(CNN) – Fans of "The West Wing" remember well the fake President Josiah Bartlett's advice when boarding the presidential helicopter, Marine One: duck.
He might easily have offered this advice as well: salute.
Those who closely watch the president's every step and gesture noticed Friday he didn't salute the Marine standing guard at the foot of the chopper's stairs. After boarding and then shaking hands with the pilots, he quickly exited the chopper, and offered a handshake to the Marine at the steps, then returned for the short ride to Annapolis, Maryland for the United States Naval Academy commencement.
It's become tradition for presidents to salute the military officers he encounters when boarding the official helicopter, a tradition which is widely understood as begun by President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
But to not salute is not a break in protocol or a violation of any rule.
Nor was it likely a slight to the military. After all, Obama told the graduates in Annapolis later Friday morning, "Today we salute all the Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in these wars, including 18 graduates of this Academy. We honor them all, now and forever."
The tradition is believed to have been started by Reagan. The story goes that he consulted the Marine Corps commandant who "told the president that as commander in chief he could salute anybody he wished," Smithsonian Magazine editor Carey Winfrey wrote in the New York Times.
It's not thought that President Dwight Eisenhower, who attained the rank of five-star general prior to his election and was the first commander-in-chief to ride a helicopter, saluted his pilot, and those before him would not have had the chance.
A hallmark of the U.S. military is that it is overseen by a civilian commander-in-chief. Some suggest the presidential salute to the troops is a sign of respect; others say it is not customary to offer a salute when out of uniform, and a sign of the over-militarization of the presidency.
And while the helicopter's rotor blades aren't spinning when a president approaches, there is still a reason for him to duck. It's to avoid hitting his head on the door opening which is a little low. (That noise you hear in the video is the auxiliary power unit on the helicopter running ahead of engaging the rotors.)
What do you think? Should the president salute the troops? Add your comments in the space below.
The President is not in uniform and is not covered (he doesn't have a hat on) so it is not appropriate for him to salute anyone. He can if he wants but it surely isn't necessary and is contrary to military protocol. We should look at video of senior military officers in civilian clothes and see if they salute (or return salutes) of gate guards or others.
At least he didn't "High-5" or "fist bump".
Nope...only serving members of the military in uniform wearing hats should salute.
This is news worthy ? The guy may be the President but he's still human.
I love seeing Presidents salute. It shows respect to the military. In the video it appears to me that the President "inadvertently forgot" to salute and I thought it was wonderful to see him go back and say something to him and shake his hand.
President Obama did the right thing. He again shows his human, caring nature. Way to go Chief!!!!
IIt appears we as Americans have nothing better to do than worry about a salute from the President who, by the way, has never been in the military! I Think it is time we focus on why our country is in such an immoral decline direction. It all starts with to much dependency on the Government. Wake Up America !!!
Absolutely he should
That 30 seconds shows more about Pres. Obama's respect for the military of this nation, and his true nature as a person and a leader. In that one gesture the President provided a "screen shot" for all of us as honor those who have given "their last full measure" in service to the nation.
The handshake may have meant more to the Marine than the salute – a handshake is personal. If there is going to be a debate let it be over something important like medical care for this Marine and others; the fiscal crisis and remedy; and so many other issues facing this country - let the House and Senate "debate" the important issues and make decisions that are not self-serving. Handshake "debate"? I think not a debate at all.
Tradition is setting this country back by decades of years, we have a progressive president. I bet that officer didn’t mind. I remember when a handshake held just as much weight as a contract. Way to President, way to go Marine!
Gee, maybe its because he came to this country as an adult and does not know our ways.
Yes, without a doubt, he should salute. As a superior officer (Commander in Chief in his case), not returning a salute is disrespectful. He obviously realized his mistake (or was reminded by someone in the aircraft) and responded accordingly.
I swear this President could bring about world peace...cure cancer...and right the economy and the tea party trolls would stilll cry foul.
I think these responses say more about the people posting than they do about the article. First off, calling CNN an agent of the right wing is laughable. Second, the author didn't take a position on saluting; he described what happened, gave a short history of Presidential saluting, and asked "What do you think?"
What I think is that as Commander-in-Chief, he can do as he wishes. Personally, I would neither want to be saluted or have my hand shaken by this terrible excuse for a President, but in the end it's his call.
I thought it was very heart-warming that the President got back off Marine-1 to shake the hand of the Marine. Especially since this is Memorial Day weekend. Such CLASS....
I have never agreed with the President offering a salute to anyone. I served USMC 77-81 at HQ in DC where there are a lot more officers than enlisted. When we wore our uniforms we nearly wore our arms out saluting. You couldn't throw a ham sandwich without hitting one. anyway, you salute a superior. The superior returns salutes, so the superior doesn't initiate. One also does not salute when out of uniform, ergo the President doesn't have a uniform and would never be saluted. This is just silly to even give any thought to. If the president wants to salute it's his right but not a slight if he doesn't
If any presidents served in military, salute is appropriated. if never served in military, simply put your hand on you heart and nod would be suffice.
As long as the President shows respect to those in uniform, who cares if he salutes or shakes their hands? Don't we have bigger issues to worry about?
Who cares? President Obama showed concern and attention to the Marines and acknowledged them by shaking thier hand and talking to them. He is not required to salute as a civilian,
He is not a real president so it really does not matter
could he have saluted then made the hadnshake. maybe that would have been a better choice. but hindsight is 20/20.
Since the President is Commander-in-Chief, shouldn't the Marine salute him?
Civiians do not salute. They can only acknowledge, as they should. That is best done with a handshake, a tip of the hat,
or the hand over the heart in the presence of Old Glory.
For any civilian, including a Commander In Chief who never served in the U.S. military (nor will his daughters), any salute
to any U.S. service person in uniform is a taudry gesture that is unappreciated by the recipient given the status of the
giver, and pathetically flippant given the vapid and ignoble history of the giver.
I suppose this question is important to some people, but really? We don't have more important stuff to discuss? My belief is we focus on little things, nitpick when we don't want to face the scary things we see creeping up on us.