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Presidents Shouldn't Feel Obligated to Salute the Military

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The dumb thing in the news today is that President Obama saluted a marine on Tuesday while holding a cup of coffee. It was probably filled with tea, because Obama doesn’t drink much coffee, but conservatives are calling it a latte, because they think latte is a French word (it's Italian) and that only effeminate liberals drink lattes (they're wrong). 

Liberals got dragged into the ensuing fake outrage pageant, and dug up a 2001 picture (there are many) of George W. Bush saluting while holding his terrier, Barney. Nobody cared back then, though, because everyone knows that Republicans always “respect the troops.”

But the truth is, any president is allowed to lackadaisically salute members of the military because he is their boss. And in truth, it’s slightly problematic if a president feels obligated to salute members of the military for any reason other than a sense of courtesy or personal duty.

I say slightly because this isn’t a very big deal, no matter which side of the argument you take. Even some of the GOP operatives pushing the story recognize that. But even if it doesn't quite amount to subversion of civilian control of the military, it’s unhealthy for presidents to feel they have to walk on eggshells around troops. Troops salute the president constantly, because they have to. As tedious as it must be, the president salutes back, because it’s the decent thing to do. But if his hands are tied, it’s ok if he doesn’t return the salute with gusto. That's his prerogative, and rightly so. Even if he’s drinking an arugula smoothie with a double shot of wheat grass.