Tea Bagging With a Marine. This Could Get Ugly

Gary Stein, a 24-year-old active duty Marine Corps sergeant based at Camp Pendeton, created his own Tea Party group, then announced its arrival on the national Tea Party scene in a press release.

Two days later, some of his "brothers" are calling for a court martial.

Introducing the 'baggers newest crew, the Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots. The group was included in the 23 tea parties that joined last week into a national coalition of tea baggery, called the National Tea Party Federation.

Stein was quoted in the press release announcing the national group:

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"In the Armed Forces we wear the same uniform, have the same haircut, and swore the same oath, but have different thoughts. We have come together as a band of brothers and sisters in uniform to stand for what is right. We share a life that is unique only to us, we share a Tea Party that is unique to us. We are the Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots and our voice will be heard!"

The problem is the Department of Defense has rules prohibiting members of the Armed Forces from serving officially in partisan political clubs (the DOD outlines the rules in a directive titled "Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces," which can be found here).

Stein's Tea Party action was picked up by the Talking Points Memo Muckracker site, and the backlash quickly followed. The majority of the comments suggest that Stein's actions are grounds for a court martial. One commentor, who claims to be a former Marine, and "the conservative right's worst nightmare," said he alerted the Inspector General of the Marine Corps to Stein's activities and statements, and was assured that the IG will be looking into the complaint.

The next day, Stein retorted with a personally penned press release that included one tell-tale spelling error:

"Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots in no way supports a military uprising or anything to that subject; furthermore, we recognize Barak Obama as the Command-in-Chief and we do not support disobeying orders that are lawful with the Constitution and will continue to follow orders given to us."

Because nothing says you respect your boss like spelling his name wrong.

Stein continues:

"We are here to say that we are Americans, we have rights, we are sworn to uphold the Constitution, and just because we have volunteered to serve our country in a camouflage uniform, we do not strip away our rights as Americans to express our opinion on the policies of the current or future administrations."

The Armed Forces Tea Party Facebook page, which appears to be the only place the group exisits, has been all over the map as well. TPMMuckracker said they had 400 members yesterday, "though many are not active duty military."

Stein shut the page down late yesterday evening. According to the San Diego Union Tribune, Stein was scheduled to interview with MSNBC, but was called back to Camp Pendleton "to go over the Pentagon's directive on political activities. Stein chose to remove the page, launched three weeks ago, until he has reviewed his obligations under military code. The Marine said his supervisor advised him of his right to an attorney, but the Corps is not looking to file charges, said Maj. Gabrielle Chapin, a Camp Pendleton spokeswoman."

The page didn't stay gone long. It was quickly restored, with this introductory message:

"Today, Sargent Gary Stein was silenced, and forced to delete his Facebook fan page 'Armed Forces Tea Party.' It has now been recreated by a civilian, but in the same spirit that Sargent Stein had originally created it."

This morning, a post announced that the page was being returned to its creator, Sargent [sic] Gary Stein.

Let the freedom of speech vitriol flow.
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