Former U.S. Central Command Commander-In-Chief Gen. Anthony Zinni pushed back against Real Time host Bill Maher on Friday when Maher dismissed the anger from conservative circles featuring President Barack Obama's "latte salute."
"It's like the Zapruder film: Back and to the right. Back and to the right," Maher said over footage of Obama saluting a pair of Marine Corps officers with a coffee cup in hand. "Let me just say, if this offends you that much, you should marry your teddy bear."
"It offends me," Zinni responded.
"You know that Bush did it with a dog, right?" Maher countered, before showing the image of President George W. Bush saluting while holding his dog.
"That offends me, too," Zinni said. "That young Marine was showing respect to his commander-in-chief, and his commander-in-chief did not return that respect. May be fine in the frat house. It's not that way in the Marine Corps."
"Is this more important than like anything else in the world?" Maher asked.
"It is a gesture of respect," Zinni shot back.
Maher pointed out that presidents did not generally salute the troops until Ronald Reagan made it a regular practice on his part during his time in office following a conversation with aide John Kline. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow explained Reagan's decision in her book Drift. On Thursday, Maddow posted an excerpt from the book:
Kline noticed that his boss was saluting members of the armed forces. Soldiers were supposed to salute their president; the president was not supposed to salute the soldiers. No modern president, not even old General Eisenhower, had saluted military personnel. It might even be, well, sort of, improper. Reagan seemed disappointed at the news. Kline suggested he talk to the commandant of the United States Marine Corps and get his advice, and the commandant's advice ran something like this: You're the go*damn President. You can salute whoever you go*damn well please. So Ronald Reagan continued saluting his soldiers, and he encouraged his own vice president and successor, George H. W. Bush, to do the same. And every president since has followed.
"I'm a general -- I talk about saluting in general," Zinni quipped on Friday.
"And I salute that," Maher responded.
"And you need a haircut," Zinni zinged back.
Watch the exchange between Maher and Zinni, as posted online on Friday, below.