By Doug Heye, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Of all the controversies so far this month, perhaps the silliest must be the outrage over President Barack Obama bowing to Japanese Emperor Akihito. Coming just months after a similar bow to Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, it is for many an overt sign of Obama's over eagerness to please foreign leaders.
That may be true, but it's also something else: diplomacy.
It's not exactly unprecedented, either. In the post-World War II period, several American Presidents have acted similarly; Bill Clinton bowed to Emperor Akihito in 1994, Richard Nixon bowed to Emperor Hirohito, and Dwight Eisenhower bowed to French President Charles DeGaulle. And let's not forget George W. Bush clasping hands with then-Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, a wonderfully deft move that not only belied the notion of Bush "going it alone" on foreign policy, but also sent the Left into spasms.
The question of whether the President appears to be overly-deferential is legitimate, but should be based more on the administration's policy than in a simple act of diplomacy. Obama has opened himself up for much criticism on the foreign front recently, including snubbing Germany on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall—even David Hasselhoff was able to make it—and the astonishing decision to open up our courts system to terrorists (think of the message that sends to al-Qaeda).
Despite being the "first Pacific president" (whatever that means), Obama, an Illinois state senator five short years ago, is new to the diplomacy game. Less than a year into the presidency, he has shown he is a quick learner on the world stage. He may be criticized for bowing, but at least he didn't give Emperor Akihito an iPod.