23 February 2019
US President Barack Obama returns a salute with his right hand holding a coffee cup. Photo: White House Instagram
US President Barack Obama returns a salute with his right hand holding a coffee cup. Photo: White House Instagram

Obama’s latte salute fuels bitter tweets

A tempest brewed over a coffee cup on social media after US President Barack Obama returned a formal salute by military guards with his right hand holding a styrofoam tumbler. 

A brief video of the incident was posted on the White House Instagram account to record his arrival in New York to address a United Nations summit on climate change on Tuesday.

It shows him alighting from the official helicopter Marine One with the First Lady Michelle Obama right behind him. Passing by the Marines who gave him a formal salute, he returned it with a quick, half-hearted gesture using his right hand which was holding a coffee cup.

And that was enough to open the floodgates of bitter criticisms on the internet. (For us, though, it’s a bit of a feat to salute in that manner without having the big cup slip from your hand.)

The National Republican Congressional Committee was one of the first to spread the word around. It tweeted: “Wait — did President Obama just salute the Marines with a LATTE in his hand?!”

Other messages followed soon. “Saluting with a coffee cup on his hand, what a disgrace,” says one.

“Put the damn coffee down and salute correctly,” says another.

The timing of the incident was not lost on some of the commentaries. The American leader has just sent his troops to drop bombs on Islamist fighters in Syria, making the unconventional salute seem disrespectful.

And the fact that he was drinking from an environmentally-unfriendly container seemed inappropriate as he was just about to deliver a speech on how to save planet Earth from man’s degradation of the environment.

The Daily Caller cites a Marine manual on the proper way to do the salute, which it calls “the most important of all military courtesies”.

“In some situations, the salute is not appropriate,” according to the manual. “In general, do not salute when… carrying articles with both hands or being otherwise so occupied as to make saluting impractical.” 

Apparently, the President, who is the commander in chief, has not bothered to read the manual, which is for Marine Corps officer candidates.

But the incident should serve as object lesson to fumbling presidents, disrobing celebrities and the common folk: in this era of Facebook and Twitter, the smallest blooper you make can go viral.

Obama’s latte salute on YouTube:

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