The Latte Salute and the Right’s World View

Obama Latte SaluteMedia Matters brought my attention to, The Media’s Imaginary Coffee Salute Scandal. It seems that Obama had a cup of coffee in his hand when he saluted Marines while exited Marine One. The right wing are freaking out, even though Bush the Younger did the same thing all the time while holding his dog. It is just another thing for partisans to freak out about. And I don’t especially care.

What I have cared about in the past is the habit of our men in uniform saluting the President of the United States. This goes back basically to the beginning. To me it has always smacked of military dictatorships. But it is what we have always done and it does go along with Marines code (pdf) that states that one should salute “all officers senior to you in rank.” The president certainly is entitled as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces (and not simply Commander-in-Chief). But the Marines mention a number of other civilians who should be saluted, such as governors. Thus this is a sign of subordination of the military to the civilian government — a very good thing indeed. Conservatives want to turn this around.

But the Marines are a practical group and they note conditions under which one should not salute. For example, if you are bent over an engine trying to fix it, you are not expected to salute. But most important in this situation, you don’t need to salute when, “Carrying articles with both hands or being otherwise so occupied as to make saluting impractical.” That would pretty much relieve a president from ever having to salute.

Of course, the president never did salute. You know Colonel Jackson, General Grant, Colonel Roosevelt, General Eisenhower? None of them ever saluted. The tradition started in 1981 when the star of Bedtime for Bonzo did it because he thought it was super keen. He had been in World War II, but only stateside working in public relations. But you know how it is: once they stuck “under God” into the “Pledge of Allegiance,” people assumed it had always been there. Allen West, who really should know better even though he is a total authoritarian nut job, called the “latte salute” disgraceful. But you gotta wonder where West and all the Fox News ranters were when this happened:

Bush's Dog Salute

Of course they were no where. No one cared. And no one cares about the “latte salute.” Brian Adam Jones sums up the issue well:

But recent presidential history hasn’t been kind (or fair) to the president.

When Maj Gen Harold Greene was killed in Afghanistan earlier this summer, critics blasted the president for not attending his funeral. Retired Air Force Col Morris Davis claimed that Obama “bucked tradition” since Richard Nixon attended the funeral of Maj Gen John Dillard when he was killed in Vietnam in 1970 and George W Bush attended Lt Gen Timothy Maude’s funeral when he was killed on Sept 11, 2001. But for one problem — Nixon didn’t attend Dillard’s funeral, nor did Bush attend Maude’s. Davis later said that he was kidding and baiting Obama critics.

Similarly, a story that has plagued the Obama administration is that he failed to visit the D-Day memorial in Normandy on June 6 every year. The story claimed that there were only four occasions in 69 years that a president failed to visit the D-Day memorial on D-Day, and all four were in the Obama administration. In reality, however, no U.S. president visited the memorial at all until Reagan did it in 1984 (he was a real trend-setter). And it had only been visited by an American president six times in total, including a visit from Obama in 2009.

The man can’t win. No Democratic president can win. This is because the right wing in this country has nothing to talk about in terms of policy. The world view of the right is that the nation is divided into the patriots and the traitors. And the Democrats are by definition traitors. It doesn’t matter if any given Democrat is a president or not. Thinking this way doesn’t make those on the right traitors, but it definitely destroys any claim to being patriots.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

4 thoughts on “The Latte Salute and the Right’s World View

  1. Figures it would be Ronnie who got it wrong. You never salute or return a salute without your “cover” (hat) on. That’s military etiquette 101!

    (Note: you see this screwed up in movies/on TV all the time.)

    • On a personal level, Reagan was rather sweet. That goes along with his surprise that the White House didn’t have a war room like they did in Dr Strangelove. The problem is that rather than see him as the lovable actor who destroyed our country, people take him seriously. So rather than Bush the Elder doing the reasonable thing and going back to not saluting, it became a tradition. But what really bugs me is that there are all these secret rules about what the president can and can’t do that only the Republicans know about and only apply to Democrats.

      This is what Rachel Maddow wrote in Drift, “Soldiers were supposed to salute their president; the president was not supposed to salute the soldiers. No modern president, not even old General Eisenhower, had saluted military personnel. It might even be, well, sort of, improper. Reagan seemed disappointed at this news. 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.” I agree with that. But that isn’t what the conservatives think. This is because they just know that “liberals” secretly hate the United States, even when they are president.

      Interestingly, Brian Kilmeade (Of all people!) defended the president on Fox and Friends. He noted that Obama was buttoning his jacket with his left hand and it was pretty much the only thing he could do. But to conservatives generally, there is apparently nothing more important on the president’s mind than saluting the military.

  2. Also, wearing a flag pin is neither a sufficient or necessary condition of patriotism. Of course there is nothing to be gained by explaining any of this to a conservative. They are trapped by an ideological sunk cost fallacy. There is no sense anymore in talking to them. There are, I estimate, a not insignificant number of habitual Republican voters who are, somehow, unaware of what their side is actually doing. The increasingly bizarre posturing of the core base will become impossible for them to ignore in the end. Indeed this end stage right wing cult produces ever stranger toxic caricatures of patriotism, masculinity, and religion.

    • I’m reminded that recently retired Justice John Paul Stevens was a Republican. At least he was registered as one in 1970. In 2007, he declined to state when asked. But it gives you some idea of how far we’ve gone when he was considered a liberal on the Court. (Of course, I never considered him a liberal; he was a moderate.)

      I think you are right about the party. Most of the base voters are just lost in this world of Good vs Evil. So policy doesn’t matter. They are just voting against the Evil Ones.

      The flag pin is a very good example of this. And it reminds me of this great John Prine song, “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore”:

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