Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe told The Daily Caller he believes President Barack Obama pressured the military into granting an unprecedented exception to rules that prohibit participation in political activities while in uniform.
The Defense Department authorized a waiver to allow uniformed service members to march in last weekend’s San Diego gay pride parade, overriding a Defense Department directive‘s specific rules against uniformed service members’ participation in political events.
“The Department of Defense isn’t allowing this to go on, it’s the president,” Inhofe said in an interview with TheDC. “The secretary of defense answers to the president, and the military answers to the commander in chief. Clearly this is Barack Obama.”
In a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Inhofe asked for an explanation of the decision.
“This apolitical stance has served our military well and earned the respect of not just Americans but nations around the world as being a professional organization, set aside from policies and agenda,” Inhofe wrote.
The Pentagon officially said military members could march in their dress blues and whites because the parade was garnering “national attention.”
This is the first time in Inhofe’s 25 years in Congress the Department of Defense has issued a waiver to override the directive, he said.
Panetta’s decision was immediately criticized by Republicans who suggested the order came from Obama, and not from the Defense Department.
“It’s tied to the very liberal Obama agenda and all signs are there,” Inhofe told TheDC. “I have no problem with people marching in parades. It’s the uniform that makes the difference. You’re using the uniform to promote an agenda.”
GOP congressional leaders worry the waiver will stifle the military’s ability to keep politics and profession separate.
Big name sponsors of the parade included At&T, Johnson & Johnson, HP and Aetna — all of which made substantial contributions to Obama’s 2008 campaign. For the majority of the corporations, according to Open Secrets, top donations were made to Democratic candidates as opposed to Republicans.
“The sign that he granted a waiver is an admission of the fact that it’s a political event,” a Republican congressional aide told TheDC. “If it wasn’t a political event, they wouldn’t have admitted a waiver.”
In the past, the military has been given strict and clear guidelines regarding what was permitted while in uniform. Because of this one instance, though, the lines for what is acceptable in the future are blurred and the waiver could be used as a precedent.
“I’m concerned that we could be politicizing the military,” the aide said. “We just have to be very careful. They take an oath to the Constitution of the United States, not to a party or to a person, and that’s the key.
“All I can say is look at what kind of media this got for the gay community. Under President Obama’s leadership, these guys are allowed to march in a parade in uniform. No doubt in my mind, this was calculated specifically to drum up their base.”
The Department of Defense has not yet responded to Inhofe’s letter.