‘McCain vs. the Constitution’

by Michael Potemra


That’s the title of a Jonathan Chait post on DADT from a couple of days ago, which I only now caught up with. Chait quotes McCain as referring to President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, “neither of which I [McCain] view as a military leader.” Chait pounces: “Isn’t the message that John McCain does not respect civilian control of the military?”

Actually, no. Obama and Gates are not, strictly speaking, military leaders; they are civilian leaders of the military. I doubt strongly that McCain questions civilian control at all; in fact, he is exercising it, as a – civilian, remember – U.S. senator. The generals have their opinion, the leaders of the Executive Branch have theirs – and as a civilian elected representative, McCain is asserting his right to agree with one and disagree with the other. I am pretty confident that when Republicans control the White House, and Democrats the Congress, Chait will appreciate how important this congressional aspect of civilian control really is. (NB. I make this point strictly to insist on fairness for McCain, against what I consider to be an unfounded attack. On the underlying issue, I disagree with him, and favor scrapping DADT.)

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