How low will the new American president go for the world's royalty?
Such was marvelously asked by the Los Angeles Times' Andrew Malcolm Saturday after news broke that President Obama was once again bowing to a foreign dignitary.
This time it was Japanese Emperor Akihito (larger version of picture below the fold):
This photo will get Democrat President Obama a lot of approving nods in Japan this weekend, especially among the older generation of Japanese who still pay attention to the royal family living in its downtown castle. Very low bows like this are a sign of great respect and deference to a superior.
To some in the United States, however, an upright handshake might have looked better. Remember Michelle Obama casually patting Britain's Queen Elizabeth on the back during their Buckingham Palace visit? America's royalty tends to make movies and get bad reviews and lots of money as a sign of respect.
Obama could receive some frowns back home as he did for his not-quite-this-low-or-maybe-about-the-same-bow to the Saudi king not so long ago.
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. [...]
But the "thou need not bow" commandment from the State Department's protocol office maintained a constancy of more than 200 years. Administration officials scurried to insist that the eager-to-please President had not really done the unthinkable.
"It was not a bow-bow, if you know what I mean," said Ambassador Molly Raiser, the chief of protocol.
White House officials described Mr. Clinton's tilt as something of an improvisation. Because Emperor Akihito broke with tradition in turn to raise his glass at the state dinner, some even said Mr. Clinton had managed something of a breakthrough.
"Presidents don't bow, and Emperors don't toast," one official said. "So this was a little bit like the cultures meeting each other halfway."
Hmmm. If there's a "'thou need not bow' commandment from the State Department's protocol office [that's] maintained a constancy of more than 200 years," why is Obama violating it, and why aren't America's media excoriating him for doing so?
Is this yet another example of "What a Difference an O Makes?"