Why the Barack Obama Salute Matters & Why The Bush Salute Doesn’t

The Barack Obama salute is the same old story: The  president enacts policy that is contrary to conservative ideology, or he behaves in a manner that conservatives believe is unbecoming of a president, they criticize him, and the militant liberal media opens fire. The central premise of the liberal defense of Obama always being one of two things:

  1. Conservatives are racists!
  2. But Bush did (insert relative equivalent)!

It’s easy to cry racism because it is an extremely difficult charge to disprove. Once the accusation is lobbed at its intended target, it sticks in the air, and the burden of proof falls on the accused. When sensitive issues, such as race, are brought up, few ever question the accuser, because to question the accuser would be insensitive. Additionally, questioning the accuser simply leads to adventures in circular logic, and in the end, one always arrives right back at the beginning. The other defense is a bit easier to break down—and I’ll get to that later.

Several days ago, Obama caused a bit of a stir when, upon exiting Air Force One, he offered a casual salute while holding a latte in his hand. This wouldn’t be an issue had he had simply switched hands, holding the latte in his left hand, freeing his right hand for a proper, and respectful salute. This seems like a ridiculous optical error, but when one is the leader of the free world, saluting the troops who risk their lives to defend the United States should be more than a casual nuisance.

As the cycle goes, conservatives condemned, liberals attacked, and this time, they dug up a photo of—you guessed it—George W. Bush, in which he is holding his dog while saluting. This photo has been offered up as damning evidence of conservative hypocrisy. Here is the thing though, it’s not. Let’s go point by point on this one, just for utmost clarity for any liberals reading this.

  1. It seems to be a typical assumption by the left that conservatives must always aggressively defend every politician who has an R next to their name. They seem to be under the impression that conservatives behave like mindless ants, defending their leaders, regardless of the circumstances. There are several things wrong with this assumption. First, George W. Bush is not very conservative. There’s a reason I identify as conservative, and not Republican. The Republican Party has steadily moved farther and farther away from conservatism over the last two decades, and our recent presidential offerings are evidence of that. Bush may have been a Republican, but he was certainly NOT a conservative. Given that, I don’t agree with many of Bush’s political positions. And given that, I am not tethered to him for life. Conservatives don’t deify their leaders like the left does, and as such, we are not bound to defend them, regardless of their mistakes.
  2. Now, more to the point. The Bush dog salute is not on the same level as the Obama latte salute. The row isn’t about the latte, it’s about the attitude. President Bush made sure to hold his dog in his left arm so as to give a proper, and respectful salute with his right hand (the hand with which you are supposed to salute). President Obama simply didn’t care enough to make that very basic effort.

The salute is an extraordinarily important gesture. In that simple wave of the right hand, a deep reverence, and respect is paid to those who fight for our nation. Famously, Bill Clinton worked with Ronald Reagan for nearly 70 minutes to learn how to properly salute the troops. According to Nancy Gibbs, and Michael Duffy of Time:

“…soon the two men were standing in Reagan’s office, practicing their salutes together. The entire session lasted 70 minutes; Reagan awarded Clinton with a jar of jelly beans when it was over. The jar sat on Clinton’s Oval Office desk for the next eight years.”

As Obama is beginning a new military campaign in Syria, he of all people should take the time to properly return a salute. The fact that he didn’t is indicative of his character, or lack thereof.

According to U.S. Army veteran Kurt Schlichter: “…the greatest obligation is on the senior officer to return a salute properly.”

The left may defend Obama with the aggressiveness of a rabid dog, but they have to know that their Bush dog salute comparison is patently absurd.