I understand the frame of reference. Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne to desegregate Central High; the Marines were sent in during the L.A. riots after the Rodney King verdict to keep the peace. This idea of using troops to maintain order when racial tensions blow sky high somewhere in America isn’t out of the blue, especially for someone who participated in the civil rights movement. But this is a singularly terrible idea on a day when elements of the left and right have coalesced to criticize — ta da — the militarization of the police. The solution to cops in fatigues with heavy weapons, I’m thinking, isn’t bona fide soldiers in the streets with heavier weapons. Although one of the many nasty byproducts of having a warrior police force is that the arguments against actual military occupation start to weaken. Who would you rather take your chances with as a protester, a U.S. Marine who’s been rigorously trained and who understands there’s a fierce taboo against soldiers using violence against American citizens or a local cop who hasn’t dealt with many riots before and who’s finally getting to test out some of the impressive weapons the feds have given the force?
Martial law is also a terrible idea politically for Democrats, of course. I guarantee there were people in the White House audibly groaning as Lewis floated this rhetorical air biscuit for a lefty audience on MSNBC, knowing that it’ll put (a little) pressure on Obama to take his advice and further knowing that conservatives would have a field day turning out voters in November after O declared “martial law” in a midwestern town, even for a day. If the National Guard is sent in, the order will come from Jay Nixon, precisely because the party is eager to keep Obama far away from this. Better that he spend his time golfing than giving military orders in a situation that’s already racially inflamed.
Oh, and the reason Andrea Mitchell doesn’t press Lewis on any of this is because she’s riding along on the dumbest, lamest lefty read on Ferguson. She’s not going to rock the boat, especially at John Lewis’s expense.