Jake Tapper finds an academic with some expertise on Japan who relates this on the cringe-inducing bow:
“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.
Without getting too carried away, this incident is a neat little example of Obama’s foreign-policy blunder-fest. First, the arrogance — he lived abroad, don’t you know. He “gets” other cultures. Second, the ignorance — no, he doesn’t. He should not have done this, both because it is an affront to American dignity (we have not submitted to monarchs since 1776) and because it conveys the wrong message to the Japanese. Third, Obama’s natural inclination is groveling, ingratiating, and general suck-uppery. He seems to believe that, rather than an erect projection of American strength, submissiveness is going to get him/us somewhere. Finally, the lie — oh this is “protocol,” the Obami say. Ah, no it’s not. Whether delivering fractured history (in Cairo), or denying their own failed gambit (preconditions? what preconditions for the Middle East peace process?), or disguising their motives (dismantling missile defense isn’t to appease the Russians, we were laughably told), or trying to pull a fast one to get out of an embarrassing jam (Honduras), the Obama foreign-policy operation is one of the most disingenuous and incompetent in recent memory.
Sometimes a bow is just a bow. And sometimes it is a reminder that it is amateur hour at a critical time in our history.