I joked last night that the soldier in uniform at Bob McDonnell’s SOTU response made me wonder if Virginia was planning on leaving the union again. Jim Arkedis observes that it’s probably illegal:
Per paragraph 188.8.131.52 of the official DoD Directive on “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces,” armed forces member explicitly MAY NOT:
Attend partisan political events as an official representative of the Armed Forces, except as a member of a joint Armed Forces color guard at the opening ceremonies of the national conventions of the Republican, Democratic, or other political parties recognized by the Federal Elections Committee or as otherwise authorized by the Secretary concerned.
In other words, unless authorized by the Secretary of the Army, the staff sergeant was breaking the law.
My guess is that if the guy in question were actually put on trial, he could argue that it’s not really a partisan event (Joint Chiefs are at SOTU, which is non-partisan, you’d argue that SOTU and SOTU response need to be symmetrical so somehow the ‘Republican response’ isn’t partisan) and/or that he wasn’t there “as an official representative.” Still, common sense says the active duty military should steer well clear of this sort of thing.
Meanwhile, do we really need the Joint Chiefs at the State of the Union? If it were up to me, we’d scrap ’em, scrap the Supreme Court Justices, scrap the cabinet members, and just have it be a presidential address to congress.