Why the Latte Salute isn’t a big deal

By YeOldeScribe ~ September 27th, 2014 @ 4:21 pm

For the first time in what seems like months, the biggest news story was not related to the NFL. For the first time in what seems like years, it wasn’t about ISIS, Ebola or Ferguson. This seems like cause for celebration at first glance. Did something good finally happen to break us away from the constant stream of high-profile problems both domestically and worldwide?

Nah. Our national media choose to freak out over something that should be nothing.

For copyright issues, we’re just going to link to a story on the photo rather than post it here. This was CNN’s take on the salute. If you haven’t seen it yet, as the president is leaving Air Force One, the military guard at the bottom of the stairs salutes the President as they always have. The president had a cup of coffee in his right hand, and used that hand (while clutching the coffee cup) to salute the troops.

The photo went viral, and has been universally panned as bad form at best. We could understand that point of view. The president had a free left hand, and could have shifted the coffee cup over to give a proper salute. Maybe this was worth about a 15-second mention halfway through a news segment on a slow news day. But that’s not the take most news agencies went with this. One in particular was especially egregious.

Fox News pundits laid into the president with reckless abandon. Here’s a smattering of what their talking heads had to say (from The Daily Kos):

SANDRA SMITH (9/24/2014): Learn the proper respect of the salute.

KARL ROVE (9/23/2014): It’s insensitive.

STUART VARNEY (9/24/2014): What’s the meaning of it?  That’s it.

BRIAN KILMEADE (9/24/2014): It looks terrible.

DR. KEITH ABLOW (9/24/2014): It’s outlandish, and it’s disappointing.

STEVE DOOCY (9/24/2014): Put your coffee in the other hand.

SEAN HANNITY (9/24/2014): Our Commander-in-Chief displayed his complete disrespect for the men and women in uniform.

Okay, let’s evaluate this. First of all, the only people who can really answer the question of whether the salute was disrespectful are the two soldiers whom Obama saluted. The rest is just conjecture. But if we’re going to opine, let’s make sure we get our facts straight. Rachel Maddow made a claim a few years ago in her book that not even General Eisenhower saluted the troops. PolitiFact, which we love and use frequently on PoliticalProgressives, rated the claim as mostly false. Maddow got into trouble because there were occasions where Eisenhower did salute the troops. She would have been correct in saying that as a general rule, the tradition of saluting the troops didn’t start until President Reagan. So were the first 39 presidents in America’s history disrespecting the troops? We don’t think so.

And why would the president not salute the troops? Because not only is he not in uniform, he didn’t serve in our military, so it’s probably improper for him to do so. Now there’s a lot of people who will say that to become the President of the United States, you should have to serve in the military. To that, we say “Why?” The most common argument is that the president is the commander-in-chief, so therefore since he leads the military he should have served. But the president is the head of the military in name only. There’s a reason why the joint chiefs exist. It’s their job to protect our country both within and outside our borders. Saying the president needs to have served in the military is like saying the vice president has to have been a senator since he’s the president of the senate.

We would argue that the best way to measure the respect a president has for the troops is to look at the president’s actions and decisions. Is the president leading our troops into unwarranted combat? Has he attempted to take steps to provide better care to our veterans? Has he supported legislation to put an end to sexual abuse within the military? Obama’s record may not be spotless, but he’s done more than some of his predecessors who didn’t get the same criticism Obama did.

Of course, the best way to judge the pundits patriotism is to judge them by their actions as well. And for that, we give you Jon Stewart:

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Now, it’s one thing to put a little caveat here and say that we have nothing but the utmost respect for the men and women who wear the uniform and serve our county. We are fully cognizant of the sacrifices our servicemen and women so that we can continue to enjoy the freedom to publish our thoughts on this little corner of the internet. But words can be hollow. So we pledge to donate $5 (up to $50) to the Wounded Warrior Project for each comment we get on this post.

Because like everyone, from the president to the pundits to us, we should be judged on what we do to support out troops. And just like we shouldn’t be judged on how big our American flag icon is, the president shouldn’t be judged on how he salutes servicemen and women.

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