I don't like Presidents saluting. I didn't like it when Reagan did it it and do not recall anyone including Eisenhower doing it before Reagan. I suppose it is harmless but It reminds me of third world dictatorships and worse. It also adds a link to the military that IMO is dangerous for a US president, especially those that never served and might be reluctant to overrule military decisions when necessary. I may have cracked a tooth or two watching Clinton getting the hang of it.
Saluting comes with style. George Bush saluted like the BS smirky salutes you always expected from fighter pilots. Marine honor guards clearly saluted better than air force enlistees. With civilian presidents, it always looks slightly out of sync.
Saluting is a symbol respecting senior rank of uniform. A general out of uniform does not require a salute. Not returning a salulte is a strong message especially when you have the power and right not to so. the President has that power and should use it by not returning salutes.
I think it better that a president appear that he has more important things on his mind than returning salutes. Let them know who is boss.
The New York Times has some different thoughts:
A Final Verdict on the Presidential Salute
By CAREY WINFREY
Published: October 31, 2009
FOR nearly three decades, I’ve felt conflicted about presidential salutes. After all, my United States Marine Corps instructors drilled into me the idea that “you never salute without a cover” which, in civilian, meant without a hat.
President Obama at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Oct. 29, 2009.
My fellow Marines and I were also informed, in no uncertain terms, that we weren’t to salute out of uniform. (I don’t think that presidential blue suits, white shirts and red ties quite qualify.) So whenever I saw a president stepping off a helicopter and bringing hand to brow, my drill instructor’s unambiguous words came back to me with much of their original force.
Then there were the salutes themselves, which ranged from halfhearted to jaunty. None of them fulfilled the characteristically succinct prescription that Capt. Jack O’Donnell of the Marine Corps delivered, in 1963, to my platoon of freshly minted second lieutenants at basic school in Quantico, Va.: “Your salute,” he pronounced, “must be impeccable,” by which we took him to mean like his: a straight line running from elbow to fingertips, the fingers and thumb forming a seamless whole, the arm brought swiftly to the brim of the cap, no palm showing, and then lowered smartly to the side.
Presidents have long been saluted, but they began returning salutes relatively recently. Ronald Reagan was thought to be the first, in 1981. He had sought advice on the matter from Gen. Robert Barrow, commandant of the Marine Corps. According to John Kline, then Mr. Reagan’s military aide and today a member of Congress from Minnesota, General Barrow told the president that as commander in chief he could salute anybody he wished. And so it began.
Mr. Reagan’s successors continued the practice, and I continued to be conflicted — believing that when it comes to salutes (and one or two other matters), presidents deserved to be cut some slack, but also feeling a little uneasy about the whole thing.
My ambivalence came to an end last week, when I saw a videotape of the president’s midnight trip to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where he had participated, very early that morning, in the “dignified transfer” of 15 Army soldiers and three Drug Enforcement Administration agents killed that week in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama stood ramrod straight and saluted as six soldiers carried the coffin bearing the body of Sgt. Dale Griffin of Indiana off a C-17 transport aircraft and into a waiting van. His salute, it struck me, was impeccable in every way.
Carey Winfrey is the editor of Smithsonian magazine.