If there's anyone expected to adhere to standards of decorum, that would be the highest official in the land. President Barack Obama, however, is drawing criticism for failing to respond properly to a formal military salute.
In a video posted on the White House's Instagram account, President Obama is seen getting off Marine One, the presidential helicopter, in New York to make his way to the United Nations General Assembly. He was welcomed by two Marine guards who saluted, as dictated by protocol for U.S. service members who encounter the commander-in-chief. Obama responded to the salute, but not in the way that was expected. He was holding a coffee cup in his hand as he saluted back.
That, of course, was not received well in social media. Even the National Republican Congressional Committee posted a tweet, saying "Wait -- did President Obama just salute the Marines with a LATTE in his hand?!"
According to the U.S. Marine Corps Customs and Courtesies training manual, the salute is the highest form of all military courtesies. Various salutes have been rendered over the years but the hand salute that is known today pervades as the traditional greeting for soldiers from all nations. "Regulations require that all officers be saluted by their juniors, and that they return such salutes. The salute formally recognizes the officer as a military superior, and returning the salute expresses the officer's thanks for the junior's support," said the training manual.
Military experts, however, counter that a civilian president is not required to salute back, although practice has been in place since 1981 when Ronald Reagan was still in office. Smithsonian Magazine editor Carey Winfrey recounts that the then-president consulted with the Marine Corps commandant about the practice. The commandant promptly told the president he can salute anybody he wished since he is the commander-in-chief.
While most comments show disappointment in Obama, others are saying there are worse things to worry about than the latte salute.
Maybe Obama is also being particularly criticized for his slip-up because it happened just mere hours after U.S. forces launched an attack against ISIS. Many feel that the least the president could have done was to salute properly to show his respect and appreciation for the efforts of the men and women on the ground fighting in behalf of the country.
In 2013, President Obama was also criticized for shaking the hand of the Marine standing guard at the bottom of the stairs as he stepped off the Marine One instead of doling out the customary salute.