Obama Forgets to Salute a Marine Before Boarding Marine One — But Should He Have To?

On his way to the Naval Academy in Annapolis on Friday morning, the president appears to have forgotten to acknowledge the Marine on duty at the steps of Marine One. The president entered the helicopter, saluting to the pilots before walking back out to shake the hand of the marine he had forgotten and engaged him in a brief conversation. While this appears to be a simple mistake, it has some asking whether in principle the president should even salute members of the military, or rather shake their hands.

Obama, who usually salutes members of the military, is following in the tradition started by Ronald Reagan. As a New York Times article explains, in 1981 Reagan asked Gen. Robert Barrow, commandant of the Marine Corps., what proper practice was, and Gen. Barrow told the president that as commander-in-chief he could salute whomever he pleases. While members of the military had always saluted the president, this marked the first time a president returned the salutes.

Others such as historian John Lukacs believe it “represents an exaggeration of the president’s military role,” especially when the president did not serve in the military. Even General Eisenhower apparently stopped saluting when he became president.  

What do you think?