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More Norm-Busting by the President

military-seals-white-backgroundWaPo reports:

Trump promised to try to restore higher levels of military funding but also urged the crowd of about 6,500 — many in uniform — to help him push this year’s budget, in which he said he will seek an additional $54 billion in defense spending, through Congress.

“I don’t mind getting a little hand, so call that congressman and call that senator and make sure you get it,” he said, to applause. “And by the way, you can also call those senators to make sure you get health care.”

But Trump’s brief appeal created a potentially awkward tableau at a commissioning event intended to be ceremonial — a commander in chief offering political remarks, and what could even be construed as an order, to the naval officers he commands.

This is seriously inappropriate and violates the fundamental norm of keeping the military out of politics.  The commander and chief should not be making suggestions to the members of the armed forces about legislative or electoral politics.

Such things may seem small, but they can have a significant cumulative effect on broader national politics.  While it is certainly true that the military ultimately operates in the broader realm of the political (as do all things linked to government and policy), they are not supposed to be engaged in partisan politics.  Indeed, a piece from Stars and Stripes back in 2012 noted:

Military rules prohibit participation in “partisan political” events as a speaker or organizer and mandate that servicemembers avoid media interviews in which they advocate “for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.”

Troops are allowed to attend political events as spectators, but not while in uniform.

Among other thing, this is an example of the fact that Trump does not understand the office he holds.  On the one hand, I don’t think he is actively trying to subvert civil-military relations, but on the other he is doing damage to them nonetheless.  Norms take time to build, but they can be eroded quickly.   We should want the military to remain outside the partisan fights of the day.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. teve tor says:

    Trump doesn’t follow norms. Mitch McConnell doesn’t follow norms. The GOP doesn’t follow norms anymore. Whatever gives them victory is acceptable. And they follow Cleek’s Law. Whatever liberals hate is good.

    to wit:

    We Must Elect Senator Kid Rock

    The news that Southern-fried rock/rapper Kid Rock will be running for some timeserving Dem hack’s Senate seat in Michigan should make every normal American smile and spill a 40 to his homies. The future Senator Rock deserves your eager support for two critical reasons: First, it will drive the liberals insane. Second, it will make George Will and the rest of Team Fredocon soil themselves.

    townhall.com

    The GOP is utterly deranged.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  2. Tony W says:

    Great. Trump is now laying the groundwork to set up his own military junta. WCGW?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  3. michael reynolds says:

    If you pay attention you see that Trump is taking political ‘advice’ from Putin. Attack the media. Lie brazenly. Steal with both hands and blandly deny. Fire anyone who investigates you. Co-opt the military.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  4. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    Have to admit, townhall.com has probably stumbled onto the only two justifications for electing Kid Rock to anything. But now I have to wonder who is “Team Fredocon” and has townhall.com come under the influence of less savory elements @ Breitbart or 4chan?

    Maybe they’ve been under such influences for a long time. I try to stay cynical, but it’s getting tougher to keep up (apologies to Lily Tomlin).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    On the one hand, I don’t think he is actively trying to subvert civil-military relations,

    Only because he is entirely ignorant of them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  6. CSK says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    Team Fredocon appears to consist of any conservatives or Republicans who have objections to Donald Trump.

    Interesting they co-opted the term, since “Fredo” seems to be the appellation of choice for Junior Trump.

    It’s come to the point–and probably was always the point–that for a Trumpkin, it doesn’t matter what Mangolini does as long as he keeps giving all non-Trumpkins heartburn. No wall? Fine. Keep Obamacare? Dandy. Just keep annoying the libruls, a category that now includes George Will, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @teve tor: I’m beginning to think Bannon is right. We are in a culture clash, a war against western civilization.. Liberal Democracy itself is under assault. Bannon and the twit you quote at Townhall.com are barbarians at the gates. They want to destroy the institutions and ethos of liberal democracy and replace it with… well, they don’t really know, they haven’t thought past the tearing down part. Their sponsors, the Mercers and Kochs and god knows who don’t know either, but they’re confident they’ll come out on top.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  8. grumpy realist says:

    @gVOR08: It’s sort of like the U.K. and Brexit. A sizable percentage of the population wanting to say “Eff You!” to the EU and charging off into the wild, totally oblivious to the fact that no planning has been done nor looks like it will be done.

    Roughly 30% of Britain’s food supply is either a) imported or b) harvested by EU workers. Nothing has been done about providing a substitute, either labor or supply.

    This is the equivalent of a sixteen year old who stomps out of the house, yelling “I’ll show you!” with no job, five dollars in his pocket, no one to stay with, and only an unlined leather jacket when the weather prediction is for a five-foot blizzard to hit that evening.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  9. DrDaveT says:

    @grumpy realist:

    It’s sort of like the U.K. and Brexit.

    For many Trump voters, perhaps, but not for Trump himself.

    For Trump, saying that he “doesn’t understand his job” is to miss the point that, in Trump’s mind, he doesn’t have a ‘job’. Trump is not an employee; he has neither obligations nor superiors. Trump is a dealer; he positions himself and uses leverage; he says and does things that cause other people to do things that benefit him; he looks out for number one. Being President is no different, except for maybe coming with less leverage and more bad PR than he expected. He literally could not care less what other people’s expectations are for what someone in that position is supposed to care about or do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  10. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @CSK: “Interesting they co-opted the term, since “Fredo” seems to be the appellation of choice for Junior Trump.”

    Yeah, that’s the part that has me confused. Also it’s interesting to note that Junior had the nickname “Fredo” before this whole cluster flock started. At least to me it’s interesting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. CSK says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    I think the Trumpkins noticed that the non-Trumpkins were laughing at Junior because he’s such a hapless fool, albeit a malevolent one, and thought they’d try turning it back on those making sport of him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. Davebo says:

    @teve tor:

    Gotta love it when a guy who grew up on a huge estate in Michigan complete with pool house and tennis courts is now considered a “Southern Fried Rocker”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  13. Mr. Prosser says:

    Getting back to the subject of breaking the norm on politics and the military; I agree with Dr. Taylor that Trump doesn’t know or care about it. I don’t think he can influence the senior officer corps but he certainly reaches the enlisted personnel and probably a number of junior officers. Since the enlisted personnel (Me, at one time) rarely, if ever, come in contact with senior officers what is said by senior enlisted and junior officers count. This influence can be insidious. Remember the Trump flag flying in a passing convoy of Navy SEALs?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. CSK says:

    @teve tor:

    Interestingly, Kurt Schlichter, the guy who wrote the Kid Rock piece for Townhall, was once a major anti-Trumpkin, and wrote some scorching anti-Trump pieces that reflected that. Then, when Trump became the Republican nominee, Schlichter suddenly did a 180 and became Trump’s most ardent supporter.

    Guys like this don’t really believe anything they say. They write what will get them the clicks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  15. teve tor says:

    @Davebo:

    Gotta love it when a guy who grew up on a huge estate in Michigan complete with pool house and tennis courts is now considered a “Southern Fried Rocker”.

    Yeah, grew up rich on an estate in detroit. He’s as Southern-fried as Dan Whitney, aka Larry the Cable Guy, who’s from Nebraska and learned that terrible fake southern accent from his college roommates.

    Now if TownHall had called him White Trash, I wouldn’t object.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. teve tor says:

    @CSK: I did not know that, but I’m not surprised. The radical right is pretty much bereft of principle, they just want power.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  17. Facebones says:

    @Davebo:

    Gotta love it when a guy who grew up on a huge estate in Michigan complete with pool house and tennis courts is now considered a “Southern Fried Rocker”.

    Yeah, like those authentic backwoods Duck Dynasty fellers, who were a bunch of clean cut yuppies until they realized how much money they could make by growing out their beards.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. CSK says:

    @Facebones:

    Pretending to be a yokel is a very profitable business.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    He’s as Southern-fried as Dan Whitney…”

    I know nuthin’ from “Southern” (his music doesn’t remind me of the Allman’s or Lynyrd Skynyrd at all), but “fried?” Definitely!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. Mikey says:

    @teve tor:

    Yeah, grew up rich on an estate in detroit.

    He grew up in the far northern suburbs, miles from the Detroit city limits. Like, it would probably take an hour to get from downtown Detroit to where he lived.

    But he plays a role, and does it very well, I’ll give him that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. Kylopod says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    I know nuthin’ from “Southern” (his music doesn’t remind me of the Allman’s or Lynyrd Skynyrd at all)

    But there’s no question he’s long been imitating their act, in both his music and dress. He did that song “All Summer Long” based on “Sweet Home Alabama.” Even back in his nu-metal phase in the ’90s, he was doing songs like “Cowboy,” which was sort of a cross between Southern rock and rap.

    Now, if your point is that he hasn’t got 1/10th of the talent of those earlier bands, well, that’s another story. (But then, that’s true about a lot of so-called country musicians since the ’90s, many of whom sound like pallid non-self-aware parodies of ’70s Southern rock with exaggerated twang. Ever had the misfortune of hearing Toby Keith?)

    One thing I started noticing last year is that among those celebs who are the most fervent Trump supporters, they seem to consist mostly of the biggest jerks in show biz and sports: Kid Rock, Ted Nugent, Charlie Sheen, Mike Tyson, etc. Talk about the bottom of the barrel.

    I was reading about Rock on Wikipedia, and it mentions how he’s a staunch Republican except that time he was pissed off at GOP lawmakers in New York for passing laws he said made it hard to keep ticket prices low. “That’s one of the times I’m f**king embarrassed to be a Republican,” he said. Yup, not their views on health care or taxes or abortion or gays or government shutdowns or anything else, just ticket prices. That’s your prototypical Trump supporter right there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. teve tor says:

    One thing I started noticing last year is that among those celebs who are the most fervent Trump supporters, they seem to consist mostly of the biggest jerks in show biz and sports

    well, that would fit the larger pattern. 😀

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. t says:

    @Kylopod:

    Yup, not their views on health care or taxes or abortion or gays or government shutdowns or anything else

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/05/kid-rock-gay-marriage_n_6416816.html

    The Michigan-born rapper penned an op-ed published by The Guardian on Saturday in which he riffed on a range of issues, from technology (“I don’t FaceTweet or whatever people do”) to taxes (“they should legalize and tax everything: pot, cocaine, heroin”).

    “It’s no secret that I lean right in my politics,” he told Billboard in 2012. “I’m supporting Mitt Romney, but as much as I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, let gay people get married if they want… That’s not the fucking issue. And I think a woman should have a right to choose if she wants to have an abortion or not — that’s not up to anybody else.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. Kylopod says:

    @t: Actually, I think the most revealing line in that article is the following:

    Kid Rock’s likes: money and guns

    That was the point I was making. He may happen to hold relatively liberal positions on social issues, but he just doesn’t care about them a whole lot. What he cares about is making money and promoting himself. That’s it. (Oh, and being able to say “politically incorrect” things like “That’s so gay.” Just for the record.) He may claim to support a woman’s right to choose, but he’ll happily vote for the party that appears to be on the brink of destroying Roe v. Wade, just because he thinks they’ll do a better job of protecting his wealth.

    I also had to laugh at this line from his piece:

    it keeps my redneck street cred up

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  25. teve tory says:

    “It’s no secret that I lean right in my politics,” he told Billboard in 2012. “I’m supporting Mitt Romney, but as much as I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, let gay people get married if they want… That’s not the fucking issue. And I think a woman should have a right to choose if she wants to have an abortion or not — that’s not up to anybody else.”

    Does he have Celebrity Trump Armor, which will irrelevantize these 5-year-old positions? Or will the normal rules apply and he’s a nonstarter?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. dazedandconfused says:

    @michael reynolds:

    If you pay attention you see that Trump is taking political ‘advice’ from Putin. Attack the media. Lie brazenly. Steal with both hands and blandly deny. Fire anyone who investigates you. Co-opt the military.

    Perhaps, but one doesn’t have to be taking orders from Putin to be a thick headed self-serving d-bag. I think the NYT interview of late in conjunction with his attempts to replace Sessions conclusively prove the man has held the office for six months yet STILL can’t believe he can’t run the US government like Trump Inc.. President Icarus may not have much time left, not much at all. Putin would certainly advise him differently, IMO.

    That’s what my Occum’s Razor says, anyway.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0