Published November 16, 2009
There he goes again. The president, when he met the emperor and empress of Japan in Tokyo on Saturday gave the typical deep bow expected from subjects not peers.
You would think the president would have learned his lesson when he caught such wrath for "bowing" to the King of Saudi Arabia earlier this year. American presidents do not bow to anyone. They do not bow to heads of state, monarchs, potentates, popes or any other mere mortal.
When President Obama bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia earlier this year the White House rushed to spin it away. They claimed that it was not a "bow" at all. The White House stated that the president was “stooping” to look the feeble king in the eye while shaking hands. Well, you can fool some of the people some of the time. The pictures and the video said it all. -- Obama bowed to the Saudi king.
The White House's take on the president’s latest “bow-movement” is that, while it was a bow, it was done pursuant to protocol. That is an outright lie. There is no such "protocol" for a president of the United States to bow to anyone for any reason.
I have been to Japan numerous times with a vice president and president of the United States and never once did they bow to the emperor and nor were they told to do so. -- Leaders shake hands while looking each other in the eye with a warm smile. That is the proper protocol.
Why is this so important? Why should it matter?
Words and deeds are ways in which foreign governments size up their friends and their enemies. Obama’s silent bow is yet another way of apologizing for America’s misperceived arrogance and superiority. Our president has found yet another way to pander and apologize without ever uttering a single word.
America has nothing to apologize for. We are the most generous, compassionate nation on the planet. We are willing to sacrifice our people and treasure to come to the aid of those oppressed or in need. We have crossed oceans to free Continents from brutal dictators. We are the first to respond to disasters that befall our friends and allies or for that matter, our enemies too. We have sent millions of dollars in humanitarian aid for the people of North Korea in spite of the unlawful actions of a rogue regime that calls for our destruction.
When we have fought on foreign soil we never did it to stake a claim to more land for our country. We fought for principle. The only foreign land we took as our own was land that was needed to bury our fallen.
When the president bows to heads of state, various representatives of foreign governments or any other “leader” he sends a message that America is weak and subservient.
Either President Obama does not understand or he does not appreciate what exactly he represents by these wrongful misplaced gestures of “respect.” Or maybe he does and he simply does not care.
America at this time in world history is a great power that commands respect. We are the last best hope for a more peaceful and democratic world.
Our leaders do not bow out of arrogance -- we do not bow because as a free and democratic nation we do not dip our flag or bow our head to any other for any reason.
The fact that a president of the United States does not appreciate this most basic of all protocols is very troubling. It reminds me of his initial refusal to wear a flag pin as a candidate for president and his unwillingness to put his hand over his heart during the playing of the national anthem.
Why is he so ashamed of the country he now leads?
Bradley A. Blakeman is a professor of Public Policy and Politics at Georgetown University. He served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001- 04.