Over the last three years, videos have shown that President Obama failed to salute his Marine Guard as he departs or approaches his air transportation vehicle.
Some are more memorable than others.
In May, 2013, Obama was shown entering his helicopter totally “forgetting” his Marine guard. After realizing his “error”, he exited the chopper, and stood next to the guard and shook his hand, and re-entered Marine One. During their short meeting, “A faint smile appeared to cross the Marine’s face as the they exchanged brief words.” But he did not salute.
In September, 2014, a video showed Obama stepped off Marine One and saluted his guard while holding a cup. It was immediately became known as the “Latte Salute”.
And more recently, in August of this year, the president was shown escorting his family off of his Boeing 747-8, ignoring his guard entirely, and waving to a crowd of observers.
In her book “Drift”, Rachel Maddow described how President Reagan entered the White House while saluting every uniformed service member he saw. One of his military aides, a Marine officer named John Kline, became worried that this new ritual might be inappropriate and decided to speak with the president about his new practice.
From Task & Purpose, Maddow wrote:
“Kline suggested he talk to the commandant of the United States Marine Corps and get his advice, and the commandant’s advice ran something like this: You’re the goddamn president. You can salute whoever you goddamn well please. So Ronald Reagan continued saluting his soldiers, and he encouraged his own vice president and successor, George H.W. Bush, to do the same. And every president since has followed.
Some conservatives fired up the Internet with their disdain with the president by his lack of repect by forgetting to salute his Marine guard. David Pakman, a liberal commentator, broadcast an incident where President G.W. Bush sheepishly saluted his guard while holding his dog. Well, at least Bush made a salute, though it was not pretty.
Are there rules for presidents saluting their Marine guard? From Title 10 Responsibilities of the United States Code,
The Marine Corps, within the Department of the Navy, shall be so organized… and shall perform such other duties as the President may direct. However, these additional duties may not detract from or interfere with the operations for which the Marine Corps is primarily organized.
So, is the president required to salute? No.
Did President break protocol in not doing so? No.
Should he salute? Conservatives will say “yes”. And many liberals might say “no”.
Regardless, here is a sensible idea: once the president salutes his guard in the first place, he should continue to properly do so and not break the personal protocol that he originally established.