Grateful for the generals

A hallmark of American democracy has always been that a civilian, the president, is the ultimate commander in chief of the armed forces. It is perhaps the strongest signal we send that ours is a system of laws and representative government, not a military-ruled regime.

What, then, to make of the fact that many people are increasingly looking to a troika of former military men to guard the republic against the impulses of a leader widely viewed as operating out of his league.

That is the scenario the country faces as Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, and new White House chief of staff John Kelly are seen by some as the best hope for stability under a president many view as reckless and undisciplined.

“You know Americans are going through an extraordinary political moment,” writes Washington Post columnist Charles Lane, when former generals are consolidating power “and civilian politicians react with undisguised relief.”

Earlier this month, David French, wrestled with the issue in the National Review. He said he understood, but disagreed with, other conservatives who viewed warily the installation of three top military men in such powerful civilian positions.

“It’s good, for this time, that these same men are operating as a check on the most erratic and ill-informed president in modern American history, and maybe ever,” he wrote.

In today’s Globe, retired admiral James Stavridis pens an op-ed lauding the military leaders who spoke out against hate and discrimination in the wake of Trump’s rambling defense of some of those who joined white supremacists and neo-Nazis at a rally earlier this month in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In December, Stavridis met with Trump and was said to be under consideration for secretary of state. Today he praises the leaders of each of the country’s service branches, all of whom “chose to publish clear, decisive statements disavowing racism and reaffirming the fundamental values they are sworn to defend” following Trump’s comments.

“[W]e need the retired and active senior officers in the president’s inner circle to speak truth to power in support of our values in ways that may be deeply uncomfortable,” writes Stavridis, who served for four years as the supreme allied commander of NATO forces and is now dean of the Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Some are wondering whether the three former military leaders now in top government roles will stick it out under Trump or declare the effort to bring order to the chaotic administration mission impossible.

Lane sees Mattis as the key former military man the country should count on, though he readily admits that is a troubling reality. “In a healthy democracy, political stability does not hinge on an indispensable general,” he writes. “In Donald Trump’s America, it might.”

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker taps Democratic state Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, who voted against the ballot question to legalize recreational marijuana, to serve on the Cannabis Control Commission. (State House News)

Joan Vennochi decries Attorney General Maura Healey’s moves to dodge and weave her way around possible state prosecution of Teamsters recently acquitted of federal charges related to intimidation of a non-union television production. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston police say they are reaching out to the woman who has filed a discrimination complaint against the city’s chief of health and human services, Felix Arroyo, to see whether she wants to also file a criminal complaint related to her allegation that Arroyo grabbed her by the neck when he learned she planned to take action against him. (Boston Globe)

MassDevelopment offers a tour of the Springfield transformative development initiative district. (MassLive)

Scituate officials have agreed to place conservation restrictions on more than 80 acres of land to settle a dispute with the attorney general’s office over the construction of a new public safety building. (Patriot Ledger)

Some residents in Raynham woke up earlier this week to find copies of the Ku Klux Klan’s official newspaper, The Crusader, left in their driveways. (The Enterprise)

Daniel Gion, the highway superintendent in Dudley, is suspended for one week without pay and ordered to undergo sensitivity training for the racially charged comment he made on Facebook. (Telegram & Gazette)

Framingham selectmen ignored rules in the town’s new charter and appointed more residents than necessary to advisory boards during the transition to a city form of governance. (MetroWest Daily News)

Like the man he will work for, David Sweeney, the incoming chief of staff to Mayor Marty Walsh, is a Dorchester guy. (Dorchester Reporter)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

One day after whipping supporters in Arizona into a frenzy over a laundry list of grievances with media and enemies, President Trump delivered a speech in Reno calling for unity and understanding. (U.S. News & World Report)

The Girl Scouts of the USA is accusing the Boy Scouts of America of running a “covert campaign” to poach members and boost their declining enrollment. (BuzzFeed)

ELECTIONS

A federal judge grants a permanent injunction against a proposed Texas voter ID law that had been tweaked to help it pass legal muster. (American-Statesman)

The New Hampshire Democratic Party is challenging in court a new voter law that requires new residents to provide proof that they intend to stay. (Eagle-Tribune)

EDUCATION

Despite decades of affirmative action programs and claims by conservatives that reverse discrimination is affecting white enrollment, an analysis by the New York Times finds minorities are more underrepresented in colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago.

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The firing of the CEO of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital has roiled the island — and the hospital board won’t say why they lowered the boom. (Boston Globe)

Gov. Charlie Baker will be part of a bipartisan panel of governors testifying next month before a US Senate committee on ways to stabilize health insurance markets in the wake of failed Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

US Rep. Michael Capuano backs MBTA machinists on privatization but, unlike them, refuses to bash Gov. Charlie Baker. (CommonWealth)

The MBTA gives private contractors seeking to take over three bus maintenance garages a midnight tour of the facilities. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Nine northeastern states, including Massachusetts, propose a 30 percent cut in power plant emissions between 2020 and 2030. (CommonWealth)

Researchers attempt to quantify the damage climate change will cause county by county in the United States. (Governing)

It’s getting a little hairy down on the Cape as a shark bit into a paddleboard while a 69-year-old man was paddling in about three feet of water off Marconi Beach in Wellfleet. The attack comes just a couple days after a great white shark attacked a seal in a swimming area at Nauset Beach in Orleans. (Cape Cod Times) A Herald editorial calls a Barnstable county commissioner’s idea to catch and shoot great whites “insane.”

Two Harvard researchers say internal Exxon documents indicate the company misled the public about the dangers of climate change. (New York Times)

State conservation officials are running into opposition for their plan to allow deer hunting this fall in the Blue Hills Reservation for the third year in a row. (Patriot Ledger)

Records indicate Kinder Morgan paid $115,000 to the State Police for details at Otis State Forest, where pipeline protesters were arrested. (Berkshire Eagle)

CASINOS/GAMBLING

The winning Powerball ticket, worth $758.7 million, was sold at Handy Variety in Watertown. Wait a minute, now the Lottery says the winning ticket was sold at Pride gas station in Chicopee. (CBS Local)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Guests at a party in Hyannisport where police arrested Robert Kennedy’s son, Max, for disorderly conduct and violating the town anti-noise ordinance, say what actually happened is far different from what police portrayed and some videos dispute police accounts. In addition, while police said Max Kennedy had bloodshot eyes and looked unsteady, a Breathalyzer test he demanded showed he had no alcohol in his system. (Cape Cod Times) Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham says the antics at the Hyannisport house showcased every bad part of the Kennedy legacy that US Rep. Joe Kennedy III is desperately trying to distance himself from.

New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said four Massachusetts State Police troopers were justified in shooting Michael Brown. The troopers began chasing Brown in Malden, a pursuit that ended in New Hampshire. (Eagle-Tribune)

MEDIA

President Trump takes aim at the press — with a flamethrower. (New York Times) Wall Street Journal Editor Gerard Baker criticizes the paper’s coverage of Trump’s Phoenix speech as “commentary dressed up as news reporting.” (New York Times)

ESPN President John Skipper sends out an internal memo explaining the Robert Lee decision. (Brian Stelter/CNN)

A man in Mashpee committed suicide Wednesday on Facebook Live in yet another example of the troubling side to social media apps that make every smartphone a potential broadcast outlet. (Boston Herald)