The US president is not the commander-in-chief of all Americans

A segment on the radio recently discussed Donald Trump’s decision to invite people this year to celebrate iftar, the name given to the breaking of the daily fast by Muslims during Ramadan. This was an annual practice started some years ago but Trump did not have one last year when he was at the height of his anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions. During an interview on the program The World, the question was asked as to who might be invited and what Muslims would agree to go. The person being interviewed, who worked for president George W. Bush on Muslim outreach, repeatedly kept referring to Trump as the “commander in chief for all Americans”, as if this means that we were obliged to accept an invitation from him to come to the White House.

I hear this sentiment often and it irritates the hell out of me. Article II, Section II of the US Constitution says that the president is the commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States. That’s it. It means that he can give the armed forces orders that they must follow but ordinary citizens are not obliged to do any such thing and can blow him off if we wish. This includes declining his invitation to visit the White House.

In short, we can say to Trump, “You’re not the boss of me”, and the many sports figures who are rejecting invitations to the White House are doing just that because of his absurd accusations that their kneeling to protest police brutality is somehow morally reprehensible.


  1. cartomancer says

    Non-USAians get just as riled when you call your president “the leader of the free world”.

    I’m not sure any of those words are at all accurate.

  2. se habla espol says

    That’s Commander-in-Cheese, isn’t it, at least according to the White House spokesdoofus?

  3. Quirky says

    In short, we can say to Trump, “You’re not the boss of me”, and the many sports figures who are rejecting invitations to the White House are doing just that……..”
    Yes we “can say” that to Trump. But what if there was a law that we couldn’t say that?
    Rejecting an invitation to the WH is nothing. How many will actually say “You’re not the boss of me” concerning an issue that really matters?

  4. chigau (違う) says

    They didn’t have airplanes when the Oh-So-Sacred-Constitution was constituted.
    How did the POTUS get control of the AirForce?

  5. Quirky says

    chigau, it all occurred by an act of faith, one that continues to this day.
    I suspect it went something like this.
    The legislative priesthood composed of individual members none of which had the authority to authorize and vest the POTUS with such authority participated in a magic voting ritual which vested the majority with the magical authority to authorize the POTUS. That is the short version, if you want the details I am sure Google can provide the same.

  6. says

    @chigau, No. 6

    I know the question is in jest, but from its inception until 18 September 1947, our land-based flying forces were part of the Army. Similarly he Marine Corps began as a part of the Navy, and depending on whom you talk to, are independent from or still a part of the Navy.

    The Coast Guard—or as we blue-water sailors called it, the knee-deep navy—is also problematic if you wish to adhere strictly our Constitution. In 2018 the phrase “of the Army and Navy of the United States” would be better stated as “of the Uniformed services of the United States.”

  7. says

    Cartomancer -- Yup. I’ve always hated that too. If I live in the “free world” and the US president is my “leader”, shouldn’t I get a vote?

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