Ever wonder why rightbloggers don’t ever just say the hell with it? Week after week we unfailingly find them locked in the highest of dudgeons, raging about such inanities as old Sesame Street episodes or a non-existent suppressed Obama “thesis.” Wouldn’t you expect them to occasionally look at the more piddling of these outrages as they come over the transom and decide it just isn’t worth their effort and self-embarrassment?
Being the optimistic sort, we held out hope till recently that something would eventually hit their circuit breakers. But now we aren’t so sure. Because if they couldn’t resist the recent affair of the President’s bow to the Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, clearly there’s no bait at which they’ll fail to snap.
You don’t need to have visited Japan to know that bowing is a common form of greeting there. For most of us it’s one of the lazy signifiers of Japanese culture, like crowded subways and schoolgirl panty vending machines. We might expect Obama’s attempt to be well-meaning and a little awkward, and let it go at that.
But rightbloggers, who rose to similar bait in April when Obama bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, found his gesture in this case as needful of close analysis as the Zapruder film.
For Power Line’s Scott Johnson, Obama’s bow was a sign that Obama “means to teach Americans to bow before monarchs and tyrants… He gives expressive form to the idea that the United States now willingly prostrates itself before the rest of the world. He declares that the United States is a country like any other, only worse, because we have so much for which to apologize.” That’s a lot of meaning for a two-second gesture. Maybe Obama should have had the Emperor piss on a flag, too, just to make things perfectly clear.
Andrew Malcolm compared the President’s waist-bow to the upright greetings of Dick Cheney and Douglas MacArthur — the latter observed during the occupation of Japan after WWII, which Malcolm apparently considers an equivalent situation to Obama’s. MacArthur, he wrote, “was not particularly deferential” to the emperor, but “decided to allow Japan to keep its emperor as a ceremonial unifying institution within a nascent democracy. Tojo, on the other hand, was hanged.” Obama hanged no one, and bowed to the emperor. The implication is clear: Barack Obama would have surrendered to the Japanese.
We’re kidding, of course, but American Digest’s Vanderleun presumably wasn’t as he headlined, “If a US President Had Just Done This in January 1942 It Would Have Saved Everyone a Lot of Trouble,” and showed a Photoshop of Obama wearing ladies’ stockings, deference being in his view the province of females, it would seem (or maybe it’s just a Garth Algar/Bugs-Bunny-dressed-as-a-girl thing).
And another thing, said Protein Wisdom’s Darleen Click, Reagan didn’t bow to the Nipponese (Yeah! yelled American Power from the cheap seats, “REAGAN DIDN’T BOW!!”). And anything Reagan didn’t do just shouldn’t be done. As a form of victory dance, Click playfully added, “Lefties… It this really where you want to defend Obama acting like an Uncle Tom?” (Emphasis hers.) You, or rather she, can imagine how mad that’ll make those lefties! Astonishingly, she refrains from using animated gifs to underscore her point.
Perhaps sensing that others might find their obsession a little unseemly, some went for a scholarly approach. “As a matter of protocol, American President’s should not bow to other world leaders that are their equals,” said Confederate Yankee, sadly without citing a source (Emily Post?). Don Surber worked harder, finding a New York Times story which made much of Bill Cinton’s demi-bow in 1994, which is of course what all of us think about when we remember Clinton’s presidency. “Just so no one accuses me of not knowing protocol,” added Surber, presumably referring to the protocol for press treatment of Democratic presidents.
Other rightbloggers, like Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, also jumped on the Times item: “Now that Obama has done ‘the unthinkable’ twice,” he asked, “and this time to Akihito, will the New York Times have anything to say about it?” Their sudden faith in the Times‘ authority is touching, and fleeting; later that same day, Surber offered “NYT’s BDS continues” which, more in keeping with the general rightwing attitude toward the paper, attacked its “Bush Derangement Syndrome,” and noted the Times used a Clinton-era example to defend an Obama policy — which is ridiculous, of course, as Clinton can only be used as an example with which to attack Obama. Mind the protocol!
Eventually these ravings prompted an Administration response: “I think that those who try to politicize those things are just way, way, way off base,” said an unnamed White House official. Nonetheless rightbloggers continued to nose around Japan for more Obama treason. At Real Clear Politics, Richard Halloran found Obama evading a reporter’s questions about America’s use of A-bombs to end WWII. His headline: “Will Obama Apologize for Hiroshima & Nagazaki?”
Manly’s Republic leapt to affirm that Obama hadn’t evaded the question, as reasonable people might imagine, because it would have been impolitic to answer it, but because “he has no nuanced understanding of the myriad historical circumstances surrounding President Truman’s decision to deploy atomic weapons because he isn’t very knowledgeable when it comes to history,” etc. The Right Coast acknowledged the role of “political advantage,” but asserted that “If you take that out of the equation, I think the answer would be, of course he would” apologize.
Right Coast didn’t explain how this conclusion was reached, but did find Obama’s “reference to himself as our first ‘Pacific’ president unbearably pretentious given that there are many alive today who bled there or left their fathers, friends, brothers or sons buried there in graves marked and unmarked… I think nearly drowning in Pacific during wartime, as both JFK and Bush 1 did, gives you a better claim on the title than having been born in Hawaii and gone to prep school there.” What a fraud that Obama is, claiming “Pacific” origin without having been dropped into the actual ocean under wartime conditions! Next he’ll be telling us he’s Christian or something equally ridiculous.
Meanwhile some old-fashioned news outlets chose to cover the geopolitical purposes of the President’s trip to the East. But rightbloggers were more interested to learn that ABC — one of the mainstream media outlets they normally despise — found an “expert on Japanese protocol who is generally a supporter of President Obama” who decided “that both the left and the right are wrong” about Obama’s bow. You can guess how rightbloggers took this: as proof of nothing less than total victory (“Clearly, even the Japanese think Obama got it wrong”).
Thus assured that they had fought the good fight, rightbloggers turned their eyes to the horizon, vigilant for Obama’s next gestural assault on America, whether it be an inappropriately firm handshake or an insufficiently butch wave. As they hold to their vigil, we hold to ours. Someone’s got to tell history about this — if for no other reason than because Clio could use a good laugh.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 16, 2009