Glenn Greenwald, writing for Salon, calls it “the single worst expression in American politics.”
You may have your own nominees for that distinction, but his is “Commander in Chief,” which is used these days as a substitute for President.
He quotes Joe Biden on the stump:
After next Tuesday, the very critics he has now and the rest of America will be calling him something else – they will be calling him the 44th president of the United States of America, our commander in chief Barack Obama!
Actually, I won’t be calling him that if he wins on Tuesday. I got my discharge papers in 1970. I’m not in the military any more. And neither are most Americans.
This is much more than a semantic irritant. It’s a perversion of the Constitution, under which American civilians simply do not have a “commander in chief”; only those in the military — when it’s called into service — have one.
The President is Commander in Chief only of active duty military personnel — and only in wartime. (Some, including George Bush and Dick Cheney, would argue that we are now permanently “at war” on terrorism.)