Taking a bow

TAKING A BOW…. As part of his Asian trip, President Obama met today with Japanese Emperor Akihito. In keeping with Japanese custom and diplomatic protocol, the president bowed.

If you’re thinking this was an inconsequential moment, especially as compared to the significance of the trip itself, you’re underestimating the right’s propensity to embrace nonsense.

The president’s gesture was the story of the day on far-right blogs yesterday, led in large part by the LA Times‘ Andrew Malcolm, who made the unfortunate transition to blogging after working as Laura Bush’s press secretary. Drudge & Co. soon followed.

Now, I won’t pretend to be an expert on diplomatic protocol when meeting foreign leaders, but I am aware of the fact that in Japan, a bow is fairly routine, customary greeting. Obama bowing in Japan upon being introduced to Akihito seems no more interesting than Bush kissing and holding hands with Saudi King Abdullah. Presidents tend to be respectful to foreign leaders, especially during overseas visits. It’s not exactly tantrum-worthy.

Indeed, LG&M found a variety of photographs of then-President Eisenhower in full-on, head-down bows towards Pope John XXIII and Charles De Gaulle. It didn’t seem to undermine American prestige on the international stage, and it certainly didn’t signal American subservience towards the Vatican or the French.

The Obama administration dismissed the story.

A senior administration official said President Barack Obama was simply observing protocol when he bowed to Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko upon arriving at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Saturday.

“I think that those who try to politicize those things are just way, way, way off base,” the official said. “He observes protocol. But I don’t think anybody who was in Japan — who saw his speech and the reaction to it, certainly those who witnesses his bilateral meetings there — would say anything other than that he enhanced both the position and the status of the U.S., relative to Japan. It was a good, positive visit at an important time, because there’s a lot going on in Japan.”

Better conservatives, please.