Sixteen months ago, President Obama came under fire from critics after he asked Marines at the White House to hold umbrellas for him and then-Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during an outdoor news conference in which it rained.
The decision spawned outrage, with some questioning why Obama would do so despite a uniform regulation that says male Marines in uniform should not use umbrellas. “Umbrella-gate” was born, bringing with it a hashtag — #umbrellagate — and an emotional conversation about whether the president was disrespecting rank-and-file service members.
— Jacknife84 (@jacknife84) May 17, 2013
The controversy was recalled Tuesday as Obama found himself in a new controversy after the White House released a brief video on its Instagram account of the president departing the Marine One helicopter in New York. Obama salutes the Marines as he steps off the aircraft — but has a coffee cup in his right hand as he salutes with it. It was quickly dubbed the “latte salute.”
The move came shortly after Obama announced on Tuesday that the United States and five Arab partners had launched a series of airstrikes in Syria. The reaction was swift and vitriolic from some corners, many of which criticize the president frequently.
“I mean, please, how disrespectful was that?” said Republican strategist Karl Rove on Fox News.
Reaction from veterans and service members has been mixed. Brian Jones, a recent Marine Corps veteran, wrote on the military-themed Web site Task and Purpose that the “presidential salute isn’t a real thing.” From his post:
So now thousands of people got their jimmies rustled because the busiest and most important man in the world forgot to switch his pumpkin-spice latte from his right hand in following an imaginary protocol on his way to address the United Nations about a war he just entered. I can’t imagine what possibly could have been on his mind.
This isn’t the first time Obama has botched the salute. Last year, the president boarded Marine One without saluting the Marine by the door. Realizing his mistake, he quickly debarked and shook the young corporal’s hand, telling him, I assume, how profoundly sorry he was for offending him. For the past six years, the Obama administration has been plagued by accusations of being everything from treasonous to unpatriotic and distant from the military community. It’s a largely partisan critique of a liberal president, and Obama’s critics have often bent history to pretend his predecessors behaved differently and that the president has failed to meet some sort of standard.
Fred Wellman, a retired Army veteran, also criticized the reaction, saying it was “ridiculous.” He added that so was defending Obama by pointing out that President George W. Bush also was photographed giving an awkward salute.
As ridiculous as getting upset about Obama’s salute today is dredging up photos of Bush to compare. He had a brain fart. It happens. Move on
— Fred Wellman (@FPWellman) September 24, 2014
Paul Rieckoff, an Army veteran and founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American organization, had a more concise reaction to the controversy: “Dumb.”
— Paul (PJ) Rieckhoff (@PaulRieckhoff) September 24, 2014
But J.R. Salzman, a wounded Iraq War veteran, thinks the criticism is warranted, however — and that civilians who dismiss it don’t get it.
I had to salute with a prosthetic arm, yet Obama cant even put down his damn latte? Come on. — J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) September 23, 2014
A lot of people fail to understand a proper salute isn’t just a matter of procedure. Its also a matter of respect, a military value. — J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) September 24, 2014