed them out a bit. As Rep. Hunter said, at least better-clarified rules will be issued as a result of this case, though too late to be of any help to Stein. Your point about "where and to whom" is well taken. The law is often about "quibbles." Directive 1344 involves that bugaboo that we find in both the civil and military arenas--discretion. When the decision could go either way, the determining authority has the discretion to make a final decision. We may disagree with it, but it has the force of law. The Jackass post could indeed be found tolerable, but it could also be found intolerable, which is of course what the General and the Committee found.

I don't find the motive as obvious as you do, but I certainly find it highly plausible.

Tennessee Jed said...

Absolutely, Hawk. I was speaking strictly about the discharge. We may never know all he was considering at the time or what his expectations were as to what might happen. Hopefully, the guy who was funding Gingrich's super-pac can at least take care of him financially.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: That would be good. Despite agreeing that he should have been discharged, I would still like to see him explain why he did what he did as well as learn how to conduct this kind of criticism of the president in the private sector. Gingrich could certainly teach him how to eviscerate the president (metaphorically speaking, of course), and not facing future poverty because of what he said and the loss of his pension would be good too.

tryanmax said...

From what I heard, it sounds like the money is in a trust fund that Zimmerman himself cannot access. According to the same news brief, the reason for not knowing the amount at the bail hearing is because it was not yet received. But that information still didn't prevent the anchor reporting it from implying that Zimmerman had lied. It sounds like you may have heard something different which underscores the notion that the facts are not fully known/understood by those reporting.

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk and tryanmax,

There were actually three accounts set up for Zimmerman. Two from his friends and one from him. At the time of the bail hearing, Zimmerman hadn't had any access to the accounts. After the bail was set at $150,000, some of the money was accessed and that was when it was discovered that Over $204,000 was given. Since then O'Mara has taken over the accounts. Two have been shut down and the last one is on hiatus.

Zimmerman didn't hide them from his attorney. The money will be disbursed through his attorney. What Crump is upset at is Zimmerman getting money and none coming to him, until he gets to SUE Florida for the wrongful death of Trayvon. That is why he is involved at all any way. Also, it depends on the immunity hearing. If the judge determines that Zimmerman is immune from civil suits, Crump will not be able to get his $ BIG $ PAYDAY $.

The real big question is why do Trayvon's parents travel to Los Angeles? Who is paying them since they are not working now? Who is paying for their plane tickets and hotel rooms? Why Los Angeles, the incident happened in Florida?

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: I didn't say Zimmerman hid the money, I said that his attorney's own statement was that he didn't know all the details of money that had been received. He does now. The comment about "hiding the money" was in relation to what the prosecution might argue if it moves for higher bail. That doesn't make the allegation true.

Crump is a novice compared to O'Mara, and Zimmerman doesn't have to worry about some clever lawyer grabbing his money. As for why Los Angeles? That's where the crazed movie stars who support Mumia abu Jamal hang out. Even if Zimmerman is found not guilty and they fail at a civil suit, they'll still have their money men and women in Hollywood to make a leftist movie version of the incident and the trial. Like Danny Glover, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Mike Farrell and the Oliver Stone family.

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

Do you think Hollywood would like to spend twenty million for another failed movie? Especially if Zimmerman is totally exonerated?

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: The lawyer saying he didn't know how much money there was could very easily relate to the fact that an accounting hadn't been done yet. As Joel say, O'Mara has now accounted for all the money received so far, and is administering it from a trust account which the court can inspect.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: It hasn't stopped them so far. They use the money they make from their successful fluff movies to pay for their conspiracy theory and leftist movies. They do it because "doing the right thing" is more important than money. They actually believe that. Of course if you took away all the money they make on their other movies, they might not be so determined to do what they consider the right thing. Principle only goes so far, you know. LOL

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I agree that the military was within their rights to demote and discharge this Marine.
Particularly in light of his refusal to follow Obama's orders.

Had he said something like: "I refuse to follow any unlawful orders," he would've been okay, but I'm sure he knew that.

I concur, he went out of his way to violate the UCMJ so I thought perhaps he had an ulterior motive.

However, now he has apologized to Obama.
Why apologize now? Is it possible he really didn't know the full consequences of his actions?
If so, he really is a fool for having that many years in and not knowing the UCMJ.
I doubt he suddenly felt bad about what he wrote and that the apology is heartfelt.

That being said I agree with Individualist. These punishments have been enforced unequally and sporadically and I saw far worse under President Bush with no punishment at all given.

Then again, Obama is the most thin-skinned President ever, and if this Marine didn't know that he's more foolish than I thought he was.

However, I think he should be punished regardless of who the President is.
As Anndrew pointed out the Marine could've testafied before Congress.

BTW, too bad Kerry can't be prosecuted for all the lies he made while testafying before Congress after he left Vietnam.
This Marine was a fool but Kerry was and is a lying scumbag.

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