A Not-So-Brief List of All the Things President Obama Has Bowed To

The Drudge Report reached peak Drudge this morning with the alarming news that, while in Japan, President Obama bowed his head in deference to a robot. 

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The Drudge Report reached peak Drudge this morning with the alarming news that, while in Japan, President Obama bowed his head in deference to a robot. "U.S. PRESIDENT BOWS TO JAPANESE ROBOT," screams the Drudge front page. So who is really the most powerful person/sentient computer in the free world, now?

Those who are unaware of the conservative fixation with Obama bowing to stuff might not understand why Obama's exchange with the Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, or ASIMO, robot merits Level 11 Drudge Sirens. So let's take a look back (or down?) at his long history of overly polite greetings.

2009: Obama bows to the Saudi King

This is the classic Obama Bowing To Things We Don't Like moment, the one that launched a thousand Fox News segments. A White House aide attempted to deny that the move to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at a G-20 meeting was a bow, telling Politico that "It wasn't a bow. He grasped his hand with two hands, and he's taller than King Abdullah."

Anyway, The Washington Times said that his greeting "belittled the power and independence of the United States" because Obama was "bending over to show greater respect to Islam." It only got worse from there.

2009: Obama bows to the Queen of England

This one isn't so much of a "bow" as it is a head nod (note: the president, who is a solid 6'1", is taller than many world leaders). It's apparently from the same trip to London as the Saudi bow, for his first G-20 summit as president. This moment does, however, show up on exhaustively researched lists from the right on every time Obama has bowed, so we will include it too. The YouTube user who uploaded this video helpfully flagged where the alleged bows took place, in case you can't spot them yourself. 

2009: Obama bows to the Japanese Emperor

You'll notice a trend with these bow incidents: many of them occur in countries where a bow is considered part of greeting etiquette. As the New York Times pointed out at the time, Obama did actually break a big greeting rule with this bow, but not the one that caught the attention of conservatives: You're not supposed to shake hands and bow at the same time. Do one or the other, but not both.

Dick Cheney, then the recently ex-Vice President, weighed in on this one amid the pretty widespread criticism from conservative media outlets: "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," he told Politico. As the AP noted at the time, State Department guidelines tell American diplomats to " be aware" of greeting protocols in foreign countries, including kissing, handshakes, and bows. Those guidelines didn't specify whether they also applied to the president.

2010: Obama bows to Nancy Pelosi

Hmm. This one is a stretch. Here's Obama greeting Nancy Pelosi, at the 2010 State of the Union. He nods his head — another pattern, Obama likes to nod — in greeting. That became a bow, somehow. Judging by the comparatively low view count of this video, we're guessing that not even a lot of Obama bowing curators believe this is canon. But we are nothing if not thorough. Onward!



This AP photo was picked up by a few conservative blogs as another example of Obama bowing to someone beneath his station. This time, it's Chris Christie, accompanied by then-Mayor (now Senator) Cory Booker. The AP caption describes the president as "laughing." "Obama was laughing as he bowed so maybe he didn’t really mean it," The Right Perspective posited at the time.

He may also be displaying weakness to the 2016 presidential election winner? Only time will tell.

2010: Obama bows to a child's diorama in Mumbai

There's no image of this bow, but there is this quote from a New York Times write-up of Obama's trip to Mumbai, India:

The school was also the scene of Mr. Obama’s much-publicized dancing. But before he got his groove on, the president did something that appealed to his wonkish side: he toured student presentations on the importance of wind and solar energy, rain-water harvesting and a model “eco-village” with a windmill. Standing before the diorama, he drew his hands together, as if in prayer, and greeted the children with a slight bow.

2010: Obama bows to a couple in Japan

This one's from a pool report of Obama's visit to the the 44-foot-high Great Buddha statue of Kamakura, in Japan:

POTUS walks up a central path lined with pines, other trees, his shirt collar open, toward the Great Buddha. He is greeted by a man and woman in traditional Japanese robes, whom he greets with a handshake and small bow, and tells them he visited years ago. Can't hear much else.

2010: Obama bows to the mayor of Tampa


Even the AP caption describes this as a "bow." That's Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio he's greeting. (Again, with an unnecessary handshake.)

"The mayor of Tampa isn’t a Third World potentate, totalitarian dictator, or terrorist leader so I can’t understand why Obama would be in full-bow mode," a writer at Red State wondered about this photo.

Conservative blog Ace of Spades was kind of "eh" on this one: "I guess I don't mind so much when he's bowing to an American. I'm not happy about it, but bowing to foreign heads of state pegs my OH HE DID NOT meter while this just rises to "what a buffoon"-levels of presidential misbehavior."

2010: Obama bows to the Chinese

Obama once again nodded his head in what almost appeared to be a bow while greeting Chinese President Hu Jintao at a  Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. Photos of the greeting were quickly picked up (as Media Matters documented at the time).

A video of the greeting anchored a Hannity segment on Fox News.

2012: Obama bows to Felipe Calderon


Photos of Obama's head nod while greeting Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon during a G-20 summit resurrected the ongoing Bow controversy a few years ago. Over at Breitbart, John Notle wrote:

Having a President who does not believe in American exceptionalism and constantly disavows it in front of the world is starting to get on my nerves. Respect for foreign leaders is one thing, but bowing before anyone is as unAmerican as it gets. 

2013: Obama bows to a Communist


Obama shook the hand of Cuban President Raul Castro during the December memorial service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

Frontpage called his head nod to the shorter man a "bizarre trademark half-bow." Weasel Zippers concluded, "It’s not just a handshake, notice the tip of the head and bend of the back, it’s a bow. Notice also Castro did not bow back." Ok.

2014: Obama bows to a robot

Which brings us to today's final humiliation of the America dream. Obama played soccer with a Japanese robot on Thursday — a machine the president admitted was a "little scary" because it's "too lifelike."

He also bowed in greeting to the robot, which makes this moment the latest — but perhaps the most devastating — time when our leader revealed the weakness of this once great nation to the world. Get ready to welcome your foreign robot overlords, America, because we'll all be doing a lot of bowing very soon.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.