Commander-in-Chief? It's the President, Stupid

Commander-in-Chief? It's the President, Stupid
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
Commander-in-Chief? It's the President, Stupid
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
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In case you were wondering whether we are still a constitutional republic or not, the last two weeks have answered that question with a resounding and worrisome NO!

It turns out that the president of the United States — the constitutionally authorized commander-in-chief — is beholden to his generals and secretary of defense. At least, that's what we are led to believe by the smug letter of resignation tendered by Gen. Jim Mattis and the reaction to it among fawning Democrats and “Never Trump” Republicans, all of whom seemed ready to go to war for Secretary of Defense Mattis — as long as it was a war against Trump.

Somehow, the advice of generals has now become mandatory rather than suggestive. If Mattis says we should keep troops in Syria, then that settles it! Thank God no one told President Lincoln he was required to do whatever his idiot generals told him to do. Half of us would be living under Stars and Bars now instead of Stars and Stripes. If the liberal media have their way, we will be under the thumb of the global military-industrial complex for the rest of our lives. Syria forever! Afghanistan even longer!

But let’s make no mistake. The Constitution grants authority to Congress to declare war, and to the president the authority to direct the armed forces. It grants no power of any kind to the secretary of defense, whether he is a decorated general like Mattis or a civilian like most of those who have held the office.

Article II of the Constitution spells it out clearly: “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States.”

The fact that Mattis is being lauded by left-wing media pundits and congressional plutocrats as a protector of the nation against the president shows just how far from constitutional authority we have fallen.

By the way, did anyone else notice the use of the word "malign" in Mattis's resignation letter? That word was used in the anonymous New York Times op-ed written by a member of “the Resistance inside the Trump Administration.” At the time, those in the know claimed that "malign" pointed to Vice President Mike Pence as the author because he had used the word previously. But how much more suspicious is it for Mattis to consciously pick the word in his “Resistance Resignation” letter? I wonder if it's his way of claiming authorship of the anonymous op-ed.

Obviously, with Democrats poised to regain control of the House of Representatives this week, Trump’s enemies are more emboldened than ever. I think we may be reaching a climactic point soon in the Deep State's battle to unseat the president.

Fortunately, for those of us who believe the biggest enemy of American liberty is the entrenched power of the corporate state, we can take heart in having a commander-in-chief who relishes a fight and doesn’t ever back down.

Although the 45th president graciously accepted Mattis’s resignation with a laudatory comment, the story quickly became a rallying point for leftists who want to inflict maximum damage on Trump from every angle. So although Mattis had signaled his intention to remain in office until February, Trump asked him to leave by the end of the year instead. Hopefully, the president also pulled out the old chestnut and asked "Mad Dog" not to let the door hit him in the butt on the way out. No reason to leave Mattis in place to do more damage now that he has exposed himself as a Never Trumper.

In his tweet, Trump named the "very talented Deputy Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan" as acting secretary of defense, starting January 1, 2019. I've never heard of Shanahan, so have no opinion on how well he will carry out the agenda of the commander-in-chief, but I am certain of one thing: He can't do any worse than Mad Dog Mattis.

While we are on the topic of presidential authority, let’s remember that as the executive, the president, under his Article II powers, “may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices.”

If we were truly living in a constitutional republic, those words would have meaning. The president is empowered to ask “the opinion” of his Cabinet officers about how they should carry out their duties, but that is all that Cabinet members get — an opinion. They serve at the pleasure of the president, and in no regard should their opinion be elevated above his decision-making authority. This, by the way, should apply not just to the secretary of defense, but also to the attorney general. Were the United States intended to have an independent attorney general, not answerable to the president, then it would be an elected office and not an appointed one.

But that pesky Constitution! Why do we need to pay it any mind at all? As free Americans we have the right to change our minds anytime we want, don’t we? Why should the Constitution be any different?

Remember, Hillary Clinton tweeted in October 2016 that because "Donald Trump refused to say that he'd respect the results of this election … [t]hat's a direct threat to our democracy." Turned out that comment only applied to Trump. The Constitution be damned. For Clinton, Mattis and the rest of the Deep State, the only thing that really matters is the threat to their power that Trump represents as long as he remains in office.

Hold on, folks — the next two years are going to be a bumpy ride. Trump declared victory in Syria two weeks ago and visited the war zone in Iraq last week, but it’s the ground war in the D.C. trenches that will make or break him. With the government shutdown over border security and the firing of Mattis, it looks like the president has finally accepted that reality.

Frank Miele, the retired editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell Mont., is a columnist for RealClearPolitics. His "Why We Needed Trump" trilogy is available at Amazon. Visit him at to comment on this column or follow him on Facebook @HeartlandDiaryUSA or on Twitter @HeartlandDiary.

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