Obamateurism of the Day

We covered this yesterday when it happened, but in my estimation, the worst amateur moment thus far in the Obama presidency came when the President of the United States executed a bow to a monarch so deep that he literally had to take a step back to balance himself. Not just any monarch, either, but one of the most repressive among those nations friendly to the US. Interestingly, this came just after Barack Obama met with another monarch, and the contrast between Barack Obama’s show of respect is striking. I put together this video to demonstrate it:


People criticized George Bush for holding hands with the Saudi king, but holding hands does not signify submission to another’s authority, and certainly not in the manner that Obama’s bow does here. Holding hands is a sign of friendship. And for those who believe that a bow is another sign of friendship, note that Obama didn’t execute a bow like this for the Queen of the UK, and the Saudi monarch doesn’t bother to reciprocate, either.

So what’s the protocol for heads of state? Anderson Cooper hinted at it in his coverage of Obama’s meeting with the British monarch:

When President and Mrs. Obama met the Queen tonight, there was a handshake, and both the President and the Queen both nodded respectfully to each other.

Was it a bow? Not quite. It was more of a, “I know you are a head of state and so am I. We are both heads of state together and this is what heads of state do when they meet other heads of state.” In other words they bow to each other without actually bowing.

Well, that certainly went out the door, didn’t it? And I’m certain that Obama’s fans will try to rationalize this, but my good friend Scott Johnson at Power Line notes that the DU had already put together a defense of Michelle Obama if she didn’t curtsy when meeting the Queen:


In fact, protocol dictates that she not do so.

Angier Biddle Duke, President Kennedy’s Chief of Protocol told this very poignant story…

Before the Kennedy’s first state visit to England, Jacqueline Kennedy asked Duke whether she should curtsy to the Queen. He told her no because she was the wife of the head of state and heads of state and their wives do not go around bowing and curtsying to one another.

Three years later, after her husband’s funeral, Mrs. Kennedy received guests in the White House family quarters. When Prince Philip greeted her, she curtsied to him. Duke was surprised because Mrs. Kennedy was a stickler for protocol and had a steel trap memory for such things. Noting his surprise, Mrs. Kennedy whispered to him:

“Angie, I’m no longer the wife of a head of state.”

Duke said he immediately left the room and wept.

So, don’t be surprised if Mrs. Obama does not curtsy to the Queen. Also don’t be surprised if she gets jumped all over for it – but she’ll be doing – or not doing – exactly what she’s supposed to.

Indeed. And President Obama shouldn’t have bowed to the Saudi monarch, either.  No American President should ever make such an obsequious display to any monarch — ever.


Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.

Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!

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John Sexton 10:40 PM | June 24, 2024