(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.
Saluting [as in the traditional military way of greeting a superior] should only be done while in uniform including donning headwear. When in uniform WITHOUT headwear, one's head should be abrubtly turned into the direction of the person to be greeted. Saluting when out of uniform is not correct and against etiquettes, regardless who you are ,period.
Dumb article, must be a slow news day. I'd rather have the President shake my hand than salute and it's not like he doesn't salute all the other times. This is an article in search of a story. I'm sure the Tea Party will take this and run with it as another indication that the Commander in Chief doesn't respect the military or some other ridiculous assertion.
I can't stand Obama. I find him to be absolutely two-faced. However, that being said, there was no wrong intended and no breach of protocol. He even went out of his way to correct his absolutely unintended "slight" against the marine. And I put "slight" in quotes only because I think he may have felt he may have caused offense to the marine, but I doubt the marine took any offense– and I'm sure that even if he did, it was completely removed when the president took the time to correct itin a very personal manner.
I am a former U.S. Marine Captain. No military service branch respects protocol more that the U.S.Marines. A Marine salutes an officer holding a superior rank as a greeting. Then the Marine who received the salute is OBLIGATED to return it as a greeting. The only return greeting received by a Marine from his Commander in Chief better than a salute would be a handshake by the President of the United States.
Not an Obama fan but it's oblivious he didn't do that on purpose. If offended by it shake yourself.
No Respect on Memorial Day. That's what's wrong and Obama is the example
And I see a bunch of Apologists
Last I heard the MARINE security department were umbrella holders
As a Veteran and Republican , What President Obama did was Honorable. We all get zone out at times and not notice things around us. President Obama realized his error and went to the Corporal and apologized . President Obama this is one of the few times that I am Proud of you. Good JOB SIR.
i think that sometimes the salute becomes just a matter of fact gesture that for a commander in chief, or any officer at that matter, taking the time to acknowledge a service member, enough to shake his / her hand, is a good thing. it is the choice of the higher rank. telling the grandchildren one day that you "got a salute from the president" is overshadowed by "the president shook my hand."
Bush ran around pretending to be a patriot - like he pretended he was president.
OK here's my 2 cents...there are so many problems in the world that need to be solved. Relative to this issue...WHO CARES?
I agree with Helen. Knock off the nit -picking.
That's auxiliary power unit, not aerial power unit. It's a small turbine engine / generator set that powers the avionics, lighting and air conditioning while on the ground.
I agree with Craig, the handshake & apology would be more memorable that the standard salute.
I also agree with President Reagan, the commander-in-chief salutes uniformed personnel.
He can do whatever he wants to do and he should not be criticized for whatever he does as long as it is respectful.
Let the president do his job with out the catty remarks
Hey, I don't like this President, however, I don't believe that he was in any way out of line in the actions outlined in this story. We COULD talk about many areas that he is most CERTAINLY out of line, but this story is petty! Please!
I'm fine with it. The President is not a military officer, or even a member of the military, and has no business wearing a uniform or saluting military officers and enlisted men.
I'm enlisted active duty in the US Navy, and I would gladly accept a handshake over a salute any day from my superiors and definitely the president
I am retired military vet myself. If a superior officer did not return my salute I took no offense at least I did my part. Obviously the President realized the mistake and corrected it with a handshake. Remember President Obama was never in the military.. If it was President Eisenhower who was an Army General, maybe this would be a military protocol issue and a minor one at that.. This does not even need to be a debated.
This is a ridiculous "controversy" – the POTUS does not have to salute, and frankly as a civilian commander-in-chief and not a military officer saluting tends towards more inappropriate than not. There is probably no real harm in it, but to call the man out for not doing is nonsense.
Must've been a slow news day?...Having served 13 years in the Marine Corps I must say that a handshake from the President of the United States would have been awesome and frankly, more personal than a salute a few meters away. I think President Obamo has "bigger fish to fry." I am not a big fan, but we need to give the guy a break on petty things like this.
Give the President some slack. This shouldn't even be news.
It's amazing at Americans have one of the best Presidents, ever, yet give him such a hard time. I can't even begin to imagine the amount of stress he's under, and the amount of always critically important things he has on his mind. Regardless, he does NOT have to salute, he (and the office the President) is to be respected and saluted.
BFD! In the military when I served, officers did not always return the salute nor were they required to.A handshake and an apology tops a cursory salute in my book.
The President has a lot on his mind. What, you never forget to do anything when your're stressed out ? Good gesture to get off to shake his hand. He obviously acknowledged his mistake and cared.