Many Americans took to Twitter to condemn President Barack Obama after he appeared to salute Marine Corps guards outside his helicopter while holding a coffee cup in his right hand.
The uproar began after the White House posted a video on Instagram of Barack Obama disembarking from Marine One on September 23, as he arrived in New York to address the UN General Assembly.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 2,740 followers had commented on the post.
On the surface, the debate centered on military etiquette. @Maddogritch pointed out that the president should have moved his coffee to his left hand while saluting with the right.
Others pointed out that as a civilian, the president need not salute a uniformed military service member. Doing so is a recently-adopted practice that started with Ronald Reagan.
An unnamed Reddit contributor and military veteran wrote that while he was not a big fan of the president, he thought Barack Obama was in the clear.
“He’s already saluting out of uniform. It’s a pleasantry similar to saying <<Thanks dude>>, that serves the sole purpose of letting the marine know he can cut his salute.”
More importantly, as commander-in-chief of the US armed forces, “by military custom, he doesn’t owe anybody a damn thing”, the veteran wrote.
But beneath the protocol debate was a tired argument with new props, between those who support Obama versus those who don’t.
“These types of incidents tend to flare up and go away,” says Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup poll.
“I’m sure photos of Obama’s salute with a Starbucks cup circulated among those who were already anti-Obama, but I can’t believe, based on my experience, that it’s going to have much impact overall on how people view him and indirectly, on the Democratic candidates.”
While a great many of the 17,000 participants in the Twitter debate were critical of the president, others found it to be a good excuse to post a picture of former President George W. Bush awkwardly saluting while trying to keep his grip on his dog.
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