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November 17, 2009

White House: Obama Lied About Not Bowing to Saudi King

They don't actually say that. But since the White House previously claimed he didn't bow to the Saudi royal, and now they're admitting he's bowing his ass off in order to further "the diplomacy of deference," what other conclusion is possible?

Greeting the Japanese emperor at Tokyo’s Imperial Palace last weekend, President Barack Obama bowed so low that he was looking straight at the stone floor. The next day, Obama shook hands with the prime minister of repressive Myanmar during a group meeting. The day after that, the president held a “town hall” with Chinese university students who had been selected by the regime.

The images from the president's journey through Asia carried a potent symbolism that has riled critics back home. One conservative website called the episodes “Obamateurism.” Former Vice President Dick Cheney told POLITICO that Obama was advertising “weakness.”

But White House aides say the approach is deliberate — part of Obama’s determination to deliver on his campaign promise of directly engaging friends and enemies alike, giving America a less belligerent posture abroad.


On his maiden Asia swing, Obama has made a vivid display of his own trademark style — the diplomacy of deference.

Downplaying bald assertions of American self-interest, Obama in his speeches has emphasized the pursuit of enlightened shared interests with other nations. The approach also invests deep faith in the power of Obama's personal presence—a belief that a calm and reasonable style will summon calm and reasonable responses around the world.

White House senior adviser David Axelrod, who is accompanying the president on his four-nation, nine-day trip, told POLITICO that Obama is “governing in just the way that he said he would” during his campaign.

“He believes in vigorous engagement around the world — in strong alliances, in confronting our adversaries and standing up for human rights by making these points in a very public way,” Axelrod said. “He is confident. He’s someone who’s leading from strength and a deep belief in who America is and what we stand for. That confidence is reflected in the way he conducts himself on the world stage.”

So he lied.

Greg Gutfeld (was up late last night) noted the bowing controversy and called it, using Andy Levy's phrase, a "blog issue." By which he meant a topic that gets predictable heat on blogs, but when you try to discuss it in the "real world," the reaction is "ehhh."

That may be so. To be honest, I had a bit of trouble drumming up a lot of passion about this. My real beef here isn't that what Obama is doing is wrong.

My actual beef is that the crap Obama is doing is irrelevant. No one gives a flying fuck if you bow to them, or you say nice things about "working together to reach our collective goals," or this ridiculous conceit that just because of Obama's "personal presence" -- a historic presidency, drenched in drama, topped with butter-baked crumbs of hope -- is going to make a lick of difference. Nations pursue their own policy goals -- period. You change the goals a nation might pursue by offering carrots and sticks, by buying them off or making it so costly to pursue a particular goal they refrain from doing so.

"Diplomacy" is merely a polite manner of announcing these carrots and sticks.

So my point, then, is that what Obama is doing is perfectly trivial, and to get all outraged about it actually invests his empty and feckless symbolism with a power it doesn't have. Obama's bowing to a Saudi king does nothing to improve our relations with the Islamic world. And neither, frankly, does Cheney shaking his hand as an equal. Neither matters -- and the problem here is that Obama is convinced these things not only matter, but are well-nigh determinative.

This malignant narcissist thinks that nations will change their fundamental national goals based simply on the (purported) fact that Obama is charming, nice, and awesome.

It's not so much that he's doing the wrong things -- he is; but these things are utterly trivial. It's that he's investing far too much time thinking about trivialities, convincing himself that the trivial trumps the substantial, that he invests no time or effort at all in substantive manners. Look at Iran. Rather than facing the grim reality he needs to confront Iran and make it too costly for Iran to continue building nukes, he convinces himself that if only he can be charming and nonthreatening enough he will neatly avoid having to face that reality.

He is indulging in fantasy at the expense of reality, and therefore at the expense of US national interests.

Now, all that said, all that acknowledgement that maybe this is a "blog issue," as Greg Gutfeld said, let me note again something that makes it not just a "blog issue" at all: Obama lied. Gibbs lied. White House sources lie. They all denied down the line that they were offering a sycophantic servility -- bowing like an inferior -- to royalty, and they now are forced to admit it was a lie all along.

They were deliberately bowing to royalty, and just lying about it to the American public. Because, I guess, sometimes a lie is "diplomatic."

So it seems while foreign royalty gets deep bows, the American public gets lies and fast-talk about it.

Actually... also taking it out of the realm of "blog issue" is that any symbolic act stands for something concrete and real. And Obama isn't just showing the symbolism of deference, weakness, and appeasement; he's actually practicing deference, weakness, and appeasement. His symbolic gesture then is simply confirmation of objective reality.

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posted by Ace at 04:04 PM

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