When he was in Japan over the weekend as part of his Asian trip, Obama was greeted by Emperor Akihtito and his wife. While shaking hands, the President bowed down to the Emperor. Watch it here:
"I don't know why President Obama thought that was appropriate. Maybe he thought it would play well in Japan. But it's not appropriate for an American president to bow to a foreign one," said conservative pundit William Kristol on "Fox News Sunday." He added that the gesture was another example of a United States that has become weak and overly-deferential under Obama.
Kristal also said, "I'll bet if you look at pictures of world leaders over 20 years meeting the emperor in Japan, they don't bow."
Indeed, it's been pointed out that when then-Vice President Dick Cheney met the emperor in 2007, they shook hands, and he did not bow.
"We don't defer to emperors. We don't defer to kings or emperors. The president of the United States -- this coupled with so many apologies from the United States -- is just another thing," said Bill Bennett on CNN's "State of the Union. "It's ugly. I don't want to see it."
But Obama's supporters came to his defense. Longtime Democratic strategist Donna Brazile told CNN, "I think it's a gesture of kindness," adding that the bow appeared intended to show "goodwill between two nations that respect each other."
An unnamed senior Obama administration official told Politico.com that the president had simply been observing protocol. "I think that those who try to politicize those things are just way, way, way off base.
"I don't think anybody who was in Japan -- who saw his speech and the reaction to it, certainly those who witnessed his bilateral meetings there -- would say anything other than that he enhanced both the position and the status of the US, relative to Japan. It was a good, positive visit at an important time, because there's a lot going on in Japan."