Ockham’s Razor – Since October 2001 – by Scott Kirwin
But the world refuses to bow back.
Amateur hour at the White House continues…
Who cares if he bowed. President Dwight D. Eisenhower bowed to Charles de Gaulle (France) and President Richard Milhous Nixon bowed to Emperor Hirohito (Japan) but don’t let the facts get in the way, believe the lies you want but the facts stay constant.
Bowing has never been part of presidential protocol. Those two instances you mention show the exceptions prove the rule. Nixon’s bow caused a firestorm of controversy – on the Left.
Having a degree in Japanese politics and lived there in the 1990s I can attest that Obama’s bow is just one more instance of American pretentiousness – that we somehow understand their customs. Bowing seems simple, right? It’s the equivalent of a handshake.
Nope. Bowing is a complex cultural communication. The timing and degree of the bow are critical, expressing the relationship between the two greeters. When it comes to the Emperor, the protocol is so complex that most Japanese wouldn’t know what to do without careful tutoring and practice beforehand.
Obama embarrassed himself – and more stupidly – the Emperor by bowing. He was not expected to do so because he is 1) not Japanese and 2) not subject to the Emperor – and more commonly viewed as his peer. More importantly, the Emperor did not bow back most likely because he was surprised and didn’t know how to react; Obama put him on the spot.
Bowing to the Emperor is roughly the equivalent of kissing a client at your next business meeting. But given his narcissism and ego, he probably thought he was doing something cool.
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