Obama’s Coffee Cup Salute “Gotcha!”

Scotty SaluteSome controversies instantly inspire everyone on all sides to be petty, stupid, and unfair. This is just such a controversy.

The White House  posted a video of President Barack Obama awkwardly saluting a Marine as Obama exited the presidential helicopter, Marine One. He did so while holding a styrofoam coffee cup, which he brought to his forehead as well. This sparked critical comments from Republicans, conservatives and veterans that Obama was showing disrespect for the military.

This is the epitome of a petty “Gotcha!” that guarantees sympathy for the President. I would be surprised if there are not  examples of most Presidents botching return salutes, especially those, like Obama and Clinton, who had no experience in the military. (President Eisenhower presumably never had this salute problem.) Obama also was pretty pathetic when he had to throw out the first pitch in a major league baseball game. Oh, so what? Republicans really think that these deficiencies prove Obama is disrespectful of the military, or of the National Pastime? There are so many stronger indications.

Now, we all know that the President isn’t a baseball fan. He isn’t fond of the military, either, but using the salute to prove it is silly. He has cut the defense budget; he has ignored the advice of generals; he wasted the sacrifices of our forces in Iraq by pulling them out prematurely; he designated Bo Bergdahl as a hero when using that word to describe him is a slap in the face to military heroes who did not betray their fellow soldiers; and he paid no attention to the ongoing negligent treatment of wounded veterans by the Veterans’ Administration. Those symptoms of a lack of respect for the armed forces are real and worth noting. The salute?

Come on.

On the other side, Obama’s defenders are similarly ridiculous. Every failure of this President apparently can be blamed on the man who preceded him (no other American leader has so relentlessly stooped to this graceless and lazy avoidance of accountability), so naturally, MediaMatters tracked down a photo of President Bush trying to salute while holding his Scotty in his arms. Just as I wonder if Republicans expected Obama to hurl his beverage to the ground, or perhaps douse himself while saluting as with Robert Hays’s “drinking problem” in “Airplane!”…


drinking problem

…I wonder what Democrats would have had Bush do. Throw the dog down?(The proper move is not to salute at all when you can’t do it properly.)

The salient point is this: nobody made a big deal out of Bush’s dumb salute because everyone, including those he saluted, knew that he respected the military. Obama’s salute was interpreted in the context of six years of demonstrable apathy and even contempt. Context is relevant. Still, it is just as likely that Obama saluted as he did because he was trying to be respectful, and just couldn’t pull it off. He deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Frankly, I can’t believe anyone, including me, is writing about this.

13 thoughts on “Obama’s Coffee Cup Salute “Gotcha!”

  1. You are absolutely correct. Focusing on petty contrived issues serves no purpose but to make the opposition to his policies and actions appear petty and juvenile.

    There are far more important areas of disagreement that I, as a conservative, have with the POTUS. So wasting my time on these matters is silly and only serves his loyalists who use these minor issues to distract us from focusing on what really matters.

  2. All true, but it would have been very easy to transfer the cup to the left hand and salute properly. Not so easy to transfer the dog, and the dog can’t be put down without risk of it running off. I agree it’s tremendously unimportant, but the efforts to compare Bush negatively show a general ignorance of and disdain for military protocol that defines the left.

    • If it can’t be done properly or if the saluting individual is reasonably encumbered (even active duty personnel aren’t required to salute when so encumbered – merely render the greeting of the day), then don’t do it.

      Bush shouldn’t have saluted (but was trying to show respect).

      Obama should’ve transferred the cup (but was trying to show respect).

      No one should be fretting over this, it wasn’t intentional disrespect.

  3. Sorry, but I think the “cup salute” is just part and parcel of Obama’s general misunderstanding of military protocol (and hence his misunderstanding of the military in general). He must know, after 6 years, that when he is greeted by a phalanx of soldiers his appropriate response, as Commander-in-Chief, is a salute. He COULD have transferred the coffee cup to the other hand, but knowing he should be making a salute at that time, did he really need that styrofoam cup? Just desperate for that last sip of coffee?

    The man is a narcissist, has shown little respect or understanding of the military, and isn’t owed a pass on this one. (And the picture of Bush and dog is a cheap shot; Jack, don’t you complain always that it’s a little late to keep making comparisons to George Bush? Shame on you.)

    Frankly, I think every president, as Commander-in-Chief of the US military, ought to be given a course on its history and traditions (in addition to its current strength, capabilities, etc.), and be taught a snappy salute. Why not? Gestures make statements. And we know what Obama thinks of just about everybody but himself — that they’re not as smart, worthy, and/.or visionary as he is, and that “serving the nation” is — for him — just a phrase. For our military men, it’s a real life-and-death commitment, and Obama doesn’t get it.

    F— him.

    • First, Jack stated it was petty to dig up an image of Bush botching a salute; he himself did not dig up this image.

      Second, this was a relatively private moment, him getting off the plane, visibly jet lagged, etc, not even having had his morning coffee yet, and being caught off guard by the saluting guards. Not every disembarking is a huge public affair. Maybe his staff should not have posted it to twitter, but it is public domain, and would be released anyways, and then he’d be accused of a cover up (over barely even a gaff).

      Third, who would force the President to watch such a video? If he is not inclined to watch such a course, there is no one to force him. The buck stop there.

      • 1. Seriously? Does he really need to do it himself?
        2. There are always guards there. They salute as a matter of protocol. He knows this by now certainly, unless he is stunningly unobservant and self-involved.
        3. A president who is unfamiliar with military protocol would voluntarily watch such a video because he is the commander in chief and recognizes that he has an obligation to behave as one.
        All of which point up the already known fact that Obama is disdainful of the military and/or regards them as his servants.

        • What Obama did is just another reflection of cavalier attitude, stemming from the arrogance of power. It’s what I named the IMITY (“EYE-mighty”) Syndrome, while I lived in the Washington D.C. area and observed the progressive corruption of governance there. IMITY stands for “I’m More Important Than You.” As in (in this case), “I get to drink my coffee whenever I want, and I’m too important to be accountable for failing to render the simplest of respect to anyone whose job is to look out for me.”

          I would even give W. Bush a pass from the “He’s-just-as-bad” rationalization, because (1) he was being kind to an animal (or, considerate to it, at least), and (2) he actually saluted without some object in his saluting hand. It was important enough to Bush to return a salute, despite his encumbrance; it was a big nuisance of a hassle just to raise his hand to do such a thing, for all-important, coffee-starved Barack.

  4. It looks like that red leash has restrained his right hand from properly saluting. That’s called “CLUMSINESS.” Not so with Obama. He could have just switched the coffee cup to his left hand. In Obama’s case though, his photographed refusal to put his hand over his heart during the 2008 campaign when he was onstage with Hillary and what’s-his-name Edwards, amounts to a definitive statement about how he feels about this country.

    • I’m undecided on this. As a culturally expected practice, our leaders ought to engage in symbolic gestures like that- so Obama should have. But as for it’s utility as a symbolic gesture, I don’t put a lot of weight in it.

      I don’t put my hand on my heart an you’ll be hard pressed to find a more patriotic or loyal American, I just quietly stand at attention as per habit of my former military discipline. I think simple reverence is enough without added fanfare.

      Any ole subversive element can put their hand on their heart to “blend in” but their heart is still evil. It’s like the pledge of allegiance… If the values enshrined in the Declaration of Indepedence aren’t enough to inspire loyalty, then a pledge sure won’t. Well, the pledge will, but for potentially wrong reasons…

    • I agree. See my earlier reply. Obama is NOT clumsy, just egotistical and disrespective of the military — and generally, I might add, of the nation that led him to law professorships (tho he doesn’t seem to understand the law or how it’s made), of the people who elected him, and anything other than his personal, narcissistic misguided agenda.

  5. . Still, it is just as likely that Obama saluted as he did because he was trying to be respectful, and just couldn’t pull it off.
    As much as it pains me to admit it, I think that was the case.

    • And, Finlay, I agree. First, people who are not in uniform are not required to do so. In fact, they are actively discouraged from doing so. Second, non-military people rarely know how to salute properly in any case. Finally, while I am too lazy to look it up and find out, I think the first President to attempt to return the salute was Reagan, hims3elf not military. I would say, on this issue, at least, we need to cut Obama some3 slack.

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