On 2008 May 22, John McCain attacked his presumed opponent Barack Obama (and of course, that’s just politics, so it’s fine), saying
But I am running for the office of Commander-in-Chief.
Here’s the problem. McCain is wrong. He’s not running for the office of Commander-in-Chief. In case it’s slipped his mind, he’s running for the office of ???????? ????? ????????President of the United States. One of the roles played by the President — but only one — is Commander-in-Chief.
At first I was going to just note this and move on, assuming it’s just a mildly disturbing shorthand, a tea-leaf you have to peer at. I was going to caution that this creeping tendency — to identify the nation’s highest civil office soley with its military aspect — is a sign of the crumbling of our American ideals and that we all just blow by it too quickly.
Then I went online and read a few posts that scared the bejeebus out of me. Because apparently a lot of people don’t recognize even the abstract point. They literally do identify the two roles as if they are inseparable. In my life I’ve played the game of “What would it take to turn the Republic into an empire?” It’s always been fun and diverting. Suddenly I realize: We’re already almost there, not legally but in the far more important substrata of our social discourse. Too much of the America populace is ready to bow down and accept a strong man.
Yet people always like to tell me It Can Never Happen Here… when it virtually already has.