The Obama Bowing Kerfluffle

So Obama botched a bow, beclowning himself before the Japanese emperor.

Ace was the first place I saw this (he’s got video, too), and I got into it in the comments.  Me, I see a newby who is trying to do the culturally aware thing but royally screwing it up.  But, others took the position that US Presidents, Olympian Heroes that they are, never bow before monarchs.  But in Japan, bowing is similar to shaking hands; it doesn’t have the same meaning as bowing to a monarch does in the West, so I am less than outraged; maybe, bemused?  (Enough buts yet?)

Then the 1994 NYT article comes out about Clinton slumping – but not bowing! – to the emperor, and I think my goose is cooked.

It wasn’t a bow, exactly. But Mr. Clinton came close. He inclined his head and shoulders forward, he pressed his hands together. It lasted no longer than a snapshot, but the image on the South Lawn was indelible: an obsequent President, and the Emperor of Japan.

“It was not a bow-bow, if you know what I mean,” said Ambassador Molly Raiser, the chief of protocol.

I bowed my head in shame and submitted to the slings and arrows of outrageous Ace of Spades morons.  But then, Instapundit chimes in with another take, this time linking to a HotAir story which linked an ABC story linking a photo of Nixon bowing to the emperor.  So, fine, now I think I was right in the first place, BUT I should have said what this guy at ABC said:

“This picture shows two things,” my friend writes.

“1) The ‘right’ is wrong about Obama’s bow.

“2) The ‘left’ is wrong about Obama’s bow.

“His bow is neither (1) unprecedented nor (2) a sign of cultural understanding.

“At their 1971 meeting in Alaska, the first visit of a Japanese Emperor to America, President Nixon bowed and referred to Emperor Hirohito and his wife repeatedly as ‘Your Imperial Majesties.'”

(See that picture HERE.)

“Yet, (and?) Nixon gets the bow right. Slight arch from the waist hands at his side.

“Obama’s handshake/forward lurch was so jarring and inappropriate it recalls Bush’s back-rub of Merkel.

“Kyodo News is running his appropriate and reciprocated nod and shake with the Empress, certainly to show the president as dignified, and not in the form of a first year English teacher trying to impress with Karate Kid-level knowledge of Japanese customs.

“The bow as he performed did not just display weakness in Red State terms, but evoked weakness in Japanese terms….The last thing the Japanese want or need is a weak looking American president and, again, in all ways, he unintentionally played that part.

Yes, exactly.

And for good measure, Powerline and Mad Minerva both weighed in on this.

No, I’m not adding a ‘Miss Manners’ category.

Oh, go on!


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