The picture at the right has created something of a kerfuffle in the blogosphere. It captures President Barack Obama being introducted to Japanese Emperor Akihito and bowing profoundly. Scott Johnson is overly exercised:
Obama’s breach of protocol is of a piece with the substance of his foreign policy. He means to teach Americans to bow before monarchs and tyrants. He embodies the ideological multiculturalism that sets the United States on the same plane as other regimes based on tribal privilege and royal bloodlines.
Kathy Kattenburg is flat out wrong:
Once again, Barack Obama has demonstrated his appalling hatred for America, and his elitism, and his arrogance, and his tearing down and bashing of his country and his predecessor’s foreign policies, by greeting Japan’s prime minister
with a deep bowin a culturally appropriate way.
This was definitely not “culturally appropriate” and was definitely a breach of protocol.
In Japan bows are culturally appropriate, the rough equivalent of a handshake. However, the depth of the bow is carefully calibrated, reflecting the status and stations of the two parties, and President Obama’s bow is far too deep. Rather than appearing cultural appropriate I suspect that to most Japanese he would merely look clumsy.
I was in the process of collecting a sampler of picture to demonstrate that it was, in fact, a breach of protocol but I quickly found that HotAirPundit had beaten me to it. Browse on over and you can see Vladimir Putin, Manmohan Singh, and other world leaders greeting the emperor appropriately. I’ll contibute this picture:
I believe this represents Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama greeting the emperor, possibly presenting his credentials. Should the president of the United States bow more profoundly than the prime minister of Japan to the Japanese emperor?
My reaction to this is much what it was to other, previous goofs: I think the president is being very poorly served by his advisors. He needs a protocol advisor that he’ll pay attention to and who has the courage to tell him what to do and what not to do in order to avoid looking foolish. In this case he looked foolish.
In the final analysis this is a very minor matter. The Japanese are forgiving people and I have little doubt that they’ll be polite enough to overlook the clumsiness of President Obama’s attempt at cultural sensitivity. I doubt that most Americans really care.
I’m a Democrat but, as I’ve said before, I’m a republican (note the small “r”), too, and it nettles me to see the president of the United States making obeisances to foreign royalty. But it’s not the end of the world and I doubt that it means much more than that President Obama is trying to do the right thing but doesn’t know what the right thing is.