An Obsequent Precedent

By Robert Wallace
America’s Right

When the news first trickled out about President Barack Obama’s bow to the King of Saudi Arabia, I rolled my eyes. Really, I thought, are we going to take him to task for every protocol violation?

I don’t like sounding shrill. It turns off moderates. More importantly, it’s my moral obligation to strive for objectivity. If I would make an excuse for George W. Bush or Mitt Romney or Ronald Reagan, after all, then I certainly could not fault Barack Obama. It’s my duty to do my best to hold everyone to an equal standard. Besides, I could see myself, in a moment of confusion, forgetting protocol and bowing to a king.

As far as I was concerned, the bow was a non-issue.

Two things have changed my mind. The first is the contrast between the mainstream press’s reaction to Obama’s bow in 2008 and Clinton’s in 1994. Back then, President Clinton gave a small, from-the-neck bow to the Emperor of Japan. The New York Times weighed in:

It wasn’t a bow, exactly. But Mr. Clinton came close. He inclined his head and shoulders forward, he pressed his hands together. It lasted no longer than a snapshot, but the image on the South Lawn was indelible: an obsequent President, and the Emperor of Japan. Canadians still bow to England’s Queen; so do Australians. Americans shake hands. If not to stand eye-to-eye with royalty, what else were 1776 and all that about? … Guests invited to a white-tie state dinner at the White House (a Clinton Administration first) were instructed to address the Emperor as “Your Majesty,” not “Your Highness” or, worse, “King.” And in what one Administration aide called “some emperor thing,” an Army general was cautioned that he should not address the Emperor Akihito at all as he escorted him to the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. But the “thou need not bow” commandment from the State Department’s protocol office maintained a constancy of more than 200 years. Administration officials scurried to insist that the eager-to-please President had not really done the unthinkable.

So Clinton was obsequent? (Don’t worry, I had to look that up too. Even Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize it. To be obsequent, it turns out, means to be “submissive” or, better still, to be “obedient.”) The quasi-bow was the unthinkable?

Before we get to the real problem, there’s something else that’s interesting. Obama apparently gave the Queen of England a bit of a head-nod as well. I’m not sure if you want to call it a bow. But if you do, then it sure is interesting that the Queen of our closest ally gets only the barest of nods while the King of a nation which shares no such special relationship with the US and has frequently been at odds with our policies and culture gets such a deep bow.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for Obama’s overtures to moderate Islam. I applaud his visiting of the Blue Mosque in Turkey. No matter what the press says, President Bush took pains to distinguish between our radical Islamist enemies and decent Muslims, but because he was a white evangelical Christian, he could never have the kind of credibility with Muslim nations that Obama has, and so Obama’s overture was really something no one else could pulled off. It’s history, remember? That’s fantastic. Keep it up.

But there’s something else at stake here, and I have to credit Mark Steyn–a Brit, ironically–for bringing it to my attention. In over 200 years of American history, our presidents have maintained a proud tradition of not bowing to foreign heads of state (with the debatable exception of Clinton, obviously). Now, on a personal level, I mentioned that I could see myself becoming flustered and making a protocol error — but I’m not the president of the United States. I’m a private citizen. Obama is the president of the United States, and that means that he’s carrying on the proud mantle of the oldest constitutional republic in the world. What can be seen as mere oversight on the part of a private citizen becomes something different when it involves our Commander in Chief.

I don’t know why Obama bowed. It’s possible that–like the visit to the Blue Mosque–it was an overture toward Muslims, but I doubt it. I think it’s more likely that it was an subconscious gesture, and that is no comfort to me. Instead of an intentional overture, a subconscious action of subservience indicates that Obama may not value the office of president of the United States of America the way I believe he ought to. Is this a reflection of a president who, perhaps like his wife, has only recently discovered a reason to have any modicum of pride in his nation?

On one final note — I think I know one reason, over and beyond a deep love for the president, that the New York Times won’t touch this particular error in protocol with a 40-foot pole: Calling President Clinton obedient is one thing. Calling America’s first black president obsequent? That would take care of Al Sharpton’s retirement all by itself.

Robert Wallace has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.



  1. Laurie says:

    Robert…Great article!! I am ROTFLMAO with your final statement about the Rev Al….you are so spot on!! Love it.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Robert-its surprising that you even have a question about Obamas value of the Office of President-or arent you aware that his very presence on the ticket was an intentional and willful abrogation of the Constitution Art II.


    Looked a lot like a little Kenyan lad meeting the chief for the first time to me.

  4. sharon says:

    Jeff, my neighbor stated that you cannot go into a mosque unless you are muslim. Do you know if this information is correct?

    She also stated that if you are muslim, you would bow to the king.

  5. Anonymous says:

    As I have said (probably more times than is necessary) before, you won’t understand what is going on with Obama unless you understand the basis for Rev. Wright’s tirades at Obama’s church (remember, for TWENTY years). You must read, as Dr. Wright himself recommended, James Cone’s writings, starting with “A Black Theology of Liberation”.

    Not only will you better understand “the bow” (reminds me of “the shot” in “A Prayer for Owen Meany”), but you will also understand the recent Black Caucus’ visit to Cuba and seance with old Fidel.

    Black Liberation Theology was concocted in Central America via a collaboration between the Catholic priests and the Marxists. That is why one of the icons of that strain of thought is Che Guevera (do I have that spelled correctly Jeff?).

    Yes, Obama threw Wright “under the bus” out of political expediency during the campaign, but it’s not so easy to throw twenty years of indoctrination under the bus. Don’t believe for a minute that Obama even attempted to do that.

    For Obama to call himself a “Christian” is the greatest lie that he perpetrated on the American electorate. Those who believed that would qualify as “useful idiots (that was Lenin, wasn’t it?).

    Old Bob

    Old Bob

  6. Anonymous says:

    I don’t believe Obama’s bow was the result of confusions with protocol…we are not accustomed to bowing to people in America so I think it was a calculated move to signal to the Muslim world his ‘connection’ with them and respect for them. We need to quit dwelling on the bow and focus on his words and what he is doing like sending $900 million to Gaza…after researching his background during the campaign, many of us are not shocked at all that he wants to further his ties with the Muslim world…I believe he has more of a connection with them than he does with our American heritage. I have read that he is looking at high profile Muslims to place in his cabinet.

  7. Anonymous says:

    For Sharon – i’ve been in a Mosque before, but i had to dress according to their protocol and also was with a group of students…so yes, non-muslims can go into Mosques as far as i know…

    As for the bow – let me tell you i am absolutely furious about them both. How many men and women have died in the name of freedom so that we do not have to bow and scrape to any King, Ruler, or other country? How many are still dying and in harm’s way every second of every day for our freedom? How DARE he bow! No American EVER bows to anyone except the Almighty God. EVER. Our flag does not go lower than any other flag and our heads never, ever bow. And the fact that ‘that man’ bowed to the King of a country where women are so repressed, to me as a woman, makes me even more inflamed with anger.

    Should we be respectful of other countries, leaders, rulers, Kings and their people? Without doubt. Should we help them when necessary? As fast as possible. We might be a proud people, but we don’t withhold respect or help. But N.E.V.E.R.

    i am not a crazy feminist woman – not even close. However, i sure do appreciate being free enough to drive my own car, work where i want to work, own my own home, choose to marry-or not, choose to show my wrists-or not, choose to wear a burqa -or not, not worry about being stoned if i take bread from a distant male relative, and on and on. If we women don’t wake the heck up and start making noise about the path ‘that man’ is taking us, we’ll be wearing those burqa’s before long. And if ‘that man’ is already bowing to the King of Saudi Arabia – what is next to come?

    And another thing – our forefathers did not fight to the death to get away from a King, to whom they had to bow and scrape, so that we could be free.

    How DARE Obama bow! How DARE he! Do you feel my anger, my absolute anger? Do you know this keeps me awake at night? How offensive was he to our country? How offensive was he to the very Secret Service men who would take a bullet for him? To bow to another??? Are you kidding me with this?

    i fully believe that he did was an act of treason.

    Treason. (a violation of allegiance to one’s soverign or one’s state. the betrayal of a trust of confidence; breach of faith;treachery. From

    ~A very angry laura

  8. Rix says:

    It is about time we the People take care of Rev. Sharpton et al’s retirement. Maximal security with no parole, ideally.

  9. Claudia says:

    I am right there with you in your anger. I have relatives that died for this ccountry and Obama just made their deaths irrelevant by that bow to Saudi’s king.

    As far as what Obama meant by that bow, I think he meant that he shows total respect for the man and the position and totally lacks any respect for ANY position that America could ever possibly offer as the name of President of United States of America. He denigrades this country every time he gets the chance and refutes any pride of being in and representing a country that has helped and taken under its wing; countries that have faced irrepressible rulers that have committed genocide, lands that have sustained horrible wars and despots in tyranny, and also taken in and offered every bit of help that is possible to nations anad peoples that have had catastrophic things happen because of acts of nature that have rendered them termporairly helpless and needing sustinance in major ways that NO ONE ELSE COULD POSSIBLY PROIVIDE.

    Obama apologising to the rest of the world for what we are is despicable to me. He is committing TREASON every time he opens his mouth or commits anything to paper that takes away our role in humanity towards other nations. Wee have NOTHING TO APOLOGISE for, to anyone, ever…..

    AND OUR PRESIDENT SHOULD NEVER EVER BOW TO ANOTHER WORLD LEADER, They are on equal footing, no matter how Obama feels subservient to them, for whatever reason.

  10. Gail B says:

    Robert, thank you for that video. I had seen another one, but the light was not good, and everyone had on black suits, which did not help a bit. Your video showed clearly that AKA Obama could have picked peanuts off the floor during his bow!

    And, remember the interview with George Stephanopoulos, when AKA Obama made the comment about “my Muslim faith” which George caught? AKA Obama then said, “My Christian faith.”

    It is especially striking when you consider that he gave the hostess of the event, Britain’s Queen, less “show of respect” (if you want to call it that) than he did the Saudi King, also a guest at the social. AKA even shook the queen’s hand with BOTH his hands! That’s also a no-no.

    Do you think AKA thought that no one would know back home? Can he just not be trusted out of sight?

  11. tm says:

    The bow just shows us how in his eyes – America is his enemy.

  12. suek says:

    He’s a muslim. It’s that simple.


  13. Nellie says:

    Well, whatever religion Obama is (I think he joined that church in Chicago for political connections only) it sickens me he bowed to a man who probably wouldn’t look me in the eye, or shake my hand, as a woman; bowed to a policy that barrs women from the workplace; doesn’t allow women to drive; etc., etc. I hope Michelle is pissed.

  14. Anonymous says:


    Unlike you, I had the taste of bile in my mouth the moment I heard of the bow to the Saudi King. After becoming a Marine, I began to look at Presidency, and the person holding that office, from a different perspective. I do believe it was intentional, and not subconscious behavior. I’d like this guy to succeed, for all our sakes. But it is becoming quite obvious his idea of success and mine are very different.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Well, the White House is denying that Obama/Soetoro bowed to the king so maybe we need to send them this video…teehee. There are also websites claiming Bush bowed to him but the video clearly shows Bush was taller and simply leaned forward to receive a gold chain which the king placed around his neck. Let me guess, next the White House will tell us all Soetoro dropped his Blackberry and was bending over to pick it up…bbbwwahhhhhhh

    Sally (in stitches)

  16. CAL says:

    Obama knew what he was doing when he bowed. President’s are given detailed instructions on how to handle different heads of state by our State Dept. Presidents are briefed on how to greet foreign leaders, what pleasantries to say and the different customs. The White House trying to pass this off as a gaffe is ridiculous.

  17. goddessdivine says:

    What bugs me the most is his denial of even bowing in the first place. Just own up to it! How does one deny something when it’s right. on. camera! Ridiculous.

  18. Gail B says:

    Cal, I agree with you. I saw it again on Fox News tonight, and I saw that Obama was shaking hands with the king while he bowed. You can see his arms are stretched forward. The White House can do all the lying it wants to, but I know what I saw.

    And, the presidents ARE given instructions on what to do and say, as are visitors to the president are told things, even where to sit at a dinner table.

  19. Anonymous says:

    It was purposeful and most of us who have done any research into his words, actions, policies, beliefs, and ideologies, can see right through that.

  20. Robert Wallace says:


    You asked: “Do you think AKA thought that no one would know back home?” In my opinion he didn’t think the bow through at all or he wouldn’t have done it.

    I don’t buy the “he’s Muslim” line. I don’t think that has anything to do with anything in this story. The King of Saudi Arabia is not a religious position. The King of Jordan, for example, would not bow to him due to him. The President of Iraq wouldn’t bow to him. Religion has *nothing* to do with this story. So let’s rule that out as a motivation.

    I think the simpler motivation is just that Obama is a new president who doesn’t think very much of the United States and therefore doesn’t hold the office of he occupies in very high regard.

    Sadly – this is common to many younger Americans, myself included. The flag means more to me each year, but it’s bean a process of awakening a kind of sincere patriotism that just wasn’t part of my childhood education or upbringing. That’s why the bow struck me as no big deal at first.

    And – in case I haven’t been clear enough about this – that was *wrong* of me. It took hearing some quotes of the Founders to remind me of what they had gone through to eradicate bowing to any king or ruler.

    Many young Americans take these things for granted. It’s that simple.

    Obama is relatively young but, more importantly, he is the kind of liberal who (in my opinion) over-emphasizes America’s faults. He seems to have absolutely no pride to his white heritage – which is the American heritage – and more pride in his black heritage which, ironically, has nothing to do with African American struggles with slaver and racism since his black ancestors were in Africa the whole time.

    So it seems he suffers a double-whammy of being:
    1. disconnected from any American heritage at all
    2. to the extent that he’s connected at all, it’s to a variant of black liberation theology that, as his wife has said, has essentially no pride in America.

    Sorry – this is becoming a very long post. To put it very, very simply: he bowed because that’s what happens when someone who is not viscerally, instinctively patriotic meets royalty and doesn’t think it through.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Jeff, in SA they bow to their elders, it could be cultural.

  22. Anonymous says:

    It is hilarious watching the Obama Spin Machine try to defend this gaffe………why don’t they just say “The teleprompter was on the floor”? That would give them ‘some’ credibility at least.

  23. AGENT 69's SHOE PROMPTER says:

    TOTUS on the floor! I love it!

  24. Anonymous says:

    A. Kenya is NOT in SA.
    B. He’s not that young. AND he holds the highest position in the land. He knows better.
    C. It was treason
    D. I’m still piping mad.


  25. Thinkor says:

    I have no idea why Obama bowed, maybe because he saw others bowing, and I don’t much care, but the lie afterward, that he didn’t bow, is so bold, so obvious, that it is plain he hasn’t the slightest respect for either the truth or the intelligence of Americans. What would he have us believe? That he was looking for a contact lens that dropped onto the King’s ring finger?

  26. suek says:

    >>he bowed because that's what happens when someone who is not viscerally, instinctively patriotic meets royalty and doesn't think it through.>>

    Ok…if that's true, then why didn't he do the same for the Queen of England? He's a male chauvinist pig?

  27. Anonymous says:

    Robert, that is the lamest and saddest excuse for lack of patriotism that I have yet to hear…EVER. Your labeling of the “younger” generation with a blanket opinion that most of us are that way about the country is pathetic. You don’t speak for me. You don’t speak for my friends. And, you don’t speak for my family. Just because you feel that way, doesn’t make it so. Just because you admit that that is how you were raised, and weren’t educated to know any better, that doesn’t calculate to the rest of us. Good gosh…

  28. Anonymous says:

    wake up people-this is about principalities and Obama bowed to it-this is just the beginning

  29. Robert Wallace says:

    “Robert, that is the lamest and saddest excuse for lack of patriotism that I have yet to hear…EVER.”

    What made you think I was excusing a lack of patriotism? I was simply pointing out that it exists. Not excusing it.

    And it does exist. No matter how personally offended you may feel, the fact of the matter is that many younger Americans don’t understand traditional American ideals. How can you read about polls like this one:
    and not realize that obvious truth?

    “Asked whether capitalism or socialism is a better system, 53% of American adults cited capitalism, 20% said socialism and 27% said they weren’t sure.”

    So that’s bad enough, but then look at the age break-out:

    “According to the poll, adults over 40 strongly favor capitalism, while adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided.”

    When I say “Most kids my generation are farther to the left” I’m not making excuses for them or me.

    I’m stating a sad fact.

    If you’re an exception to that rule: great.

    Now get out there and help change more hearts and minds instead of shooting the messenger.

  30. Anonymous says:

    This link shows it a bit more clearly from a different angle.

    You can clearly see the king's hand up high, with Obama's head well below it.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Actually, I think he was showing the king how all of the US are bent over, now that he is in the White House.

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