Joni Ernst's comments during her Senate campaign were extreme by any measure but as an officer in the Iowa National Guard, she should, some think, be prosecuted.
Back in October of last year, The Des Moines Register had an interesting op-ed piece about the Republican party's newest rising star, Joni Ernst. Ernst as you know, gave the rebuttal to the President's State of the Union speech last week,
The author, Vietnam veteran Steve Wikert, said that he, along with other vets, was troubled by candidate Ernst's behavior campaign rhetoric during her Iowa run for Senate.
Specifically he asked whether, as an active Iowa National Guard member, Ernst's open disrespect for the President - the Commander in Chief- was a breach of military regulations.
Although she is running for a civilian office she has advertised and touted that she served in Iraq while emphasizing her current role as a Lt. Colonel. Ernst has opened the door to hold herself up to these military standards. She cannot divorce herself from being actively in the U.S. military while using her rank and position as a political strategy. All the people she commands still look up to her as a role model throughout this time.
Ernst must abide by all military regulations. The expectations of her are different than what would be expected from someone else who has retired or left the service and is then considered an actual veteran. This distinction is extremely important.Earlier this year Ernst said that President Barack Obama, her Commander-in-Chief, "has overstepped his bounds" and that he was a "dictator" and that he "should be removed from office" or "impeached."
Clearly Ernst realized (after the fact) that she committed an offense. Later she attempted to retract her statement:
“To be clear, I have not seen any evidence that the president should be impeached. I obviously do not believe the president is a dictator, but his repeated use of unilateral action sure makes him look like one,”
Even in the apology she cannot stop herself from insubordination. At that time, she explained, "there have been instances in which he “oversteps his bounds,” citing Obama’s recess appointments and executive orders."
Despite the apology (such as it is) she is still openly questioning the decisions of her commanding officer. That is not a prerogative of a subordinate officer.
Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. states that "Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President,.... shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."
The article also cites a 2012 speech Ernst made to the National Rifle Association. In the video-taped speech she appears to advocate the armed overthrow of the government. She told the crowd:
"I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it's from an intruder, or whether it's from a government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important."
For civilians, such remarks might be protected by the First Amendment, however when it comes to active military personnel, the author points out, it is strictly forbidden.
Ernst surely knew this. After all, she swore an oath when she entered the service as an officer of the Iowa National Guard: which expressly states that "support and defend the Constitution of the United States" and "obey the orders of the President of the United States"
As Commander in Chief, President Obama has a duty to punish disloyalty among his subordinates who actively dishonor his authority. No matter how she might feel personally about the president, she has violated her oath to respect the president's position.
Here's a link to the full article.