Meditations on bowing

Blogworld — well, some parts of it anyway — is all abuzz regarding President Obama’s bow to the King of Saudi Arabia during the recent G20 summit.

I am — quite frankly — astounded by the number of people who are (pardon the expression) bending over backwards to explain this act as “a simple gesture of courtesy”.

Ye gods and little fishies.

Let us attempt to take a look at the whole thing from a neutral perspective.

The first thing we should contemplate is the simple question of: were the other Leaders of the World bowing to King Abdullah, or was President Obama the the only one? Are the other Leaders of the World that lacking in “simple courtesy”?

Secondly, were the other World Leaders bowing to each other? Again, if not, is every other World Leader lacking in “simple courtesy”?

Thirdly, did President Obama bow to any World Leaders other than King Abdullah? If King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was the only World Leader bowed to by President Obama — why? Are the other Leaders of the World not entitled to “simple courtesy”?

Last, but certainly not least — was this “simple gesture of courtesy” returned? Did King Abdullah courteously return the bow?

Those question must be asked — and answered — before anyone can truly claim that the now-infamous bow was “a simple act of courtesy”.

Despite enraged claims to the contrary, Americans do bow — especially those in the South and Southwestern part of the country. That heavy nod you see given during introductions and to those passing? That is a bow (albeit heavily truncated) as is the ever-so-charming tip of the hat, or touching of the hat brim; and both are very definitely gestures of courtesy and respect — and this is important — between equals.

As an aside, a bit of bowing trivia: the term “bow-and-scrape” comes from the scraping sound of the foot (shoe) moving back across the carpet to stabilize a particularly deep bow.


In a very real sense when Barack Obama took the oath of office in January, he became the representative and embodiment of the American people — because that is what the President of the United States IS.

When President Obama bowed to King Abdullah, that wasn’t Barry Obama bowing, that was the entirety of the American People giving a singular, one-sided, unreturned display of submission to another nation.

If the White House has a protocol secretary, that individual should either be listened to, or fired, because — so far — their advice sucks great big rocks up off the ground.

If the White House doesn’t have a protocol secretary, might I suggest they find themselves one — right bloody now?


Oh, ye gods

35 thoughts on “Meditations on bowing”

  1. “According to a person close to the situation, Obama hasn’t yet appointed a chief of protocol and his staffers, still unpacking, didn’t realize that the State Department has an entire office dedicated to foreign visits.”

  2. I’m so glad we have just elected the smartest people in the world to be the leaders of this once great country.

  3. He is starting to make GW Bush look like a genius, and that takes some doing.

  4. If I place my open palm in front of me, in a gesture of peace and friendship, and you refuse to clasp it in return… am I the one in the wrong?

  5. If I place my open palm in front of me, in a gesture of peace and friendship, and you refuse to clasp it in return… am I the one in the wrong?

    If you do it to only one person out of a group of twenty — yes, you are in the wrong.

    If, after offering to one person you don’t even have the common courtesy to offer it to your host — yes, you are in the wrong.

    But we’re not talking about the open hand of friendship, now, are we? We’re actually talking about a gesture of submission to the authority of another person that is recognized throughout the world — such recognition not only being recognized for millenia, but one which our nation fought against in 1776.

  6. Words fail me.
    I have been ashamed of this president since he was elected, and he is busily proving me right: Barack Obama is an inexperienced, ill-informed, arrogant IDIOT who is so common it makes my teeth hurt.
    NOT DONE, don’t you know.

  7. P. S. Just remember this is the same person who gave the Prime Minister of England and Queen Elizabeth II, who haven’t shot, bombed, blown up, or otherwise committed homicide in the name of self-righteousness in nearly 200 years and who have been America’s steadfast allies, often to their detriment, the technological equivalent of TINKER TOYS.
    (Probably built in Japan)

  8. YES!!!! Agree 10000% Geez… today he was “apologizing” for Bush. This is NOT off to a good start for us!

  9. Y’know, as the product of Catholic schools in the early 60’s, we girls were taught by the nuns how to properly curtsey, and were expected to do so for every adult who entered the classroom; boys were usually taught by the priests when & where to bow, but the nuns would have to follow up, because they {the nuns} were THERE all the time, so caught the boys slacking, more than the priests …………… we were taught that bowing and curtseying were indications of respect and I’ve not seen too much from Saudi Arabia deserving of respect recently …………….

    Semper Fi’

  10. This reminds me of the Britcom (Benny Hill or Monty Python?) in which a character says “you’re uncouth!” and the other replies in a downmarket accent “I’m bloody couth!”

    Barry’s bloody couth. It’s scary when you actually start thinking that Pelosi wouldn’t be such a bad Commander-In-Chief after all…

  11. gotta remember that as a good muzzie, he would naturally bow to the head of his religion.

  12. Pretty much what I think. The President of the United States bows to NO ONE.

    I think he does not truly realize he is no longer Barak Obama, he is the President. The man is not the Office; the Office is the man.

    As for protocol…get a good chief of protocol, quick. It won’t be long before other national leaders don’t take Barry seriously considering the screwups with other heads of state thus far.

  13. Just a couple of quick notes:

    1. What did he think the State Department was for?

    2. It isn’t just parochial school; we learned proper etiquette for the telephone, dining, conversation, etc., in the second grade!

    3. “Bow and scrape” is the definition of what we’ll be doing to clean up these messes until he’s long gone.

  14. If I recall, President Jefferson adopted the handshake as a formal way of greeting the head of a foreign nation without having to bow to a king. You know, back when we were kinda sticklers about national sovereignty.

  15. Bowing to homophobic, religion-intolerant, women-abusing pedophiles. Very nice, Barry.

    Would he also bow the the Klan or the Nazis or cannibals? All of them are on the same step on any etiquitte ladder from these mass-murdering muslims.

  16. In bowing to the King he was showing that he is a good little Kenyan Muslim who has been bought and paid for,do not forget he did not bow to the Queen who is the head of the Church of England and that the Koran says it is alright to lie about your religion when it is to your advantage
    as a Muslim!

  17. I’m more concerned with the shootings over the last few days. I’m willing to be someone introduces a new gun control bill next week. Or at least screams about ‘evil guns’

  18. He’s also snubbed the Czechs by acting like a private citizen. Dinner with his wife, rather than with the heads of state. (He will meet them for breakfast instead.) Though since Klaus is a conservative, and anti-AGW to boot, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it was an intentional snub.

  19. I bow to no man. I expect the same from the President of the greatest free nation on the planet.

  20. Rather shocking, but he’s pretty much just a callow youth, with little experience in the real world. Let’s not expect too much too soon. I’d like to think that he might grow into the job. (But I doubt it, alas. Just having the job tends to make folks believe their own PR).

    For what little it’s worth, Abdullah is probably the most civilised king the Saudis have had in fifty years. He seems to be trying to sit on the hardline whackos over there; a tricky role to play in a very unstable country. He may not have a lot of respect for the US, but there’s probably some reason for that.

  21. And people ranted about Sarah Palin’s inexperience? We don’t elect a president to train him on the job. Nor, is his job to put his arrogance and control freak nature before interaction with other heads of state. There ARE other heads of state.
    As to not having any respect for US, how long have you lived in Islamic countries?
    We have only to be ferangis for that, non-Moslems, and to show weakness to gain their disrespect and in certain areas, their hatred. We don’t have to DO anything.
    Old Islam, as I have said before, was an enlightened, educated, intelligent culture, appreciative of all the arts and tolerant of many cultures. New Islam is hardly a pale reflection of the old religion, and I view that with regret.
    Whether or not King Abdullah respects America, he at least has the informed intelligence, and diplomatic know how, to behave properly.
    Obama doesn’t appear to even have the sense to know that he is not Mr. Obama now, but president, representing the country as a whole 24 hours a day; he should not put personal conveniences before that presidency.
    In other words, he isn’t king.
    He IS, however, the head of the still-greatest nation in the world, and to abase himself to another head of state is unspeakable.

  22. just further proof that Barry is NOT fit to lead this nation…I HOPE we can survive the CHANGE…

    Great Jumping Horny Frogs Boy…WHERE DID YOU LEARN YOUR MANNERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!??????????

    From a Cereal box????

  23. Ok, I used to actually look forward to reading your blog, ‘Dog, but now it’s clear you’ve jumped the shark.

  24. Go LawMom! Totally agree.

    Inferiors bow/curtsey/salute to superiors.

    Superiors nod/acknowledge/return salute to inferiors. If the superior does not respond (known in the days when manners meant something as a “cut direct”)it is an insult of the kind that used to lead to pistols at dawn.

    What a cluster (you know what).

  25. Look, the White House has TWO offices devoted to this sort of stuff, not even counting the State Department.

    There is the WH Office of Protocol. (It’s NOT just one person — it’s a whole department, and HAS an acting chief who’s been on the job since Day One.)

    The WH Social Secretary (whose job is partially to ensure that the correct wonks from State and the Protocol Office get to brief the President of stuff he is supposed to know for visits — like this.)

    Unfortunately, the Social Secretray right now is a lady whose singular qualification seems to be that she’s one of Michelle Obama’s old friends.

    They don’t care, and they think they can wing it without preparation other than a teleprompter for speeches — the same way BO has been his entire political career.

    It’s why they float stupid trial balloons and act clueless when they get popped, it’s why the key players don’t react well to unscripted questions, etc.

    This entire Administration is based on a Cult of Personality shooting from teh hip, and he’s supposed to get it right in his Zen0like state of infallibility.

  26. Actually —

    If you look closely at the hand action (remember, he’s left-handed, as am I) and the hang of the trousers, it’s likely his left pantleg was caught in his sock top and he reached down to pop it loose.

    Just rerun the video a few times and you’ll see it.

    Happens to me all the time.

  27. @Rick – The White House Social Secretary has literally zero to do with protocol for events not at the white house, and besides, she has a Harvard MBA, and appears to be quite experienced and have good style.

    A much better question is WTF is up with Gladys Boluda, who was assistant director under Bush and is now the head of protocol.

  28. Anonymous-
    Do you actually think either of the Obamas is going to pay the slightest attention to ANYONE (except Rahm, who might be worse than they are)when it comes to doing what they should do or doing what they want to do?
    They are behaving in the nouveau way to which the nation was exposed (but to which in the main, everyone closed their eyes to or made excuses for)in the aftermath of Katrina.
    Demands, extravagances, no forethought, no manners, no idea of protocol, downright rudeness, ingratitude, arrant greed, stupidity, megalomania-did I leave anything out?
    The Obamas have been watching Henry VIII and learned THAT particular lesson well.
    They are going to do as they please. Get used to it.

  29. Anoymous,

    The Official Line is that the White House doesn’t have a protocol chief at all, since they haven’t had time to appoint ne, what with The Lightbringer being so busy working on the economy.

    No, either they didn’t KNOW about an entire department of the White House staff, or they didn’t CARE what the staffers may have to say.

    And, yes, the Social Secretary DOES have an important function — as I indicated, even where she may not be an expert in the event and where it doesn’t occur inside the White House, she’s supposed to say, “Hey, Boss? You need ot get briefed by the protocol wonks — either the ones right down the hall in the other wing, or the ones less than four minutes away at teh State Department. They can have someone waiting for you when you’re ready on ten minutes notice. Or, they can brief you in teh air. Or, we could have the embassador’s staff brief you when you get off the plane.”

    Because, how the President interacts with these world leaders IS a “White House” function, and it affects how things go down when THEY visit him HERE.

    “The White House” is NOT just a building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — it is a functional organization as well.

  30. Not a bit.

    Becuase he extended EQUAL levels of formality to the other world leaders.

    He did not extend SUPERIOR (and unreciprocated) compliments to one.

    You really ought to look up the details of Middle Eastern culture, and study where hand holding and kissing between two men who personally know each other and are friendly falls.

    Versus bowing — which (especially when NOT reciprocated equally) is a gesture of submission.

    But that’s OK — you keep hating Bush, even though he’s out of office. And keep ignoring the nearly daily eggregious foreign affairs missteps, ALL caused by an arrogant assumption that “The Lightbringer knows best”, of the current administration.

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