Obama taking flak for 'coffee salute'

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Obama taking flak for 'coffee salute'

by: Matt Millham | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: September 25, 2014

Time to spin up the outrage machine again.

For those who missed it, President Barack Obama has been caught on camera saluting with a warm beverage cup in his hand.

Of its own accord, the White House posted the short video on its Instagram account Tuesday showing the commander in chief stepping off Marine One in New York City en route to climate change talks at the U.N.

Both of Obama’s hands were busy as he got off the chopper, which had two smartly dressed Marines standing and saluting outside. Obama’s left appears busy buttoning up the presidential suit jacket. Pundits, though, are focused on his right, which the leader of the Free World lifted to his brow along with a venti-size cup likely containing the hot truth about Benghazi.

The unusual gesture immediately caught the attention of the perpetually offended, who point out that military customs and courtesies generally dictate that one should salute only with an empty hand.

While this is true, those same customs and courtesies say nothing about the propriety of a civilian (as the president is) saluting at all. In military circles, the gesture is generally reserved for those actually in uniform. Safe to say, most former servicemembers wouldn’t even consider saluting out of uniform, if for no other reason than they hated doing it even when they were in uniform.

Apparently, we have Ronald Reagan to thank for making presidential salutes an issue at all. “The Gipper” is believed to be the first president to have done it, and presidents since have followed suit lest they be called unpatriotic.

Obama, though, isn’t the first president to be caught with his hands full while rendering an unnecessary courtesy. His predecessor, George W. Bush, was snapped saluting stepping off Air Force One with his hands full of Scottish terrier.

The image of Bush raising the first family’s beloved dog, Barney, to his brow in a moment of cute and cuddly awkwardness was back in the spotlight last year after the old pooch succumbed to lymphatic cancer, spurring a wave of Barney slide-show retrospectives on the same blogs and news outlets now taking aim at Obama’s “coffee-gate.”

millham.matthew@stripes.com
Twitter: @mattmillham