Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Marine's Facebook posts on Obama go too far

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 10:16 PM EDT, Wed April 25, 2012
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.

Follow us on Twitter: @CNNOpinion

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

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

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Sally Kohn says the Ferguson protests reflect broader patterns of racial injustice across the country, from chronic police violence and abuse against black men to the persistent economic and social exclusion of communities of color.
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
updated 9:10 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
updated 1:38 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Sun August 17, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
updated 5:46 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
updated 6:26 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
updated 4:24 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
updated 6:56 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
updated 4:35 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
updated 7:08 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
updated 11:25 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT