When President Obama ordered two Marines to hold umbrellas for him and the Turkish Prime Minister, was he insulting the Marine Corps? (Pronounced core.) Was he intentionally violating the Marine Uniform regulations or was he just trying to keep dry?
And should we even care?
Well, first things first, among the IRS scandal, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and the AP phone records, the unfolding umbrella story (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) is certainly a small story, not deserving of much coverage. On the other hand, both Republicans and Democrats have a long history of doing their best to exploit every small incident to mammoth proportions in their ongoing attempts to embarrass each other. In a sane world, they would only succeed in shaming themselves but in America, a sense of shame is a fatal handicap when it comes to politics and most politicians have it removed.
Surgically if necessary.
Keeping this story alive actually works to the benefit of both parties. Republicans get to fan their eternal outrage over Obama while Democrats can breath easier for every moment that people are talking about umbrellas instead of the IRS scandal,Benghazi, or the other scandals plaguing the Obama Presidency.
Now then, technically, there is a problem with a Marine holding an umbrella. The Marine Uniform regulations do not allow male Marines to use an umbrella. As a Navy vet, during boot camp, I remember being told that we were not allowed to use an umbrella while in uniform. As a football fan, I’ve watched countless Army Navy games where the cadets all watch the game sans umbrellas, regardless of the weather. So yes, seeing a Marine in full dress uniform holding an umbrella over the President was a surprising sight.
But let’s be serious for a second; the President is the Commander in Chief. If he feels the need to be protected from the elements by an umbrella, then he is perfectly capable of ordering a Marine to do so. The regulation doesn’t say anything about holding an umbrella for somebody else.
On the other hand, why would the President choose Marines for the job? He has a huge staff filled with interns and other folks who aren’t tasked with anything deeply important like say, protecting our country. Wouldn’t one of them have been a more appropriate choice? Surely one or two of them were capable of holding an umbrella for a few minutes. Yet he chose the Marines deliberately. Why?
Well, watching the video at the first link above answers that question. The President says that “[the Marines] are gonna look good next to us.”
All about appearances. The President wanted to be seen with the Marines holding his umbrella.
Again, this is a small story, not worth a whole lot of time, but still, doesn’t it say something about how the President regards that Marines? Doesn’t it reveal something about his attitude towards them?
I think it does. I think he sees them not as warriors, men who have elected to sacrifice their time, energy, and potentially their lives in service of our country, but as just another set of functionaries who happen to dress more snappily and can give a visual example of the power of the President. There’s something very ‘banana republic’ about using your military as a prop, isn’t there?
If you remember, President Bush took a lot of flack for wearing a flight suit on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln with some folks arguing that he was insulting actual aviators. Maureen Dowd wrote a particularly scathing column about it. Of course, she and the other critics usually failed to mention that President Bush was, in fact, a jet pilot. He earned the right to use the suit as a prop.
Has President Obama earned the right to use actual Marines as props?
So yes, it’s a small thing, almost not worth mentioning. Very similar to Romney’s statement about ‘binders filled with women.’ Yet during the election, we heard about it for days, and were told that it indicated Romney’s true attitude towards women. Will President Obama be defined by an umbrella the way Romney was by a binder?