Jonathan Ladd, associate professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy and the Department of Government, explained on Twitter that no president or vice president saluted the military before Reagan. “The president’s a civilian. Reagan was an actor who didn’t serve overseas in WW2, but with a flair for showmanship, and created the theatrical gesture,” Ladd said. He clarified in a follow-up tweet that, “yes, mid-20th century presidents did occasionally return soldiers’ salutes at special military events, and you can find photos.”
“But the routine saluting of military members, which is what we are talking about here, dates to Reagan in every source I’ve seen,” Ladd added.
In a 2015 Chicago Tribune article titled “How to thank a veteran 101,” veterans described civilians saluting as cringe-worthy. “The issue with saluting veterans is if you’re a civilian, you really shouldn’t be doing it,” Coast Guard veteran Janine Siegal said. U.S. Army veteran Eric Potter told the Tribune: “In the military, saluting is a part of ceremony and it’s very prescriptive. If you’re not in uniform, you can’t salute. The sentiment is important, but sometimes it just feels awkward to have someone do it to you.” Army veteran Mariceli Serrano told the newspaper: “It’s part of our military drill and ceremony and unless it’s a child doing the saluting (cute), many of us cringe deep down inside when we see awkward improper salutes, especially in Hollywood movies.”
Political consultant Dave Wagner tweeted on Thursday: “Cool to see Republicans fabricating controversies about Kamala Harris not saluting troops as she boarded Air Force Two, as if the entire last four years of endless Presidential embarrassments and indignity didn’t happen. Great stuff, guys.”
The GOP hypocrisy on the topic is laughable, considering no such Fox News criticism followed former Attorney General William Barr explaining on the unfortunate podcast Verdict with Ted Cruz that he prefers to be called general even though he knows it’s inappropriate. “It’s based on a mistake, but it’s a fortunate one,” Barr said. Fox News, is this your king?