Perhaps it is much ado about nothing. In the recent trip to Europe participating in the G-20 summit with world leaders from every corner of the globe, President Obama greeted King Abdullah from Saudi Arabia with a deep bow, bending his tall frame before the much shorter king. Obama bent over ninety-degrees from the waist and bent one of his knees as the Arab monarch stretched forth his hand and smiled broadly, as anyone can easily see from the photographs set loose upon the boundary-less world of the internet. It was a sign of…what? It certainly fit comfortably within the whole Islamic paradigm of claiming superiority over every culture, religion, language and civilization not from the Arab peninsula. It fit with the real definition of the word “Muslim,” which translates “one who submits” not “peace” as the former President Bush vainly tried to urge it meant in a politically expedient attempt to recast the word in a positive light in the aftermath of 9/11. Obama’s bow gave a nice symbolic touch to America’s deep dependence on Middle Eastern oil, a dependence that leaves the whole Western world vulnerable to easy manipulation by foreign powers. One could also wonder if the bow gave expression to the long-standing lack of pride in her own country Michelle Obama confessed during the presidential campaign. The bow communicated respect for so many things foreign and antithetical to the values and ideals upon which the first American leaders founded the country. Never mind anymore that Saudi Arabia ranks as one of the most closed, repressive environments in the modern world. Yet, there Obama was, bowing, bowing…bowed.
In the days before the internet, most Americans would have never known that their freely elected president had bowed in subservience to the monarch of an oppressive regime, of course unless the printed press had the nerve to do unbiased reporting. But in the 21st century, a diplomatic and symbolic blunder of such magnitude can no longer go unnoticed. The photos and videos have gone out clearly showing that disturbing bow.
If the president’s bow before the Saudi king wasn’t bad enough, the White House has tried to exercise damage control saying that it wasn’t a bow at all, just happened to be the way Obama stood to shake with both hands the hand of someone shorter than himself. Given the volume of evidence to the contrary that anyone with at least one good eye can plainly examine for himself or herself, it makes one wonder if the originator of that press release has an IQ under 60 or has bankrupt integrity. Given the pattern of failed promises, misleading statements, and audacious appointments that have poured forth in just the first days of Obama’s administration, one could conclude that it isn’t either/or, it is both/and.
Not everyone has swallowed the White House’s “whopper”. Many people have taken notice that for the first time in U.S. history, our highest elected public official has bent back and knelt before the sovereign of a foreign nation. Had Obama done the same thing when greeting Queen Elizabeth, eyebrows would have raised. After all, the U.S. back in 1776 declared their independence from British imperial rule. The declaration laid out the basis for a new kind of nation, the first of its kind, one ruled by the people, of the people, and for the people. The government should serve the people, not vice versa. Federal power would be checked on two levels. First, the new country would be the United States, not one monolithic entity with a centralized power. The power of the whole would be checked by the power of the parts. For that reason every state still has two senators regardless of population or location and a president can still win the election with a majority of electoral votes and still lose the popular vote. The founders said no more to power resting in the hands of just a few people with a pedigree. Second, the executive, judicial, and legislative branches would hold one another accountable and respond to the will of the people. To put it bluntly, Americans are a unique people who don’t bow to governments and their leaders. As Patrick Henry declared, “Give me liberty, or give me death.”
But Obama didn’t bow to the Queen of England. That at least would be a bow in the right direction, if he felt it necessary to bend over like that in public. England, though not without its problems in the past, has been America’s closet and best ally for the last hundred years. It has helped lead the democratic world and advance human rights. Michelle Obama shamelessly disregarded protocol in her encounter with the queen, placing her arm around the queen’s shoulder. And why not? Mrs. Obama’s lack of respect for her native country might as well extend to its source. No, the president bowed before the king of Saudi Arabia, the cradle of the majority of men who high-jacked four commercial airliners loaded with civilian passengers on a cloudless September morning and launched the worst attack on the American mainland in history. He bowed before the king of a country that proudly rules according to the ancient rule of Islamic Shari’ah law. He bowed before the king of a country that exports some of the worst anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism in the world.
Perhaps that last sentence is the key to solving the mystery of the bow. Obama seems to operate with the philosophy that you can persuade and influence (or manipulate?) people by telling them what they want to hear, giving them what they want to have. He considers himself the great unifier because he can reach out to everyone, please everyone, so that he has become the most popular person on the planet. He knows how to go just far enough in compromise and assurances to appease everyone, while holding back just enough to avoid offending them. For example, if you want fiscal responsibility in the government, he will listen, make you feel he has heard your concerns, and promise, absolutely, fiscal responsibility. If you want big spending, even recklessness in handling the budget, he will make sure you get all the money you want, no matter what it might cost down the road. If you are concerned about international jihad, he will speak out boldly and strongly about capturing Bin-Laden, even if it means bombing Pakistan. In contrast, if you are ashamed and regretful of Bush’s “war on terror” and wish the world would love America again, thinking of it as a peace-loving, humble, tame home of latte’ drinking self-abasers, Obama has something for you. If you are an American hater and wish you would live to see the day the man in America’s highest office would grovel, he has something for you. He will bow to the king of Saudi Arabia.
So far this philosophy has worked (is Obama just being pragmatic?) helping him win the election and hold a fairly high approval rating in the U.S. (and a stellar approval rating outside the U.S.). Of course the danger in this is that Obama is walking a tight-rope. If he miscalculates and goes one step—or one bow—too far, he will tip over. If that day comes, one hopes the damage will be only a small personal political cost and not something much greater: the security and survival of societies that promote freedom.
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