Big Government has learned that Corporal Jesse Thorsen, 28, who promoted presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) while in uniform during yesterday’s Iowa caucuses, is being probed by his Army Reserve unit for violation of Department of Defense Regulations.
Members of the U.S. armed forces are prohibited by Department of Defense Directive 1344.10 from campaigning or participating in public political activities while in uniform. The purpose of the directive is to preserve the political independence of the military.
Big Government has confirmed through defense sources that Cpl. Thorsen is a combat engineer in the 402nd Engineer Company of the 372nd Engineer Brigade, which is a U.S. Army Reserve brigade.
CNN has reported that Cpl. Thorsen is “active duty,” but defense sources indicated that he apparently is not.
Pentagon spokesperson George Wright spoke to Big Government:
I can share with you the Army uniform is not in keeping with the letter or spirit of the DOD instruction on political activities. It’s a policy violation. Investigation is an extreme word, I believe the unit is looking into it, they’re aware and they’re considering the next step, but it would be speculative to discuss the potential action of where we are right now. We’re aware that he appeared at that rally and spoke on stage–I mean we’ve seen the tape. He’s a member of the 402nd engineer company of the 372nd engineer brigade of the U.S. Army Reserve in Des Moines, Iowa. I don’t know what his MOS–military occupational specialty–is. I don’t know if he had a break in service or been an active reservist or what.
U.S. Army Reserve Major Angel Wallace confirmed that Cpl. Thorsen is not on active duty:
He is not active, he has been confirmed in reserve status as of this afternoon. We got that information, he was not in an active status as of yesterday when he did those interviews. He was in a reserve status all along and the last time he’s been on orders was back in October so he was in his traditional reserve status. There is a potential violation. It depends on your MOS because some MOS’s have a larger ability for upward promotion so on that you’d have to draw your own conclusion. He was with the National Guard prior to joining the national reserve. He works with an engineer unit. We have him in a currently combat engineer position, it would be groundwork level. We’re trying to give the command their time necessary to figure out how they want to manage the issue, giving them the time to have dialogue.
Cpl. Thorsen first attempted to speak in favor of Ron Paul on CNN during live coverage of the Iowa caucus. He was introduced by reporter Dana Bash as “active duty U.S. military” as he tried to explain–while in uniform–why he supported Ron Paul and his foreign policy.
(The interview was cut off halfway through, fueling conspiracy theories among Paul supporters and their allies in the press.)
Later, Ron Paul brought Cpl. Thorsen to the podium at his campaign headquarters to deliver a rousing speech–again in uniform, and again in violation of regulations.
For years, Ron Paul’s anti-war supporters have boasted that their isolationist candidate receives more support from active duty service members than any other. The irony is meant to suggest the existence of a broad, silent discontent with U.S. foreign policy among the men and women charged with carrying it out.
The mainstream media, which is sympathetic to Paul’s anti-war sentiments, has often amplified his campaign’s claims.
Yet for all the bluster, the Paul campaign seems to have a rather flippant attitude towards military regulations.
A Facebook page has been set up in Cpl. Thorsen’s name. Comments range from support to condemnation, with some wall posts suggesting he be demoted to Private. Indeed, according to Wright, that is one possibility:
Typically, for violations of military policy the commander would review the matter and would determine the best method which to deal with it and a commander’s option in any matter, not just this one range from doing nothing to recommending a trial by court martial. For many minor infractions or violations of department policies, commanders will typically take administrative or corrective measures to fix the problem. Demotion in rank comes with judicial or more severe non-judiciary punishment and administrative could decide to call a soldier in and to do some on the spot counseling, they could do direct counseling, there could be remedial training if there’s shortfall if it’s needed, like we’re going to give you an hour or two hours of classes to how to assemble or disassemble your rifle because you’re not incompliance with Army standard here. With the more complex or serious cases the counseling could be rendered in writing and such counseling could be enclosed into a soldier’s official file or a commander could choose a more lenient course of action and put it in his local file and if the action is corrected they could throw away the counseling exchange, and if such conduct were to continue over a long period of time the commander could use that file to suggest that soldier should be discharged.
Wright suggested, however, that a more lenient course of action would be preferable: “I would call a guy in and say, look, you did something–it’s against the rules, don’t do it again, and 995 times out of 1,000 that’s enough corrective action to resolve the problem.”
Major Wallace, who confirmed that the chain of command was “considering next steps,” was careful to clarify the military’s policy:
Nothing in our guidance prohibits political discussion as long as they’re not speaking in their uniform or in their official capacity. We want to share that his opinions regarding his political affiliations are his alone and his statement in no way reflect that of the Army Reserve.
Update: Major Wallace has issued a formal public statement on behalf of the Army Reserve, indicating that Cpl. Thorsen has deployed once in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2009–not twice, as CNN’s Dana Bash had reported and as Cpl. Thorsen had appeared to confirm by nodding (0:25 to 0:32 in the video clip above). He has not, apparently, deployed in Iraq, as Ron Paul stated (at 1:20).
Update: A follow-up communication with Major Wallace revealed that Cpl. Thorsen may also have misled CNN about his impending “third” deployment: “[T]hey do not have orders at this time so it isn’t a confirmed deployment at this time,” Major Wallace told Big Government.