An old friend — an academic with expertise about the Japanese Empire, and in general a supporter of President Obama — sends me the following note, relating to photographs of President Obama bowing to Emperor Akihito of Japan.
"This picture shows two things," my friend writes.
"1) The 'right' is wrong about Obama's bow.
"2) The 'left' is wrong about Obama's bow.
"His bow is neither (1) unprecedented nor (2) a sign of cultural understanding.
"At their 1971 meeting in Alaska, the first visit of a Japanese Emperor to America, President Nixon bowed and referred to Emperor Hirohito and his wife repeatedly as 'Your Imperial Majesties.'"
(See that picture HERE.)
"Yet, (and?) Nixon gets the bow right. Slight arch from the waist hands at his side.
"Obama's handshake/forward lurch was so jarring and inappropriate it recalls Bush's back-rub of Merkel.
"Kyodo News is running his appropriate and reciprocated nod and shake with the Empress, certainly to show the president as dignified, and not in the form of a first year English teacher trying to impress with Karate Kid-level knowledge of Japanese customs.
"The bow as he performed did not just display weakness in Red State terms, but evoked weakness in Japanese terms….The last thing the Japanese want or need is a weak looking American president and, again, in all ways, he unintentionally played that part.
"BTW, Obama's bow at Suntory Hall was much better. Correct angle, slight bow. His hands were wrong but the physical tone was correct and appropriate.
"But if Obama can get the dollar to stop bowing to the Yen I take it all back."