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Saluting Troops w/ Latte OR Dog: Tip of Disrespect Iceberg

Brian J. Foley in “Dissident Thoughts Upon Learning of the ‘Latte Salute’ Scandal” writes:

Obama-haters are hopping mad that Obama saluted troops while holding a cup of café latte in his saluting hand.

Obama supporters (saluters?) and others who just like pointing out hypocrisy have responded by showing that George W. Bush was equally guilty, because he once saluted troops … while holding a dog.

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... This “scandal” reveals the problem embedded in all mainstream U.S. political discourse: Americans are partisan, not principled.  A principled look at this scandal would say that both Bush and Obama are wrong, or they’re not. Our country would be a hell of a lot better off if we could get over rooting for “our guy/gal.” (And no politician is YOUR guy/gal unless you’re Monsanto or the Koch Bros. or a weapons maker.) ...

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Partisanship turns us into a nation of hair-splitting bloviats who argue that holding a dog while saluting is worse than holding a cup of café latte while saluting.  ...

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Proper salute or not, any modern US President has ZERO respect for the military. He sends troops “into harm’s way” without adequate protection and when it’s not even necessary. Many soldiers and sailors and airmen and –women who get hurt get crappy treatment at the Veteran’s Administration hospitals. ...

Why on earth focus on our government’s enabling of genocide, torture, neo-Nazis coups, droning and the bombing of seven ME countries, defying international and domestic checks and balances constitutional laws, displacing thousands of innocent civilians, promoting environmental contamination, continuing to deregulate on behalf of and subsidize Wall Street criminals when you can over-analyze the meta-message body language of presidents and ex-presidents over-casually -- no argument -- addressing ceremonially attentive and subservient troops.

Let’s keep in mind those questionable presidential gestures of acknowledgement do not directly kill anyone. But they are or were made by presidents who were or are MASS KILLERS exploiting our young people and our tax dollars to perpetrate the mass killings which implicate us all as accomplices.

That such mass killing has been and still is being given a relatively compliant pass by most of our society reveals gobsmacking levels of sociopathy of these presidents and their follow politicians, the mainstream media, and a citizen majority willing to only look where the establishment/media tiny penlight directs it to look for just enough titillating “news” to incite not a national moral conversation but a “political loyalties” food fight from our nose-bleed 99%-er cheap seats. A sham, shallow, bickering, partisan (Dem faux-lesser-evil vs. Republican unashamed evil) framed national "much ado about comparatively nothing" exchange. God forbid there be a sustained and serious fathoming and taking responsibility for the collective American heart of darkness wreaking tragedy upon tragedy upon tragedy on the globe and its populations!

[cross-posted on open salon]

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CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

As for the last 10%, for starters it's Garry Wills, not Garry Willis. And my conclusion is emphatic "we should step back and re-establish the fact and the image that the POTUS is a civilian and he (or she) should look and act like a civilian." Further, we should have pride that our Constitution mandates that the military is always subordinate to a civilian who is elected to, or to a civilian who is the legal successor to the Office of the President of the United States. That's no little thing, so let's go through this. Texas GOP Vote says:

For those who are not aware, a military member who has received the Medal of Honor rates a salute from any other military member regardless of rank. If an army private has received our nation's highest honor, a general must salute him (the medal actually). So why are these presidents [in the ceremonies I reviewed], as Commander in Chief (CINC) not saluting the Medal recipients? Even President Dwight David Eisenhower (a retired 5 star general) did not salute the members of the military to whom he presented the medal.

The answer is quite simple. The President of the United States is a civilian. He is not a member of the US Military and is therefore not entitled to salute. The military salute is a privilege earned by honorable service in the military.... While the President is Constitutionally the CINC, he is not a member of the military.

I wouldn't phrase it as the president not being entitled to salute, rather that the president is not subject to the requirements of military protocol.

One of the core principles of our country is our military is under civilian control. The President is that civilian authority over the military as is the Secretary of Defense and the Secretaries of the branches of the armed services.

In 2007, Northwestern University History Professor Emeritus Garry Willis [sic] wrote in the
New York Times, "We used to take pride in civilian leadership of the military under the Constitution, a principle that George Washington embraced when he avoided military symbols at Mount Vernon. We are not led -- or were not in the past -- by caudillos," Willis [sic] continued.

In many countries this is not the case. The leader of the country is actually a uniformed member of the military. In some cases even a military dictator. Even the Queen of England is a uniformed member of the military, albeit a figurative position.

So, all that said, where does the tradition of saluting by the president come from? Many believe it began with President Ronald Reagan. He certainly was the first to consistently exercise the hand salute, but during my research I also found a photograph of President Franklin Roosevelt engaging in what appears to be a hand salute. More frequently he was shown saluting by placing his hand, or hat, over his heart as in the photo above.

About the tradition, Ronald Reagan said... "I was told presidents weren't supposed to return salutes, so I didn't, but this made me feel a little uncomfortable.... Initially, I nodded and smiled and said hello and thought maybe that would bring down the hand, but usually it didn't.... I told the Commandant of Marines, 'I know it's customary for the President to receive these salutes, but I was once an officer and realize that you're not supposed to salute when you're in civilian clothes. I think there ought to be a regulation that the president could return a salute...'

"The next time I got a salute, I saluted back. A big grin came over the Marine's face and down came his hand.... From then on, I always returned salutes. When George Bush followed me into the White House, I encouraged him to keep up the tradition."

Since that time, we have begun seeing presidents becoming more "paramilitary" by donning pieces of the military uniform such as a military flight jacket while on board Air Force One. President George W. Bush took this a step further donning an entire Navy Flightsuit Uniform complete with insignia and a decorated aircraft for his now infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech.

Is the newly founded tradition a harmless gesture of support to members of the military? Or, is it rather, a slow erosion of the principle of civilian rule over the military?

Perhaps we should step back and re-establish the fact and the image that the POTUS is a civilian and he (or she) should look and act like a civilian. Should we stop the blurring of the lines between civilian and military authority? Commander-in-Chief is a job position not a military rank. The CINC is only CINC of the military, not civilians. Is this militarization of our president an erosion of Constitutional liberty or simply a figurative gesture [to] honor our military? I welcome your comments...

Submitted by lambert on

Just quoting the end again:

Commander-in-Chief is a job position not a military rank. The CINC is only CINC of the military, not civilians. Is this militarization of our president an erosion of Constitutional liberty or simply a figurative gesture honor our military?

The former! I guess I have to rethink my perhaps too-generalized views on Texas conservatives. I already have, in Maine, so why I wouldn't do so for Texas, well....