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Marine's Facebook posts on Obama go too far

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
April 26, 2012 -- Updated 0216 GMT (1016 HKT)
Marine Sgt. Gary Stein made derogatory comments about President Obama on Facebook.
Marine Sgt. Gary Stein made derogatory comments about President Obama on Facebook.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A Marine is facing dismissal for his anti-Obama posts on Facebook
  • Sgt. Gary Stein said he wouldn't follow orders from Obama or salute him
  • Dean Obeidallah: Military requires obedience, can't be subjected to partisanship
  • He says three GOP congressmen are out of bounds for backing the Marine

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a comedian and frequent television commentator. He is the editor of the politics blog "The Dean's Report" and co-director of the upcoming documentary, "The Muslims Are Coming!" Watch him on CNN Saturdays with Don Lemon at 10 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy

(CNN) -- What would happen if you posted derogatory comments about your boss on a Facebook page that you knew would be read by your co-workers?

How would your boss react if in those Facebook posts you called him or her a "coward," a "domestic enemy," and boasted that you wouldn't be following the boss' instructions in the future?

And what if your boss is the president of the United States and you are a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps?

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

That's essentially the case of Sgt. Gary Stein, a nine-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, who is on the verge of being discharged from the military for making comments on Facebook about his boss: the commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama.

Stein posted comments on both his personal Facebook page and on The Armed Forces Tea Party Facebook page he created, mocking the president. On those pages he referred to President Obama as a "domestic enemy," a coward, and even superimposed President Obama's face on the poster for the movie "Jackass."

Marine ready to fight for free speech

But the comment that really drew the ire of Marine Corps brass was this post from Stein:

"As an Active Duty Marine I say 'Screw Obama' and I will not follow all orders from him ... has [sic] for saluting Obama as commander-in-chief ... I will not!"

It's pretty clear that Stein will not be adding President Obama as a friend on Facebook any time soon.

The U.S. military has alleged that Stein's postings violated military regulations prohibiting partisan political statements while in active service in the military. Consequently, Stein was charged with conduct "prejudicial to good order and discipline."

But Stein doesn't see it that way. Stein appeared earlier this week on CNN's "Starting Point" arguing that the Facebook posts were not his views as a U.S. Marine, but, "...my personal opinion as Gary Stein."

Members of the military are free to give their personal opinions about political candidates, but Stein's Facebook post begins: "As an Active Duty Marine I say 'Screw Obama...' " This clearly gives the appearance that Stein is speaking as a member of the Marine Corps.

Secondly, the Marine Corps motto is the Latin phrase "Semper Fi," which means "always faithful." The motto isn't "faithful only nine to five." Every Marine I have ever met has made it clear that being a U.S. Marine is a 24-hour a day job.

Bottom line: Stein, upon enlisting, agreed to follow the rules of the U.S. Military, which contain express regulations prohibiting certain partisan political speech. As a result of his apparent violations of these regulations, a military panel ruled last week three to zero to discharge Stein from the military.

In normal times, this case would have likely received little media coverage. But these are not normal times. Instead, we live in a grotesquely partisan era.

Consequently, three Republican congressmen publicly came to Stein's defense: Reps. Allen West, Darrell Issa and Duncan Hunter. Hunter even sent a personal letter to the Marine Corps in which he stated in part: "I urge the Marine Corps to withdraw the discharge proceedings and allow Sgt Stein to complete his enlistment."

West, a former U.S. Army officer, issued a statement paradoxically conceding that Stein should face some form of discipline -- although less than discharge -- but then in essence pointed his finger at President Obama as the cause for Stein's conduct: "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."

Adding to the growing partisanship of this case is that the lawyer now representing Stein -- Gary Kreep -- was one of the lead organizers of the birther movement, which contended falsely that President Obama was not born in America and, thus, not legitimately the president. Kreep even created a 28-minute infomercial on the birther issue in which he hawked "Got a Birth Certificate" bumper stickers for $30 each.

You have to wonder if Stein had made the comments at issue about a Republican president if these men would be offering the same support. (It's a rhetorical question: We all know the answer.)

Inserting partisan politics into our military is dangerous. Our nation's military cannot be divided into political factions where loyalty is based on whether service members agree with the political views of the commander-in-chief.

As the U.S. Supreme Court noted when upholding restrictions on partisan politics in the military: We live under "...the American constitutional tradition of a politically neutral military establishment under civilian control."

There should be zero tolerance by the military for any partisan politicking by active duty service men or women. This is not only "prejudicial to good order and discipline," but could lead to the loss of lives.

We already have one dysfunctional institution marred by partisan infighting -- the U.S. Congress - we can't afford another.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

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