Glenn Greenwald confirms what I wrote five years ago: that the militarization of our politics was a Bush/neocon goal and that it has succeeded. Joe Biden, a supposed Democrat, is referring to Obama as our next Commander-in-Chief.
Biden’s formulation here is a particularly creepy rendition, since he’s taunting opponents of Obama that, come Tuesday, they will be forced to refer to him as “our commander in chief Barack Obama” (Sarah Palin, in the very first speech she delivered after being unveiled as the Vice Presidential candidate, said of John McCain: “that’s the kind of man I want as our commander in chief,” and she’s been delivering that same line in her stump speech ever since).
This is much more than a semantic irritant. It’s a perversion of the Constitution, under which American civilians simply do not have a “commander in chief”; only those in the military — when it’s called into service — have one (Art. II, Sec. 2).
Worse, “commander in chief” is a military term, which reflects the core military dynamic: superiors issue orders which subordinates obey. That isn’t supposed to be the relationship between the U.S. President and civilian American citizens, but because the mindless phrase “our commander in chief” has become interchangeable with “the President,” that is exactly the attribute — supreme, unquestionable authority in all arenas — which has increasingly come to define the power of the President.
Actually, Glenn doesn’t explicitly note Bush’s role in this attempt to turn America into a military dictatorship, or at least prepare the ground for it, but he sees the results clearly enough.
This is also a crucial aspect of the still broader trend of vesting more and more unchecked, centralized power in the White House. The more the President is glorified and elevated (he’s not merely a public servant or a political official, but “our Commander in Chief”), the more natural it is to believe that he should have the power to do what he wants without anyone interfering or questioning.
Whether deliberate or not [it was], the chronic assignment to the President of this title is a method for training the citizenry to conceive of our political leaders, especially the President, as someone whose authority is naturally and desirably expansive and absolute. He’s supreme. It converts civilians into soldiers and Presidents into supreme rulers. It’s no surprise that this is the shape our government has now taken; this phraseology both reflects and helps to enable the transformation of the President into an unaccountable, virtually omnipotent figure.
As I pointed out, more than phraseology has gone on here. Bush and His All-Boy Band have been working hard to do this from Bush’s very first run in 2000. But Glenn will catch on eventually. He’s a smart kid. I’m more worried about us.
We seem to have accepted the idea that America’s civilian govt is a farce or a front, that our real business is as a military power, and that the president’s main job is as C-in-C. I always thought it was odd that no one seemed nonplussed by Bush’s adoption of uniforms during his first campaign and the extraordinary numbers of military bases he picked to make campaign speeches from. He almost seemed to be running for the Joint Chiefs of Staff rather than the presidency, and this was before 9/11.
It has been very disturbing to see how quickly and painlessly the Democrats, led by the conservative contingent, were able to absorb this anti-American attitude and declare it to be quintessentially American. That’s the kind of day-for-night sleight-of-hand one expects from the lying, autocratic Republicans, not from the party of FDR and Kennedy. Yet they slipped into the role as effortlessly as if it had always been that way.
Which, as Glenn explains and I warned all those years ago, led to an equally casual throwing aside of the Constitution in the name of WAR when Bush demanded it. I have said again and again that most of the Democratic caving-in to Bush had far less to do with cowardice than with the sad fact that they simply agreed with him: the Constitution isn’t as important as the orders the C-in-C gives, which, in a military culture, should be blindly and unquestioningly obeyed. It is the reason, as Glenn says, for our media’s seeing its role as propagandist to a degree that wasn’t true even during WW II when we were actually involved in a real war, not a designer war cooked up by oil barons like Cheney and Rice to expand their portfolios. It is the reason the abominable and patently unConstitutional PATRIOT Act could sail through Congress with barely a demur.
Among the intrusive, illegal, and authoritarian crimes Bush and His Gang have perpetrated, the militarization of America could conceivably be the worst in the long run, not because we the people accept the idea but because both reigning parties do.