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If it’s Memorial Day weekend, it’s time for right-wingers to impugn Obama’s patriotism

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For the wingnuts among us, almost any time of year is a suitable occasion to suggest that Barack Obama is insufficiently patriotic. But the wackos seem to think that such suggestions are especially resonant on Memorial Day weekend.

A few years ago, for example, a big deal was made of the news that Obama would not be attending the traditional Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.

But the critics were hypocritical on several counts. They ignored the fact that George H.W. Bush skipped the Arlington ceremonies in each of his four years as president. And they said nothing about Ronald Reagan snubbing the Arlington doings on four of the eight Memorial Days during his presidency. (He was at his California ranch or something.)

The worst part of this knock on Obama’s patriotism was that it ignored the fact that he attended Memorial Day services that year at a military cemetery in Chicago.

This year, the fuss in the mainstream media and in the right-wing blogosphere alike is over Obama’s failure to return the salute of a Marine as he boarded a helicopter yesterday (see photo above).

Oh, the shame of it all!

But there are several problems with this would-be scandal.

For starters, once Obama realized his mistake upon entering the helicopter, he turned around, went back down the stairs and shook hands with the young Marine.

Then, too, this business of presidents saluting members of the military began relatively recently, when Ronald Reagan was in office. Dwight Eisenhower, who was an honest-to-God general, didn’t do it when he was president. And a military aide to Reagan told him that such salutes were contrary to military protocol.

Four years ago, former Marine Carey Winfrey wrote THIS PIECE about his mixed feelings about the matter:

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.

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.

By the way, I should make clear here that some right-wing Web sites have readily acknowledged that Obama came back and spoke with the Marine he had failed to salute. But the comments threads on most of these sites are full of nasty remarks about how this incident is just another example of the president’s lack of patriotism.

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