Obama's bow to Japan emperor triggers outrage in Washington

08:41, November 17, 2009      

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US President Barack Obama (L) bows as he shakes hands with Japanese Emperor Akihito (C) and as Empress Michiko (R) looks on upon Obama's arrival at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on November 14. News photos of President Barack Obama bowing to Japan's emperor have incensed critics here, who said the US leader should stand tall when representing America overseas.(AFP/File/Mandel Ngan)

News photos of U.S. President Barack Obama bowing to Japan's emperor have incensed American critics at home, who argued the US leader should stand tall when representing America overseas.

Obama had just wrapped up the Japan leg of his Asia trip and is now visiting China. But Washington's punditocracy was still weighing whether or not the US president had disgraced his country two days earlier by having taken a deep bow at the waist while meeting Japan's Emperor Akihito.

Political talk shows have played and replayed the moment from the second day of Obama's week-long Asia tour, which set the blogosphere on fire and chat show tongues wagging, according to an report from AFP.

"I don't know why President Obama thought that was appropriate. Maybe he thought it would play well in Japan. But it's not appropriate for an American president to bow to a foreign one," said conservative pundit William Kristol speaking on the Fox News Sunday program, adding that the gesture bespoke a United States that has become weak and overly-deferential under Obama.

Another conservative voice, Bill Bennett, said on CNN's "State of the Union" program: "It's ugly. I don't want to see it."

"We don't defer to emperors. We don't defer to kings," said Bennett.
Some conservative critics juxtaposed the image of Obama with one of former US vice president Dick Cheney, who greeted the emperor in 2007 with a firm handshake but no bow.

Obama's bow in Japan seems to have grabbed much of the attention being paid to his first trip to Asia after coming to office.The gesture appears to have touched a particularly raw nerve among Obama critics who said the president has hastened America's decline as a world superpower by being too apologetic and too deferential in his dealings with other world leaders.

While most of the commentary about the bow in Japan was decidedly negative, some political observers, like longtime Democratic activist Donna Brazile, came to the president's defense.

"I think it's a gesture of kindness," she told CNN, adding that the bow appeared intended to show "goodwill between two nations that respect each other."

People's Daily Online- Agencies
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