There they are, the commander in chief and the first lady, standing for the playing of the National Anthem.
Donald J. Trump is offering a hand salute, which I am sure is going to prompt some discussion about whether it is appropriate for a president who never served in the military to do such a thing.
I’ll weigh in with this: There is no rule against it, which means it is up to individual presidents to decide whether to salute while playing the Anthem. I guess Trump thinks it’s OK. Fine.
It has been established that it’s all right for veterans to salute while they play the Anthem. I choose instead to put my hand over my heart; I am just not comfortable saluting the flag while standing in civilian clothes. This is just me, but I find the sight of a civilian saluting the flag to be off-putting. It’s as if the individual who salutes the flag is trying to call attention to himself or herself, rather than granting full attention to the flag we honor and cherish.
I suppose that would apply to presidents of the United States.
Barack Obama would return a salute when service personnel saluted him; President Obama never served in the military. George W. Bush did the same thing; he did serve in the Air Force Reserve. Same applies to Bill Clinton, who also didn’t serve in the military. All of those men, though, place their hands over their hearts while standing for the National Anthem.
President Bush 41 would salute occasionally. President Reagan would return the salute. Neither of those men, though, would stand while saluting as the Anthem was played.
I am not going to belabor the point, except to say that Donald Trump’s role as commander in chief grants him the opportunity to salute while they play the Anthem. I get, too, that not all veterans agree with his decision to do so.
I suppose I am one of them … but it’s a small thing. The current president’s desire to make a spectacle of himself in that context only highlights the Vietnam War draft-dodging chapter in his life that so many of us find objectionable.