December 9, 2016

Tulsi Gabbard had a sit-down with Jake Tapper today to self-promote her own brand of rah-rah about Syria and military strategy in general. During the interview, Jake Tapper asked her about whether she had any concern about the number of generals chosen to serve in Trump's cabinet.

Her answer was authoritarian, delivered in a scolding tone.

I don't share their concerns. As a veteran and as someone still serving in the Hawaii National Guard, I found it pretty offensive for people to outright discriminate against veterans. Here you have generals who have literally spent their whole lives serving our country, putting service before self, putting their lives on the line to defend democracy. Yet people are criticizing them and discriminating against them saying, just because you served as a general previously you are disqualified from serving in a high position of leadership in our government. These people, arguably, have put far more on the line and are far more deeply personally committed to upholding and protecting our democracy than their critics.

That last sentence, in particular, takes on a creepy, menacing tone. What she is saying there is that those generals are somehow more American than ordinary citizens. That their service and sacrifice means more than ordinary Americans who might not serve in the military, but serve their communities, or work for peace, or are just good citizens every day.

And let's talk about this notion that it's somehow discriminatory to criticize an administration which has at least 3 cabinet-level generals in it. There was true concern on the part of the country's founders about even having a standing army, much less having the government run by military officers. The constitution didn't rule it out, of course, or George Washington would have been disqualified. But at the same time, there are good, solid reasons for not filling a cabinet with career generals, too.

Josh Marshall noticed it was weird too.

The real kicker in my mind comes at the end when Gabbard says that these men are "far more deeply personally committed to upholding and protecting our democracy than their critics." The suggestion here is not about the particular individuals, who I believe are deeply committed to America and its democratic institutions. But what Gabbard is suggesting here is that as generals they are more committed than civilians.

That is the kernel of an idea that has destroyed many democracies, the idea that career military officers are simply better, more patriotic, more efficient than civilians. That is a deeply dangerous idea that needs to be snuffed out whenever it raises up its head. It is completely at odds with the entire American tradition.

It's something I'd expect to hear from some militarist Fox News yahoo. Not from an elected members of the House, certainly not from a Democratic member of the House.

Yes, well. Tulsi Gabbard is a party of one. She doesn't really play on the team very well. But that aside, she really could use a crash course on the U.S. Constitution and the thinking behind why civilian government is so very important.

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