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Times 'Bows' to Obama Officials Who Say President Observed Protocol in Japan

Besides dismissing concerns over Obama's deep bow in Japan as attacks from "conservative American bloggers," reporters Helene Cooper and David Barboza see Obama making "progress" in getting Russia on board for "possible tough new sanctions against Iran." We'll see.

The Times dismissed the controversy over Obama's long, deep bow before the Emperor of Japan over the weekend - a story all over the Drudge Report and conservative blogs - in its Monday story praising Obama's "progress" in getting Russia on board for sanctions against Iran: "In China, Obama to Press For Tough Stance on Iran - Seeking to Replicate Progress With Russia."

And if that "progress" with Russia fades, will the Times follow up? Watch this space.

Diplomatic correspondent Helene Cooper and David Barboza emphasized the positive:

President Obama, fresh from making progress in his efforts to get Russia on board for possible tough new sanctions against Iran, arrived in China on Sunday, where he will attempt the even more difficult task of prodding China's leaders to get tough on Iran.

Making his first trip to China, Mr. Obama landed in Shanghai during a late-night downpour and was set to begin three days of meetings to discuss climate change, North Korea and the global economic crisis with President Hu Jintao.


Cooper and Barboza dismissed the bowing controversy as an unfair attack by conservative bloggers, and used as its source...the Obama administration itself. There's a non-balanced protocol expert for you.

During Mr. Obama's trip, his first to Asia as president, he has taken to referring to himself as "America's first Pacific president," a term he first used during a speech in Tokyo on Saturday morning.

Mr. Obama drew some fire from conservative American bloggers who accused him of going too far to reassure Asian leaders: they complained that he should not have bowed to Emperor Akihito of Japan when he went to the emperor's residence for lunch.

"During his meetings and his speech in Tokyo, the president observed protocol and enhanced the status of American interests in Japan and across Asia," said an administration official traveling with the president, who spoke on the condition of anonymity according to protocol. "Those who suggest otherwise are way off base and only looking to score political points."


ABC News wasn't as sanguine. White House reporter Jake Tapper ran a knowledgeable source's observation:

Obama's handshake/forward lurch was so jarring and inappropriate it recalls Bush's back-rub of Merkel.

Kyodo News is running his appropriate and reciprocated nod and shake with the Empress, certainly to show the president as dignified, and not in the form of a first year English teacher trying to impress with Karate Kid-level knowledge of Japanese customs.


Back in June 1994, Times reporter Douglas Jehl was a lot harder on President Bill Clinton for a less embarrassing show of obsequiousness before the Emperor of Japan:

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? But Mr. Clinton, alas, is not the only one since George Washington who has seemed not quite to know what to make of monarchs.