Sunday, April 05, 2009

Obama's bow: Why does it matter?

When I first heard that Barack Obama bowed to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, I thought, " way". I'd seen a video of his meeting with Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, and during that encounter Obama rendered the barely perceptible head nod, which is an appropriate show of respect by a US president to a reigning monarch of a friendly nation.

But when I saw the video of his meeting with Abdullah, there was no mistaking it. Obama bowed - deeply - to one monarch during the same trip in which he barely nodded to another. But why does this matter? Because in the foreign relations and diplomacy world, symbolic gestures matter, and they matter greatly. What will King Carl Gustav of Sweden, for example, think if Obama fails to render the same bow to him? From here on out anything short of a waist-deep bow to a reigning foreign monarch can be taken as a snub.

The Anchoress reminds us that in 1994, the New York Times chided then-President Bill Clinton for much less in an encounter with the Emperor of Japan.
It wasn't a bow, exactly. But Mr. Clinton came close. He inclined his head and shoulders forward, he pressed his hands together. It lasted no longer than a snapshot, but the image on the South Lawn was indelible: an obsequent President, and the Emperor of Japan.
Yet so far, not one single major news outlet has said word one about Obama's obsequiousness to the Saudi monarch. It's almost as if...I don't know...the White House press pool has been warned not to ask questions about it.

The Anchoress also suggests there may be something revealing in the way Obama seemed to have checked his bow, as if he started the bow as an automatic reflex before catching himself.
Let me say right off the bat, I have never thought, as apparently many still do, that Barack Obama was a Muslim. Obama said he was a Christian, and - although it is difficult to believe he sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for 20 years and never heard him utter racist or anti-American sentiments - I tend to take people at their word, until their behavior informs me otherwise.

Such is the case, here. President Obama’s own behavior has me wondering.

I don’t like this video. Spin it any way you like, Obama’s knee is bending, and the head is going very low, almost low enough to kiss a ring, but then Obama’s smooth movements become awkward and stilted, reflecting interrupted momentum - like a batter checking his swing. This looks very much like a man catching himself in mid-bow and suddenly remembering that he should not.
I don't think this reveals anything more than a bias favoring a representative of a more "exotic" foreign culture, over the representative of a boring, old Western culture.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air put together this video for you to compare and contrast.


Charles said...

The media has spiked this story. Not a mention on Fox, either.

I don't think Obama is a secret Muslim or anything like that. I think the bow was spontaneous, he couldn't resist the impulse to grovel before a despot, like so many leftists do.

Eric said...

Yeah, there definitely seems to be a blackout on the story. I hope someone's saving up all these stories that have been persistently ignored or glossed over, then releases a 2-hour infomercial right before the 2012 election.

Ju said...

Obama, the President of the United States and leader of the free world, bows to a Saudi King who represents a despotic regime noted for its’ human rights violations, a birthplace of terrorists, a symbol of everything that is an antithesis to our system of government, and it’s no big deal?

I consider myself fortunate to have been born in a republic. I appreciate that as a citizen of a republic, I need not bow to any man or woman. We are all created equal, and blood lines do not make one person superior. This gesture by Obama should rankle every citizen for when Obama bowed as President of the United States, we all bowed.

He did bow, see the video from the latest angle: