Obama san

Photos of our craven president bowing to yet another foreign leader have set off the usual nuts like me who find it distasteful that he would break a 200 -year tradition of American leaders not kneeling or bowing to royalty, but far more interesting is the reaction of the Japanese, sent me by a reader.

As I noted above, there’s lots of commentary on Japanese discussion boards. Lots of folks remarking that Obama showed more deference and respect than even the prime minister of Japan generally displays for the Emperor, and lots of the typical patting-the-gaijin-on-the-head comments. But all of the commentary suggests that the Japanese saw this as a remarkable gesture. Here are some representative comments from discussions boards:

-Does the US president bow this deeply? Is our Emperor that impressive?
-The emperor should have bowed, too. After all, he and the president are equals on the international stage.
-Obama, you’re lucky to have met the only true royalty in the world.
-The emperor must be amazing if he can get the president of the United States to bow this deeply. Obama must have been overwhelmed by the Emperor’s aura. Doesn’t he have his back hunched over, making him look really small? . . . One of the seven wonders of the world.
-He is the [American] president. Isn’t this level of respect a little excessive?
-The Emperor is the only person in the world who could walk in front of the Queen of England, the US President, and the Pope.
-This is impressive. If I were suddenly thrust in front of the emperor, I’m not sure I’d be capable of bowing this deeply.
-Is it possible that even Obama feels nervous when appearing before our royal family?
-The emperor’s expression suggests he’s thinking “I’ve got to do something with this guy.” I feel sorry that he has to deal with shits like this.
-We should make him an honorary Japanese.
-Obama was brought up well, wasn’t he?
[Obama,] you really don’t have to go that far . . . it makes us feel uncomfortable.
-Did Obama join the cult of the Emperor?
-Obama gets it.
-For better or worse, he knows how to grab Japanese hearts.
-He’s the kind of guy who would bow like this intentionally when he wants to insult the Japanese.
-An amazing photo. The royal family is really something…
-This shows the power of the emperor.
-Prime Minister Hatoyama should learn from Obama how to properly respect the emperor and the national flag.
-Obama heard that the Emperor had ordered him to make an appearance and flew over right away.
-Well, it’s obvious that the US President is about the same level as our Foreign Minister…
-Obama is an impressive person with an amazing grasp of the situation.
-Well, he is the descendant of slaves.
-This is the first 90-degree bow I’ve ever seen by an American. Obama’s impressive for being able to give the most respectful bow possible to our emperor.
-The US president will probably get criticized for bowing this deeply to the Emperor, but I was moved by it. The Emperor’s obviously a wonderful person but Obama is too.
-This one picture has made me like America.
-Obama’s bowing his head lower than his waist; it’s too far. Where’d he learn this?
-After we lost the war, I never thought I’d see this.
-He has a lot more respect [for the emperor] than [Prime Minister] Hatoyama does.


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16 responses to “Obama san

  1. Kidding Really??

    Obama – winning votes all around the world while popularity plummets in the US…. One term President

  2. Anonymous

    An affirmative action community organizer bowing

    Last term we had an alcoholic dimwit (despite the Ivy pedigree, legacy vs affirmative action…whatever) bowing to oil kings

    Salesmen of any stripe (Presidents or CEOs or community organizers) suck up to all kinds of people…from Joe Sixpack in MI to 3rd World or London dimwit “royalty”…just another day at work

  3. Anonymous

    It’s only by MacArthur’s grace that the Japanese ruler today enjoys the sobriquet emperor rather than son of a deposed war criminal.

  4. networthdeclining

    Theory One: White House Protocol Team briefed Obama carefully on what to do and how to do it out of respect for the Emperor and as a way of sending a message to the world, perhaps even practicing the difficult 90 degree bow (all in the face of previous criticism).

    Theory Two: A properly briefed President ad-libbed his deep bow against the advice of his team to send a message of respect to the Emperor and the world (in the face of previous criticisim).

    Theory Three: A properly briefed President was so awed by the Emperor in his presence that he couldn’t help himself and bowed deeply out of an innate sense of respect (and in the face of previous criticisim).

    Theory Four: The President was not well briefed and he copied the limo drivers, hotel managers and other support people who he met in Japan on this his first trip as they bowed to him, the President of the United States (and despite previous criticism).

    Which do you prefer? None are good. I believe Theory Four may be the real story.

  5. KC

    I once met a smart guy from Pakistan who thought the British had a great system. You have one person (king, queen, whatever)who handles all the etiquette stuff. That person studies all the niceties of party going, gift giving, how to behave at the state dinner, etc. Then you have a second leader like a prime minister or president who is very smart and organized and really runs everything. Since I’d kind of ruled Obama out of the second job, I began to wonder if he could handle the first but I remembered some of his great gifts and seeming cluelessness so he probably shouldn’t do that either. Oh well, forget it, even the best ideas have flaws.

  6. Vineyard Vines

    44 is not the descendant of slaves, just saying

  7. Anonymous

    W “bowing to oil kings,” Anon at 8:31? I may be wrong, but I don’t recall any instances of that.

    Got proof?

  8. Anonymous

    Oh yes, a little hand-holding, maybe, now that I think of it, but bowing?

    Show me.

  9. aliprowl

    Yep, he bowed rather deeply to the Saudi, though his tongue didn’t scrape the shoe as it did for Mr. Japan. Please recall the infintesimal incline of the head that greeted Queen Elizabeth, and Michelle’s complete absence of a curtsy to same. Oh, but that’s right – QE represents *shudder* evil white people with money that he can’t redistribute.

  10. Anonymous

    Chris, it’s hard to tell sometimes if you’re serious. I assume these pictures outraged you just as much?

    How dare an American president greet a foreign head of state in a manner accepted in that person’s culture? Where’s the proper ignorance for other people’s traditions and customs?

  11. Gideon Fountain

    In the picture you provided, President Bush appears to be lowering his head for the Saudi King as the King appears to be placing some sort of necklace over the President’s head. Not the same as bowing. And yes, it is embarrassing when a US President bows deeply for a foreign leader as Obama has now done TWICE.

  12. networthdeclining

    Remember Pearl Harbor! Our leaders should not bow to their leaders.

    They say it is”custom” and “polite” in Japan, but actually the custom there is for the junior person to bow lower than the senior person, as Obama did. Equals bow equally, if you are following Japanese custom. Non- Japanese visitors are not expected to bow, and the Emporer was following this protocol, extending his hand in Western style..

  13. HG

    Japan has been for decades a wholly owned subsidiary of the US and, of course, like the Queen of England its Emperor is an empty suit. I don’t think anyone involved in international relations is confused about who is in charge.

  14. ld

    See this ‘Compare and Constrast’ of Obama with other world leaders meeting the Emperor of Japan:


    Obama is the ONLY one who gives a deep bow – the others don’t bow at all.

  15. Greenwich Gal

    Whatever – let’s sell ’em some McDonald’s franchises, Budweiser distributorships, loads of bad teen movies and call it a day.