I’m not sure if this is an “official” issue, so I didn’t make it GQ.
Also, it is NOT about any past, current, or potential POTUSes.
I just wanna know if there is any established protocol for whether the POTUS ought to/is expected to return salutes if he/she has had no military experience. Would this be offensive to the military (like, “You’re not a member of the club and you look like a dork. Cut it out.”)?
I think the POTUS should return salutes. When you run for president, you are accepting the responsibility of Commander in Chief. You need to learn the protocol. They salute, you salute back. Them’s the rules.
I agree. I think it’s inappropriate for any president to return a salute, whether or not they had prior military service. The President is a civilian. Civilians do not salute.
Even for people in the military, you do not always salute. In the Navy, for example, personnel do not salute unless they are in uniform and covered (i.e. wearing headgear).
When I was on active duty in the Navy, I was saluted routinely when in civilian clothes by uniformed gate guards (who recognized the officer sticker on my car), and by uniformed service members who recognized me, even though I was out of uniform. Not being in uniform, I would acknowledge the salute with a wave or a nod, but would not return the salute. Navy personnel do not salute out of uniform or uncovered.
IIRC it was Reagan who started returning salutes. There was discussion at the time as to whether it was proper protocol and the conclusion was “let the old codger salute, it’s not hurting anything.” As we are not in the Pit, I shall not comment any further.