You can see the whole Earth from the Moon!

Obama bows down to foreign leaders – will curtsey next!




No American

Leader Ever

Bowed to a


Leader –

Until Now

By Daniel Ruddy

November 15th, 2009


President Obama created a new

presidential precedent when he bowed

to the Japanese Emperor Akihito

and Empress Michiko Saturday.

No president of the United States

in the more than 230 years since

the country was founded in 1776 had

ever bowed to a member of royalty.

That was until

Barack Obama’s presidency.

In April,

President Obama bowed to the

Saudi king during the G-20 meeting.

At the time,

Obama’s deferential bow was

somewhat obscured, and the

White House insisted that the

president simply had leaned

forward to shake the king’s hand.

But the president’s recent demonstration

of royal deference to the Japanese emperor

and empress suggests his earlier action

was no aberration.

What should we make of this?

Is it trivial to worry about what on

its face could easily be interpreted as

nothing more than a polite gesture by

our president to respect

the culture of a country?

America was founded

on republican virtues —

small “r,” that is.

Like the French Republic,

our nation does not recognize

royalty or social rank,

especially from officials of the republic.

The conduct of our president

when he deals with foreign leaders

is a serious matter.

After all,

he represents the American

people and our Constitution.


when President Obama bows

before a foreign leader,

the whole country bows with him.

It is difficult to grasp what

President Obama’s motives are

for bowing to foreign royalty

(it would be nice if a reporter

asked his press secretary Robert Gibbs

why he does it).

But Obama’s motives do not

really matter when we consider

his behavior.

What matters is how the rest of

the world will interpret his actions.

When it comes to bowing

before foreign leaders,

there is a fine line between

showing politeness and servility,

between respect and weakness.

The United States leads the free world,

and it goes without saying that our

president as commander in chief is

duty bound to protect the nation,

and our allies by treaty.

He should act in such

a way that strengthens,

not weakens,

his position.

If we as American citizens wonder

about how our president should act

with foreign leaders when he meets

with them in person,

let us look to the history of the

United States for guidance.


there is our cherished Constitution.

When the Founding Fathers wrote it,

they made abundantly clear their

distaste of the hereditary forms of

government that then dominated Europe.




Article I,

section 9 of the U.S. Constitution states:

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted

by the United States: And no Person

holding any Office of Profit or Trust

under them, shall,

without the Consent of the Congress,

accept of any present,



or Title,

of any kind whatever,

from any King,

Prince or foreign State.”

As the nation’s first constitutional leader,

President George Washington

set the tone.

When it was proposed that he be called

“His Highness the President of

the United States of America and

the Protector of Their Liberties,”

Washington scoffed at the idea

and demanded he be called simply,

“Mr. President.”

No president better exemplified the

republican virtues of the country

than Thomas Jefferson,

who had a purely American disdain

for the pretensions of royal power

which he believed were not

legitimately derived from the people.

As he stated so eloquently in

the Declaration of Independence,

power was not derived from bloodlines

or royal coronations.

Instead he argued that since

“all men are created equal”

a government should exist by

“deriving their just powers from

the consent of the governed.”

Jefferson’s breezy indifference to

the English monarchy was on

display during his first days in t

he White House.

When the monarch’s new ambassador

to the United States called for the

first time to present his credentials

he was not required to bow

in front of the nation’s sovereign.

In accordance with American values,

he was assumed to be an equal,

not a subject.

And so all he had to do

was walk up to the White House

and knock on the door

(there were no guards

or royal attendants).

Once he was beckoned inside,

“a tall, high-boned man came

into the room.

He was dressed,

or rather undressed,

in an old brown coat,

red waistcoat,

old corduroy small-clothes much soiled,

woollen hose,

and slippers without heels.

I thought him a servant,”

said the visitor,

“when General Varnum surprised me

by announcing that it was the president.”

According to the historian Henry Adams,

the casual dress and easy-going manners

of the new president were more important

than they might seem at first glance.

“The seriousness of Jefferson’s

experiments in etiquette,”

Adams observed,

“consisted in the belief that they were

part of a political system which involved

a sudden change of policy toward

two great powers.

[They] were but the social expression

of an altered feeling which found its

political expression in acts marked

by equal disregard of usage.”

The British ambassador and other

diplomats to the United States were

offended by Jefferson’s refusal to

follow the rules of the Old World,

but that did not matter to Jefferson

or his countrymen,

who re-elected him with a resounding

majority of popular support.

Jefferson understood that

symbolism was important.

Another president who promoted this

egalitarian ideal was Franklin Roosevelt.

In 1939 he invited the king and queen

of England to visit the United States

to bolster Anglo-American unity in

the face of the growing fascist threat.

Roosevelt never bowed

to the king or queen —

or any foreign royalty,

for that matter.

On this special occasion,

he simply demonstrated

American hospitality.

As the British journalist

Alistair Cooke detailed:

“Roosevelt took them

[the Royal couple] off to Hyde Park

[his Hudson River estate]

and drove his own hand-run

automobile into the grounds and

gave them a hot dog lunch.

Well, this was a shocker to the British,

but it’s the thing he would do.

You see,

he was a natural aristocrat,

Roosevelt was.

He didn’t have to put on airs.”

Roosevelt was also an American

through and through and secure

in his standing as a world leader.

There is a lesson here for

President Obama,

who appears intent on upending

more than two centuries of

American protocol.

When he as president bows before

a Saudi king or a Japanese emperor,

he is sending an implicit message

to millions of people around the

world that the leader of the free world

accepts the notion that some people

are born to a higher rank than others.

But when our president stands

up straight and extends his hand

in friendship to all civilized nations,

there is no danger,

there is only opportunity —

opportunity to communicate the

values and spirit that Jefferson

so eloquently conveyed to the

rest of the world —

“that all men are created equal,

that they are endowed by their

Creator with certain unalienable Rights,

that among these are Life,

Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Daniel Ruddy

writes on politics

and history.

His upcoming book,

“Theodore Roosevelt’s

History of the

United States”

(Harper Collins),

is due out in April 2010.







2 Responses to “Obama bows down to foreign leaders – will curtsey next!”

  1. Totally false!!!!

    Several other Presidents have
    bowed to Japanese and Saudi leaders.

    Do your homework.

    Some of them were even Republicans!!!

  2. How many of them apologized for being Americans?
    How many of them sold out their own country,
    numerous times?

    I guess this is his country,
    he claims it is.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: