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.
Obama on Monday was in China, having wrapped up the Japan leg of his Asia trip two days earlier. 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.
Obama isn’t the first American president to do so. Back in the 1980s, Republican president Ronald Reagan was criticized after bowing to Queen Elizabeth the first time he met her, and President George W. Bush bowed before Saudi Arabia’s king while being presented with a medal.
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.
“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 or emperors. The president of the United States — this coupled with so many apologies from the United States — is just another thing,” 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.
“I’ll bet if you look at pictures of world leaders over 20 years meeting the emperor in Japan, they don’t bow,” Kristol said.
Some said the gesture was particularly grating coming after Obama’s bow to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah at a G20 meeting in April.
The US president’s Asia trip comes just over a year after he won election to the White House, and is designed to shore up US power in a region increasingly dominated by rising giant China.
But back home, Obama’s bow in Japan seems to have grabbed much of the attention being paid to the trip.
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.”
Meanwhile, an unnamed, senior Obama administration official told the Politico.com news site that the president had simply been observing protocol.
“I think that those who try to politicize those things are just way, way, way off base,” the official told Politico.
“I don’t think anybody who was in Japan — who saw his speech and the reaction to it, certainly those who witnessed his bilateral meetings there — would say anything other than that he enhanced both the position and the status of the US, relative to Japan,” Politico wrote.
“It was a good, positive visit at an important time, because there’s a lot going on in Japan.”
(with additional reporting)
Veteran Republican operative drops a scathing op-ed as he leaves the GOP: ‘Real Americans don’t pledge fealty to a strongman’
Mike Gillis has served in numerous Republican administrations over the decades. In an op-ed published in the New Yorker this Thursday, Mike Gillis announced that he's leaving the Republican Party.
"...I cannot stand idly by and watch as these crooks take over the party I love. I cannot abide this coarsening of discourse, and so on and so forth, etc., etc. Here are the reasons that I am leaving the Republican Party," Gillis writes.
According to Gillis, Trump is "ruthlessly" dividing the country.
"Brother pitted against brother, cat against dog, exterminator against cockroach, sentient robot against mad inventor. Americans must accept that, no matter our particular beliefs, we are all citizens of the United States—whether we be Republican or Democrat, Canadian or Bulgarian, Mesopotamian or Sumerian."
‘Reckless incompetence and intentional cruelty’: House issues scathing report on Trump migrant family separation policy
The Trump administration knew it would not be able to reunite refugee and other migrant families as it ripped children—including infants—from the arms of their parents but did so anyway, according to a congressional report released Thursday on the U.S. government's family separation policy.
"The Trump administration's family separation policy lasted far longer than is commonly known and was marked by reckless incompetence and intentional cruelty."—House Judiciary Committee reportThe House Judiciary Committee spent 21 months investigating the planning and execution of the administration's policy, which resulted in the seizure of more than 2,500 migrant children—including some with physical and mental disabilities—from their parents. Its report (pdf) is the "first complete narrative of the inhumane family separation policy in the administration's own words."
‘Dangerously out of touch’: Ex-White House adviser slams Trump and Larry Kudlow for bragging about the economy
President Donald Trump's top economic and trade adviser Larry Kudlow is "out of touch," according to former White House economist Austan Goolsbee.
Speaking to MSNBC's Katy Tur, Goolsbee explained that Trump's celebration of the GDP is unwarranted because it took such a significant dive. It's a lot like losing $100 and getting back $60, said Tur.
"You score five runs in one inning, that is a good inning, but if you let up ten runs in the inning before that you're still way down," Goolsbee explained. "I think the numbers look very much like what happened in the job market over the summer. Where we started with a 21 million job loss, and we made back a little over half of that. And then we kind of stalled out. We're still adding jobs, but you also saw this morning another epically bad new unemployment claims number. You still have well over 700,000 people filing for unemployment insurance newly this week. Now we're seeing this on the GDP side. Certainly, this is a positive. You would not want a smaller number, but it has to be bigger and more sustained than what we saw today before we can say that we're back to normal."