But critics call Obama’s outstretched hand a miscalculation. Former vice president Cheney said: “There is no reason for an American president to bow to anyone. Our friends and allies don’t expect it, and our enemies see it as a sign of weakness.”…

A senior administration official called the bow to Emperor Akihito a “sign of respect,” adding that the depth of the bow reflected “the level of respect.”

“This is part of what the president says all the time – that he wants to be mindful of other cultures,” the official said. “That doesn’t take anything away from our culture.”…

Obama’s approach is being greeted with approval by Washington’s foreign-policy establishment, which always regarded Bush as a colt in the China shop. Richard C. Bush III, director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, said Obama “is consistent enough in his positions that he can be civil.”

“The important thing with the Burmese is whether with some degree of engagement, we can pull them out of the trap they’ve put themselves in and get a better deal for the Burmese people. We may never achieve it, but at least you can’t blame us for treating those people as lepers.”