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April 14th, 2003 - 12:52 am

John Lucaks isn’t happy with the recent tradition of American presidents returning salutes from uniformed military personel:

This unnecessary and unseemly habit was adopted by Mr. Reagan’s successors, including Bill Clinton and especially George W. Bush, who steps off his plane and cocks a jaunty salute.

This gesture is of course quite wrong: such a salute has always required the wearing of a uniform. But there is more to this than a decline in military manners. There is something puerile in the Reagan (and now Bush) salute. It is the joyful gesture of someone who likes playing soldier. It also represents an exaggeration of the president’s military role.

I agree almost completely with Lucaks. The President wears no uniform, is Constitutionally a civilian, and has no business returning offered salutes. A nod of the head in return suffices and is quite proper.

But to accuse Reagan and Bush 43 of being puerile, while giving Clinton a pass?

Oh, please.

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