Marine Sergeant Gary Stein, of Temecula, CA, went before a discharge panel in early April to defend himself for posts made on his Facebook group, “Armed Services Tea Party,” which disparaged President Barack Obama and critically discussed other elected officials and policy matters. Stein is accused of threatening good order and discipline with his Facebook comments. Stein, who faces discipline and possible discharge is coming up against a Pentagon policy that limits the free speech rights of service members. While all US troops are prohibited from political demonstrations and activity while in uniform or representing their service, limited political speech is permitted. Further complicating the issue is social media, which is not clearly governed under a binding Defense Department policy.
“There’s obviously an agenda here,” said Gary Kreep, founder of the US Justice Foundation and a lawyer who filed the injunction request on Stein’s behalf. “They’re making a scapegoat and an example out of the sergeant.” Kreep continued, “It’s my opinion, but I believe Obama sent orders down from above to get rid of this guy.” Stein’s legal team found a 2005 Facebook photograph of a member of the military prosecution team, Captain Gavin Logan, showing him in full uniform with the caption, “You shut the F— up. We’ll protect America. Keep out of our F—— way liberal p——.” Stein’s defense attorney says the sergeant has broken no law and the prosecution is just trying to dredge up whatever it can to make Stein look bad. If he’s convicted, Stein could lose his rank and face a dishonorable discharge.
According to “The Social Corps,” a Marine Corps training manual on the subject, Stein does not appear to have done anything wrong with his postings. It says Stein has a perfect right to speak out on any political issue or candidate. On page 12 it says, “The Marine Corps encourages Marines to carry out their obligations as citizens. This includes politics. However, there are limitations to your political activity. You can express your political views on public issues or political candidates online, but not as part of an organized communication campaign.”
Obama and his administration has been marked by its fervor in trying to control online information about the president. First, the Democrat National Committee dedicated scores of people to the task, then the White House itself took over the job, appointing Jesse Lee the “director of Progressive Media and Online Response.” It’s difficult to accept the accusations that criticism of Obama on Facebook is a major threat to discipline. It looks like someone at the office of Progressive Media and Online Response has been working overtime to stroke the Narcissist-in-Chief’s ego. Obama has notoriously thin skin.
Ironically, Stein, as a Marine, has been in a position of defending the rights of Americans, including free speech, and now he’s had his rights essentially stripped from him because of a president with no respect for the Constitution. A Marine can’t say anything bad about the president, but the feds will gladly drag a Marine’s name through the mud.
And in the Further Irony department, the Marine Corps Times published the results of a Military Times survey that indicated that Obama received a 25% approval rating among active duty Marines, down from 35% after Obama’s first year on the job. Further, 44% said they disapproved of Obama’s performance as Commander-in-Chief.
While Stein has received criticism from the left and right for his actions, he has also gotten some strong voices of support in Congress. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has backed Stein up throughout the discharge hearing and proceedings. And last week another former service member in Congress, Rep. Allen West (R-FL), a retired lieutenant colonel, also added support.
Said West, “I am sad to see a Marine Sergeant may lose his career because he dared to criticize the President on a Facebook page. Should we have disciplined this young (non-commissioned officer)? Yes. But to end this Warrior’s career with a less than honorable discharge is not the answer… Maybe if America had leadership that gained the respect of our military, instead of simply using them as stage props for speeches, this atmosphere would not exist.”
Well said, Rep. West. But that’s just my opinion.
Cross-posted at RWNO, my personal web site.