For those of you who never spent any time in the service, please allow me to break this down:
- If you are in uniform, you do not either salute or return salutes while not wearing a hat. The president was not wearing a hat.
- If you are in civilian clothes, you neither salute nor return salutes whether wearing a hat or not. The president was in civilian clothes.
- When rendering a salute, in the American military you touch the tips of the index and middle finger of your right hand to your right temple, just at the edge of your eyebrow. When doing so, your arm should be perfectly parallel to the deck (ground). Your palm should be facing very slightly inward towards you while doing so, so that the underside of your hand is not visible to the person who you are saluting. The president, however, performed some bizarre gesture worse even than most Hollywood "salutes", smacking the dead center of his eyebrow with the second knuckle of his right index finger. The only way it could have been more ridiculous is if he had succeeded in poking his own eye out with his thumb, which he appeared in serious danger of doing. (Try performing the maneuver I just described, if you can't visualize it.)
- While some might argue that president Bush is, though Supreme Commander in Chief of the armed services, effectively a civilian and therefore excusable for flagrant ignorance of the mechanics of a salute... he was, in fact, a uniformed member of the Air National Guard in the 1970's. He served (very) briefly as an enlisted man before being (very quickly) railroaded into a commisioning program and (just as quickly) ceasing to bother even showing up at his assigned duty station. Even beyond that, the President of the United States generally has more than a sufficiency of advisors to help him realize when he's screwing protocols up badly - meaning that if he's still doing so, it's either in the face of their advice, or because he's picked advisors who won't advise him of anything that won't make him happy.
Add this in with items such as media ops in a fighter pilot's flight suit, and whether you like the man's politics or not, you've got a seriously disrespectful and ignorant jackass who doesn't care how much of a shambles he makes of basic military courtesies, or how ridiculous he makes himself (and the military with him), if it means he gets to "feel cool" like he's "one of the boys."
And I resent that pretty seriously.