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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Commander in Hiding

by Sam Huntington

According to the United States Constitution, the President serves as commander in chief of the Armed Forces. I suppose the founding fathers placed this provision into the constitution because of George Washington’s service during the American Revolution —believing that future commanders in chief would lead from the front. Over the years, however, the amount of military detail handled personally by the President has varied considerably. America’s military structure is rooted in British tradition, with the president (as with the monarch) taking the highest military rank of all.

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was deeply involved with devising, approving, and implementing military strategies. Overall, Lincoln earned high praise from many historians for his strategic sensibilities, and in the selection of his commanders. Here is where I may find room for disagreement. Before U. S. Grant, most of Lincoln’s senior commanders were anything but effective commanders.

On the other extreme, Woodrow Wilson remained far removed from details surrounding US involvement in World War I and had little interaction with the War Department or General Pershing. Roosevelt surrounded himself with senior military officers, including his Chief of Staff, Admiral William D. Leahy. Truman thought he knew more than the military and assumed responsibility for military decisions; this may explain why the Korean War was never satisfactorily resolved. Before 1947, the President was the only common superior of the Army and the Navy, but this changed with the National Security Act. Today, the Secretary of Defense exercises civilian control over the military services. The Goldwater-Nichols Act (1986) clarified the chain of command as beginning with the President, through the Secretary of Defense, to the operational combatant commanders.

So, does the United States have a Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, or not? I think the answer must be yes, but with an important caveat.

Notice that the President of the United States has a rather expensive aircraft that we refer to as Air Force One. Actually, it is not an aircraft at all. It is a radio call sign, flight designation. We officially identify the President’s two 747 aircraft by their tail number. These two identical aircraft, by the way, come at a tremendous cost to the American taxpayer —but I hope no one will make the mistake of trying to board one of these without an invitation. The federal government wants your money, not your presence.

This idea of designating specific military aircraft to transport the President arose in 1943, when officials of the United States Army Air Forces – the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force – became concerned with their survival following the end of World War II. This is probably true, and so they convinced the powers to be that the President of the United States should not have to rely upon commercial aircraft or trains to get to where he needs to go. Accordingly, the Department of War reconfigured a C-87 Liberator Express to serve as a transport for the President and his official party.

They could not have made a worse choice in aircraft. The C-87 failed to meet the safety standards of the Secret Service, and so additional money was spent on the C-54 Skymaster. They dubbed it this bird the Sacred Cow and used it to transport FDR to the Yalta Conference in February 1945.

I recently learned that the U. S. Air Force keeps both of the presidential aircraft fully fueled at all times —in the event it becomes necessary to whisk the President and all his lackeys out of harm’s way. This brings us back to the President’s designation as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States. What kind of commander in chief has to be bundled away out of danger? The entire novella of presidential protection on 9-11 is sickening, in my view. Why do we think that the life of the president is more precious than the life of anyone else? What kind of commander hides aboard Air Force One while his nation is under attack, and then shows up a few days later pretending to bond with an NYFD battalion chief?

I am not at all surprised that our presidents have evolved into lily livered cowards; I am just wondering why the American people —who every single day place their own life and health at risk in order to bring home a paycheck to their families— so easily accept the proposition that the president warrants so much more protection than the people he serves.

1.  Picture of George Washington taken personally by me.
2.  Picture of Air Force One scaring the crap out of New Yorkers for a photo-opportunity flight.


  1. " What kind of commander in chief has to be bundled away out of danger?"
    I always felt the same way--the CiC whould be leading from the front!!

  2. No mention of the JCS or its' Chairman?

    ...and what shutdown are you talking about? All I've heard about are a few ShutNado "alerts"... not even "warnings".

  3. George, do you suppose you could interrupt his demagoguery and convince Harry Reid to vote to fund NIH so that children with cancer have hope? There's a bill on his desk right now that would do it. Thanx.

  4. Joe Conservative, is that the best you have?

    President Obama should have John Boehner and the the radical right arrested for treason and terror attacks against the nation.!

    1. Before, or after, the funerals of all the cancer victims who will die in the near term as the Bill to fund NIH lingers in Harry Reid's Senate IN box unacted upon?

  5. By president, do you mean “his excellency, the King?” It seems to me that we have more of a monarch these days than a presidency, elected by the will of the people (even the stupid ones). This isn’t about Obama; he is only part of the problem. I agree that the presidency has shifted more toward an authoritarian tradition, rather than that of a humble servant doing the will of the people, whose moral authority derives from then. Executive order, or edict? You decide.

  6. It is a good idea to keep two 747s fueled and ready to go, especially after Dilbert Obama has managed to piss off every fan of the Washington Red Skins.

  7. Oh, giving up Air Force One would be tantamount to asking the British Royal Family to give up the Queen's Gilded Coach and stop staging ceremonial pageants at coronations, weddings and funerals.

    What next? Would you have the president abandon the White House and move into a split level in the suburbs which he must maintain at his own expense?

    Of course, I long ago suggested the Congress Creatures be required to live in Government Built and Government Maintained DORMITORIES and be fed in Government Built and Government Staffed DINING HALLS. They would be required to pay for their Room and Board from their salaries.

    That's a FAR better idea than eliminating Air Force One.

    1. "Of course, I long ago suggested the Congress Creatures be required to live in Government Built and Government Maintained DORMITORIES and be fed in Government Built and Government Staffed DINING HALLS. They would be required to pay for their Room and Board from their salaries." (Free Thinke, 2013)

      That is brilliant! I do not believe I have ever heard it stated better.

    2. I favor confining Congress critters that way that FT outlined above!

      PS: Yes, as of yesterday, I am lurking here in the blogosphere. I will post on Friday morning.

  8. By the way, that portrait of George Washington is the most appealing one I've ever seen. Does anyone know who painted it?

    1. Gilbert Stuart, an American painter of that era from Rhode Island. He was considered at that time to be one of America's foremost portraitists.

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  10. Excellent post Sam. I truly enjoyed reading this. I have little to add due to the fact that you and the commenters here have summed up most of my thoughts, except one I would like to add.

    I truly believe this "so-called elitist president" should be "impeached." He has broken so many laws. Can you imagine if this were George Bush, he would have been impeached by now, and if still legal, lynched!


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