The conservative media and blogs have been having a field day parsing the bow that President Obama gave before Saudi King Abdullah in London last week. Some see it as a sign that he is submitting in fealty to Saudi Arabia. Others find ‘coded messages’ about how the US will submit to Islam. His act stirs up the canard that Obama is a ‘secret Muslim’. Below is the start of an editorial in the conservative The Washington Times that takes Obama to task.
In a shocking display of fealty to a foreign potentate, President Obama bowed to Saudi King Abdullah at the Group of 20 summit in London last week.
Mr. Obama later said in Strasbourg, France, “We have to change our behavior in showing the Muslim world greater respect.” Symbolism is important in world affairs. By bending over to show greater respect to Islam, the U.S. president belittled the power and independence of the United States.
The bow was an extraordinary protocol violation. Such an act is a traditional obeisance befitting a king’s subjects, not his peer. There is no precedent for U.S. presidents bowing to Saudi or any other royals. Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt shook hands with Saudi King Abdulaziz in February 1945. Granted, Mr. Roosevelt was wheelchair-bound, but former President Dwight D. Eisenhower shook hands when he first met King Saud in January 1957. Mr. Obama’s bow to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques does not help his image with those who believe he is secretly a Muslim, and why he chose to bow only to the Saudi King and not to any other royals remains unexplained.
The fact is that Obama made a mistake. It is US diplomatic usage, dating from the days in which American broke away from the crowns of Europe, that Americans do not bow (or curtsy, as the case may be) to royalty, no matter who the American, no matter who the royalty. The thinking behind this is that an American, as a member of the Republic, is equal to any crowned or ennobled figure. It’s a custom; it’s a tradition; it’s a political statement. It is not a law, however.
Not bowing, however, does not mean that showing signs of respect are inappropriate. A ‘head bow’, inclining the head in the direction of the person being honored, is appropriate and is the norm in diplomacy. Obama over did it, perhaps, but he did not put the US in fealty to Saudi Arabia!
I’ll leave to the discerning student to analyze why a bow from the waist to, let’s say, a Japanese businessman is deemed perfectly okay while opprobrium and disdain are being heaped on Obama here. Correct answers should include hysteria, Islamophobia, and just plain loony-tunes thinking. Frank Gaffney, I’m looking at you…
Cross-posted at Crossroads Arabia.