Even Obama’s umbrellas are a scandal now

Even President Obama's use of umbrellas has become a scandal in the eyes of some Republicans.

On Thursday, during a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, Obama signaled to two Marines and asked them to protect him and his guest from the rain.

"I am going to go ahead and ask folks -- why don't we get a couple of Marines, they're going to look good next to us. Just because I've got a change of suits, but I don't know about our prime minister." Gesturing to the unprotected press, he added, "You guys, I'm sorry about..." 

During the week of IRS, AP and Benghazi, that awkward moment is being criticized as yet another administration blunder. Male Marines are not allowed to use umbrellas while in uniform, and the sentries who stand guard outside the White House often get wet.

“Marines are always out getting rained on, that’s sort of what we do,” said Capt. Eric Flanagan, a Marine spokesman. A request from the president to a Marine who serves in the White House, however, would be an “extenuating circumstance.”

Flanagan also pointed to Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which states that members of the Marine Corps shall “perform such other duties as the President may direct.”

(For reasons two spokesmen for the Marines and one for the Army could not immediately explain, female Marines are allowed to carry umbrellas with service or dress uniforms.)

The New York Post made the incident its cover image on Friday:

The conservative Daily Caller wrote up the incident with the headline, "Obama breaches Marine umbrella protocol."

"Mr. President, when it rains it pours, but most Americans hold their own umbrellas," former Alaska governor Sarah Palin tweeted.

"These guys aren’t valets," one conservative blogger wrote, though he also guessed that previous presidents had done the same thing "because the optics are sufficiently bad that Team O wouldn’t have tried it without precedent to cite in its defense." Another wrote, "This is the nuclear version of bad optics." The conservative Move America Forward PAC put out a fundraising e-mail on the subject:

Of course, no one is suggesting holding hearings on Umbrella-gate. The actual story on the front page of the New York Post was about a DOJ report finding that terrorists given new names under the witness protection program were allowed to board commercial flights. But conservatives are clearly hoping to create a narrative of a president in free-fall, unable to do anything right -- even hold an umbrella.

Rachel Weiner covers cops and courts in Arlington and Alexandria.
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Aaron Blake · May 17, 2013