U.S. Presidents and Royal Protocol
The Obamas are coming under criticism from around the blogosphere for their dealings with royals. First, Barack Obama gave Queen Elizabeth II a video iPod filled with some rather add materials (along with an actually thoughtful gift). Then, Michelle Obama got into trouble for getting too familiar with the the queen. Now, Barack Obama is getting chastised for bowing to the Saudi king.
Now, frankly, I don’t give a hoot what the president gives the British figurehead. I’m slightly concerned, as evidenced by his also giving PM Gordon Brown a boxed set of DVDs, that he seems not to understand that the UK is a First World country and that its leaders can probably afford anything available at Amazon for under $200. But, really, it’s the thoughtlessness that counts.
Second, QE2 has been at the monarch thing for several decades, so one presumes that she gets a reasonable amount of obsequious treatment. Being touched on the shoulder by the wife of the American president, presumably, is something from which her ego shall rebound. As for Mrs. O, she is not a subject of the queen and thus not obligated to be anything other than cordial in dealing with her.
The bowing to the king thing annoys me. It’s a proper enough show of respect for a monarch in his home and it would be rude for an ordinary American citizen not to follow this protocol. But Obama isn’t a tourist being granted an audience with the king, he’s our de facto head of state. Then again, a quick bow is less creepy than holding hands with him, as Obama’s predecessor was known to do.
At the end of the day, I just can’t muster the outrage of Michelle Malkin or even Mark Steyn on this one. (I do find amusement, however, at Steyn’s description: “So let me see if I understand American protocol in the age of Obama: The First Lady hugs Queen Elizabeth as if she’s some granny at a seniors’ center photo-op, but the President of this republic prostrates himself before King Abdullah as if he’s a subject of the Saudi pseudo-Crown.”) Mostly, I share Pat Lang‘s befuddlement that Americans care so much about monarchs and their little rituals.
Photo: Sydney Morning Herald