President Obama’s Bow & Right-Wing Fauxtrage (UPDATED)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–conservatives really are just looking for any excuse to attack President Obama. Sometimes, the extent to which they’re willing to deny reality is simply stunning.

As part of his ongoing trip to Asia, President Obama met with Japan’s Emperor Akihito. When greeting Akihito, as a gesture of politeness, Obama gave him a bow and a handshake.

Cue the right-wingers, screaming that the President’s polite greeting of a foreign leader was a gesture of weakness (or something like that). Conservatives, puffing out their chests and wrapping their flags more tightly about their shoulders, defiantly declared that “Americans do not bow” and attacked the President’s “subservient” pose.

Here’s a reality check:


President Eisenhower bowing to French President Charles de Gaulle


President Nixon bowing to Japanese Emperor Hirohito


President Bush bowing to Pope Benedict XIV


President Bush holding hands with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah


President Bush kissing Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah

In fact, George Washington himself preferred bowing over a handshake; he penned a book of etiquette in which he instructed readers to bow, especially to “Persons of Distinction”:

In Pulling off your Hat to Persons of Distinction, as Noblemen, Justices, Churchmen & make a Reverence, bowing more or less according to the Custom of the Better Bred, and Quality of the Person.

[Emphasis mine]

As conservative blogger Charles Johnson said:

A common theme among all this outraged ranting is that US Presidents must never bow to a foreign leader. Bloggers all over the country are utterly convinced of it, as if they learned this fine point of Presidential etiquette right after the Pledge of Allegiance in Civics 101.

Oddly enough, I don’t recall ever hearing this universal truism before Barack Obama was elected President. Where’s this rule written down? I searched for quite a while during the last stupid “Bowgate” nontroversy, and couldn’t find it anywhere. Here’s the State Department’s Office of the Chief of Protocol web page; maybe you’ll have better luck. I think it’s a right wing urban legend.

[h/t Sadly, No!]

UPDATE: Here are some more pictures of President Eisenhower bowing to such figures as Pope John XXIII, Italian First Lady Carla Bissatini and Archbishop Iakovos, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America.