I’ll start this out by saying that I’m sure several of you are going to disagree with me.

Unlike conservatives, I was willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt when he appeared to give a deferential bow to the King of Saudi Arabia. Perhaps it was just a rookie mistake, or the result of some bad advice from the protocol office.

But, this is starting to become a disturbing pattern:

How low will the new American president go for the world’s royalty?

This photo will get Democrat President Obama a lot of approving nods in Japan this weekend, especially among the older generation of Japanese who still pay attention to the royal family living in its downtown castle. Very low bows like this are a sign of great respect and deference for a superior.

To some in the United States, however, an upright handshake might have looked better. Remember Michelle Obama casually patting Britain’s Queen Elizabeth on the back during their Buckingham Palace visit? America’s royalty tends to make movies and get bad reviews and lots of money as a sign of respect.

Obama could receive some frowns back home as he did for his not-quite-this-low-or-maybe-about-the-same-bow to the Saudi king not so long ago.

This isn’t a matter of being polite, it’s not a matter of following Japanese custom, and it’s not a matter of maintain cordial relations with an ally.

Nor, as this video shows, what it a situation where Obama and the inbred son of the guy who authorized the attack on Pearl Harbor that resulted in the deaths of 2,000 Americans were exchanging mutual bows:

Obama clearly was being deferential in a manner that just isn’t acceptable for an American President.

It all boils down to a simple fact:

American Presidents do not bow to royalty. In fact, heads of state do not bow or genuflect to each other in the normal course of diplomacy. At least, they didn’t until this amateur came into office and failed to learn from the first time he did it. What will the White House say this time? He got stomach cramps?

Something like that, I’m sure.

  • DougL

    Wow… Since when did Hot Air become an authoritative source for what is and isn’t behavior becoming of the president? It would be one thing if Ed had cited some authoritative source on presidential protocol, but he didn’t.

    Clearly we disagree on whether this is just a matter of Japanese culture. You do know that in Japan and other oriental cultures, bows are roughly the equivalent of a handshake. You may claim otherwise and for all I know, there may be some more authoritative source for presidential protocol that says the president should never when meeting with other heads of state. If so, please cite it/them. At face value, just Hot Air/Ed Morrissey’s say-so ain’t gonna cut it.

    I understand that you don’t like Obama, often times from a dislike or disagreement with his policy preferences, and that’s fine, but this is really weak.

  • the Word

    Prior to this President, I imagine all of our puff and bluster only made the other countries think, what arrogant pricks those Americans are. Perhaps now they see a country that wants to treat them with respect and follow their customs as we likely expect them to follow ours. Perhaps, that will make them want to treat us like adults.

    I find it refreshing and more becoming of adults. They have after all been kissing the pope’s (ahem) ring for some time. I believe W kissed it. W practically had a man date with the Saudi family.

  • I totally agree. Obama should have made him get on his knees and worship him as is the right of the American President. If he refused to do it he should have had him kidnapped and then water-boarded for his disrespect. By bowing to him Obama signals a willingness to totally capitulate on all matters or foreign and domestic policy. I cant imagine the incredible blow to American prestige, maybe we need a national day of mourning. This is an epic disaster that needs more words and time wasted…i mean spent on it.

  • new mex

    President Clinton gave a slight head bow to the Emperor and was ripped apart by the New York Times. Where are they now? Protocol is protocol. Mo’s treatment toward the Queen showed little class or respect for protocol. These people are amateurs and totally out of their league. When BO said in 2006 he was not ready to be Pres, it was an understatement. It’s like the Clampets go to Washington!

  • Chris

    Wow did Justin approve this garbage to be posted?

  • milo

    +1 on the comment from Chris. This is an item with no real policy relevance. I don’t know enough protocol to know if Obama did the right or wrong thing, but I know it really doesn’t matter to people of substance.

  • Justin only approves his own posts.

    His fellow Donklephant bloggers get to post whatever they want. Sometimes Justin deletes their post later, but only under truly extreme circumstances. This one probably won’t be deleted.

    As far as protocol goes I must point out that there is no rule that always applies to any head of state or government. In bilateral relations especially the official protocol is whatever is acceptable to both sides is fine.

    Which means that as long as Obama was willing to bow, and the Emperor was willing to be bowed to, there’s no protocol violation here.

    It should also be pointed out that, American triumphalism aside, Heads of State are ranked by length of time in Office. Which means that, due to term limits the US President is almost always outranked by several dozen foreigners. Especially monarchs as most* serve for life.

    *Malaysian Kings serve for five years, and the Dutch monarchs have a tradition of abdicating before they become totally decrepit, but that’s about it.

  • I’m trying to recall if I’ve ever read anything stupider on Donklephant. Hmm. Nothing comes to mind.

    Everyone bows in Japan, genius. Just like everyone here shakes hands.

    See how they’re shaking hands and bowing? That’s the Japanese being cordial to our guy by adopting our style, and our guy being cordial to them. And yes, actually, the emperor does bow he doesn’t bow as deeply because under Japanese cultural norms he just doesn’t.

    My daughter also bows to her Taekwondo instructor, and upon leaving the lesson bows to her parents. I don’t think the instructor is royalty. I’m pretty sure I’m not either.

  • Ya, Doug. The President of the United States of America should show his subservience by bowing to foreign heads of state. That way, when they come here, they will bow to Obama and do what he says, just as he expects them to do.

    Obama’s got a new nickname. “The Subservient President.” Interesting how The Word has newfound respect for President Bush, whom he finds “becoming” because he kissed the Saudi King’s ass.

  • BJ

    This post is frankly ridiculous. Watch the youtube video, then watch any other video of heads of state meeting with the Japanese.

    The bow is equivalent to the handshake. Common diplomatic protocol is for two dignitaries to both bow and shake hands. This is a way to acknowledge each other’s cultural traditions without slighting one or the other.

    Can we stick to policy discussions and cut the discussion of (unimportant) events? How about the changing relationship between America and Japan (I don’t mean who bows to who)?

  • Paul

    Well at least he didn’t try give the empress a shoulder rub like W did to the German Chancellor and If I’m not mistaken when it comes to international protocol Emperor’s out rank presidents.

  • Jon

    Seems like a polite gesture to me, I have no problems with it. After GW it’s refreshing to see our President treat other countries with respect. If I remember correctly, Clinton did the same thing when the Emperor came to the White House.

    Unless one of the two men was unhappy with the greeting then it was not improper. Be it a fist bump, bow, handshake or nod.

  • Agnostick

    In the video, Obama clearly gives a “lower” bow to the Emperor, than he does to the Empress. I think this is also on par with traditional Japanese culture. For what it’s worth, my wife spent a week in Japan and about six weeks in China, a few summers back. My wife says this is nothing more than our president following tradition. For Obama not to bow, she says, would be equivalent to one of us going up to the president at a formal White House dinner and saying “Yo Barry, how’s it hangin’ man?”

    Ed says this is a breach or protocol. Whose protocol? Ours, or theirs? The meeting took place in Japan, so doesn’t their protocol take precedence?

    Protocol is commonly described as a set of international courtesy rules. These well-established and time-honored rules have made it easier for nations and people to live and work together. Part of protocol has always been the acknowledgment of the hierarchical standing of all present. Protocol rules are based on the principles of civility.—Dr. P.M. Forni on behalf of the International Association of Protocol Consultants and Officers.

    This will keep all the extremist tongues wagging for the coming week.

    Meanwhile… the Obama administration will quietly advance another important piece of legislation…


  • joe

    you people are friggen nuts…the man is a disgrace to the office and will make you loony leftists long for the salad days (by comparison) of Jimmy Carter…

  • gerryf

    Yeah, because Bush bowing to Saudi princes and giving them a kiss on the cheek was not the least bit deferential.

    Obama should do what ol’ W’s dad did at a state dinner and simply throw up on the floor. Now that was class!

    How dare Obama respect the customs and culture of other countries.

    Anyone here ever hear of the term “ugly American?”

  • jacob

    This is a simple matter of partisans finding fault in everything “the other” does. Obama bows too low, Bush holds hands … blah, blah.

    Outrage, apologies and sarcasm.

    This is a big sentence though:

    Nor, as this video shows, what it a situation where Obama and the inbred son of the guy who authorized the attack on Pearl Harbor that resulted in the deaths of 2,000 Americans were exchanging mutual bows

    We dropped two bombs that killed more than 200,000 Japanese civilians – women and children.

    We’re even.

  • the Word

    Jimmy – We may have to start calling you stretch. I was just pointing out it would be hypocritical to go after Obama for bowing by the same people who’s guy kissed the pope’s ring and walked arm and arm and kissed the Saudis. In that case I only remember it being said that was a bit effeminate not that civilization itself was coming to an end because of it or that he blew the prestige of the Presidency single handedly..

  • bubbles

    What is this? Is Matt Drudge writing for Donklephant now?

  • I have posted proof positive on my log that this bow was not in any way required by protocol. Check it out.

  • the Word

    BFD John. Of what relevance is it it to you or any thinking American.

  • Agnostick

    So, John, you’d rather have a president that only does what’s “required?” Somebody that does the bare minimum? I actually appreciate that he’s going out of his way to be polite.

    I certainly don’t agree with Doug on this, either, but I have to say that I appreciate that he posted the video of this, which is much more telling than a still image.

    And you linked to crackpot Malkin on this issue?

    Fail. Major Fail.


  • I don’t recall anyone, conservative or otherwise, defending Bush for holding hands with the Saudi King. Therefore there is no hipocracy.

    Here are more photos of world leaders greeting the emperor. Perhaps Obama does believe in American exceptionalism after all – that America is to be exceptionally submissive.

  • John Burke,

    What is wrong with you? This isn’t proof Obama screwed up, it’s proof you’re an asshole.

    Everyone knows that when you’re in someone else’s house you play by their rules. Period. You take off your damn shoes if the lady of the house asks you to. Thus video of the Emperor’s visit to Hawaii is irrelevant — as Gov. Lingle’s guest he played by her rules. She says no bowing, that means there’s no bowing.

    What are you gonna do the next time you visit somebody and they ask you to take your shoes off? Claim that since you have video of some guy wearing muddy shoes, whole jumping up and down on the couch, they have to let you do the same in their house?

    Heck you can’t even get the Emperor’s name right. His family name is Yamato. His personal name is Akihito. This means he is not Mr. Akihito anymore than you are Mr. John.

    BTW, in international protocol you always call their leaders by the names they ask you to use. This means he is Emperor Akihito to you. Especially in posts where you’;re trying to claim somebody else screwed up the protocol.

  • the Word

    Jimmy – Jimmy Dhimmi-
    I don’t remember anyone saying that Bush walking arm and arm was “exceptionally submissive” or that the world was coming to an end because of it. Thinking people didn’t waste a thought on it. Your side repeatedly comes off looking petty and childish and yes, hypocritical.

    When on a mission to repair our severely damaged credibility which would not have been necessary but for the aholes that just left the White House, perhaps it might be nice to reflect on the fact that he is in fact repairing yet another mess that your side caused. If the countries appreciate the gesture, great job Mr. President.

  • Chris

    If that’s purple, I’m scared of what red would look like.

  • Paul

    We have gone from Bush derangement syndrome to Obama derangement syndrome, great if we didn’t have enough problems in this country.

  • It is beyond amazing how furiously people spin excuses for Oabma — just as the other team did for Bush — even calling me and Mataconis names. (and almost instantly wondering aloud why Justin didn’t censor Mataconis’s post. It’s disgraceful.

    The second I saw the picture of Obamna, I knew something was wrong, because I know, if you clowns don’t, that NO Chief of State bows to another Chief of State — not “in their own house,” not on account of protocol or custom.

    It wasn’t hard to find photos proving it. Hirohito met with Nixon, Ford and Reagan and none of them bowed. Ahkihito meets many more people from abraod and travels more. I’ll kiss your ass if you can find a picture of anyone — anyone — else bopwing to him.

    What’s wrong with you people? I’m a Democrat, albeit one not about to drink any Kool Aid for any politician. Grow up — and face up to the fact that for whatever screw-up reason, Obama made himself look like a fool to the Japanese public and people around the world.

    The President of the United States, as Chief of State, EMBODIES the nation; wherever he goes, whatever he says and does, respresents the nation, not just himself or his party or even his administration. Perhaps Obama has not yet internalized that imperative.

  • “The Emperor of Japan is defined as a symbol, not head, of state by the post-war constitution (contrasting with the former divine status) but is treated as an imperial head of state under diplomatic protocol (even ranking above kings) and retains Shinto mystique.”

    I think it is quite questionable what expertise is possessed by John Burke or any of the rest of the right on this issue. I also doubt how strict any of these “rules of protocol” are.

  • Jim S:

    I am not “of the right.” hard to get your head around the notion that someone who doesn’t toe the party line without deviation is a wingnut, eh?

    You don’t need an “expertise” to figure this out, not when there are literally thousands of photos of American Presidents, other heads of state, a wide assortment of lesser folk and just plain Japanese people who just shook hands with Akihito. To defiantly resist an obvious truth to shield any politician even from mild criticism is , well, wierd.

  • John,

    The reason people here are hostile to this post is simple: it’s about symbolic BS that nobody will care about next week. Scratch that, it’s symbolic BS nobody but you has ever cared about.

    We have a $Trillion deficit. We have a health care crisis that, if not fixed, will make that deficit look like Monopoly money, the economy sucks, and our troops are risking their lives for us right now.

    I come to Donklephant to hear substantive debate on those important issues, from reasonable people who disagree with me. If I wanted to hear dumbassess bitch about “disrespect” I’d talk to street people. At least they’re good at it.

  • bs

    can someone explain what this means in japan?

  • SchadenfreudianSlip

    A retired military officer, I remember specific guidance about meeting with dignitaries. It expressly stated that U.S. officers will never show displays of deference–e.g., bowing, kneeling–to any monarch. A handshake is appropriate. Further, as I recall from a Japanese-American buddy, when you bow deeper, and especially when you break eye contact, you are immediately signalling that you are subordinate.

    If he was ignorant of this, or if it did it intentionally, in both cases it’s disturbing…and I voted for him.