Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 05/19/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
WASHINGTON -- Slogging through a drizzly Rose Garden news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, U.S. President Obama took a break to ask for some rain protection.
"I am going to go ahead and ask folks, why don't we get a couple of marines -- they're going to look good next to us -- just because I've got a change of suits but I don't know about our prime minister," he said as two marines appeared at the podiums with umbrellas. "There we go. That's good." He gestured to the soggy press corps, adding, "You guys I'm sorry about."
It was a lighthearted moment in the midst of a grim few days for the White House. But in a week of Benghazi emails, Justice Department subpoenas and Internal Revenue Service targeting, some of the administration's critics saw another example of overreach.
Obama breaches marine umbrella protocol, read the headline on one conservative blog.
Per U.S. Marine Corps uniform regulations, the men are not allowed to carry or use umbrellas while in uniform. Female marines can carry "an all-black, plain standard or collapsible umbrella at their option during inclement weather," and only with service and dress uniforms.
'Mr. President, when it rains it pours, but most Americans hold their own umbrellas'
-- Sarah Palin message on Facebook
All of which means when marines stand sentry outside the White House, they often get wet.
"Marines are always out getting rained on. That's sort of what we do," said Capt. Eric Flanagan, a marines spokesman. A request from the president to a marine who serves at the White House, however, would be an "extenuating circumstance," he said.
Flanagan also pointed to Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which states members of the marine corps shall "perform such other duties as the president may direct."
In this case, Obama had clearly directed the marines to be ready with umbrellas if necessary.
The same umbrella rules hold true for the army; in the navy and air force, all service members can carry an umbrella when not in field uniform.
Neither Flanagan nor a U.S. Army spokesman could explain the reasoning behind the gender divide. An attempt to change the policy in the 1990s failed, with some suggesting there was something effeminate about umbrellas.
"They seem to be very nervous what constitutes unmanly behaviour," said Cynthia Enloe, a professor at Clark University who researched military uniform codes in the book Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives.
Seeing a trained marine holding the president's umbrella just rubs some observers the wrong way.
"Obama expects our troops to hold damn umbrellas rather than go inside: It's disrespectful, inconsiderate, classless," tweeted Lou Dobbs.
"Mr. President, when it rains it pours, but most Americans hold their own umbrellas," former Alaska governor Sarah Palin added on Facebook.
The conservative Move America Forward PAC likened the umbrella-holding to what conservatives view as Obama's weak response to September's attack in Benghazi, Libya. A fundraising email from the group read, "Rain: 'Hold My Umbrella.' Benghazi: 'Stand Down.' "
Perhaps Obama could have turned to a member of the Secret Service instead. Are they allowed to carry umbrellas?
"This falls under our methods and means information, which we don't discuss," Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said.
-- Washington Post-Bloomberg
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 19, 2013 A6
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Accused killer tries to plead guilty again
Fringe candidates get attention they deserve
Sentencing in child-abduction trial could be broadcast
Bank of Cda makes molehill from mountain
Build-first strategy bearing fruit
Crash kills Flin Flon man
Fighting in Ukraine prompts residents to flee
New weather stations to help flood forecasters and farmers
UN chief reinforces call for Gaza cease-fire
Toronto man faces child porn charges
Finance memo flags Bitcoin crime potential
Suspect dead, marshals and cop wounded in NYC
Record crowd flocks to fringe
Gloves off in hockey player fight lawsuit
England cricketer Moeen in Gaza protest
Israeli PM warns of prolonged campaign in Gaza war
OurWinnipeg planning report to be followed, says mayoral candidate
Key controversies in new bank notes
Swimmer Lacroix golden at Commonwealth Games
The Situation agrees to anger management classes
Canada's Frizell wins gold in hammer throw
SC mom's arrest sparks child care debate
Preview of Folklorama at News Café today
Astronaut landing at the Concert Hall in December
Growing movement to treat PTSD in responders
House says US airlines can advertise pre-tax fares
FAA proposes to fine Southwest Airlines $12M
New fears about Ebola spread after plane scare
911 call reveals unusual home intruder - a snake
Sunny, warm week in the forecast
Man dies in suspicious downtown highrise fire
Online post eggs on anti-Ford actions: police
Sailors to navigate dirty water in 1st Rio test
Cops: 'Spider-Man' slugged officer in Times Square
Mall collapse report won't be kept secret
Mall construction boom fuelled by wealthy
Grain mixed, livestock higher
US fuming over Israeli criticism of Kerry
Dozens treated for illness at Keith Urban concert