White House busted! Obama bow to Japanese emperor is NOT just “protocol”

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Not unless the White House is making up its own “protocol” as Obama cruises through his latest road trip.

For the past 24 hours, a lot of eyebrows have been raised around the world about this photo of the President of the United States bowing low — very low — before the Emperor of Japan, one Mr. Akihito, and his lovely wife, the Empress Michiko. Akihito is the son of the guy known as Hirohito who led Japan during its risky escapade in attacking China, the United States and most of the Pacific world — and kept on leading it long after.

Knocked for a loop by the near-90-degree bend-over, the White House claimed that it was just a matter of “protocol” — routine stuff, you know, just to be polite.

Having been raised in a household where we all thought the President of the United States doesn’t bow down to anyone, I wondered enough to try to find out if I might have missed when this “protocol” arrived. Here are a couple of samples of what I found.

Here is President Ronald Reagan and the then-aging Emperor Hirohito greeting each other — just like any other two guys on equal footing might — with a hearty handshake (although Hirohito does look as if he’s throwing in a little instinctive bow).

(Hat tip for photo: Bostonmaggie)

Lest you think that some of this protocol stuff might have changed for U.S. Presidents since RR left the White House — or that Hirohito’s son, Akihito, has laid down some new requirements of obeisance in exchange for expanding Japan’s imports from America (fat chance!), here is Akihito and his Empress just hanging out last July in Hawaii with a couple of folks who rank way, way down the diplomatic food chain from Divine Emperors, Hawaii Governor Linda and Admiral Timothy J. Keating, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command. Looks like hearty handshakes all around.

Omigosh, I hope the Governor and the Admiral didn’t embarrass us with some protocol faux pas!

(Cross-posted from The Purple Center in solidarity with Doug Mataconis)

UPDATE 2:ABC’s Jake Tapper has a source who tells him that a bit of a bow was OK but not so deep or jarring as Obama’s bow. Says Nixon got it right.