insufferable social gaffe of spreading good will. Specifically, while meeting Japan’s emperor, he
bowed at the waist in an approximation of the traditional Japanese gesture of greeting for a respected
figure. I say an approximation because, traditionally, one does not also shake hands while doing so,
which Obama did in this instance, but neither he nor the meaningless figurehead monarch seemed to
mind the fact that Obama bowed any more than the Emperor minded shaking hands. It was very much
a meet-you-half-way sort of gesture of politeness which no reasonable or rational human being could
honestly find fault with.
It should therefore come as no surprise, then, to learn that former US vice president and current
professional whiner, Dick Cheney, found fault with this, saying that America’s enemies would see in
this simple gesture of politeness a weakness which they could exploit. How demeaning and belittling
the sitting US president in this way is supposed to have weakened America less than seeing him act in
a polite manner is a little bit vague, as is the question of why, if Cheney is so concerned with
America’s president appearing strong, Cheney does everything in his power to weaken him a little bit
more each day. How, also, these un-named but presumably dark-skinned enemies might go about
exploiting this weakness is not a detail which he saw fit to elabourate upon; perhaps he envisions them
sending a group of Japanese emperors into the battlefield, and then, when American forces, emulating
their Commander In Chief, bowed before them, the enemy forces could take advantage of the
momentary distraction by opening fire upon them.
The more realistic* scenario is that Cheney woke up in the morning, rose from his coffin, ate his
traditional breakfast of freshly-plucked baby hearts boiled in a broth of virgins’ tears, and then
searched “Obama” on Google News to see what specific act there was in the news that day which
Cheney could publicly criticize. Finding Obama bent at the waist in one of the photographs, he grunted
“Guess that’ll have to do”, and had his bug-eating manservant call around to the usual media outlets to
see who would give him a platform for the criticisms he was even then formulating.
Indeed, I envision a parallel universe which is in all way identical to our own, save that at that moment,
Obama chose not to bow, but rather simply to shake hands. I envision, in that universe, Cheney having
words somewhat along these lines:
“President Obama’s failure to observe something as simple but as important as this culturally-
significant gesture indicates precisely what myself and others have been saying about him for some
time now. It shows his ignorance, his arrogance and his elitism. I think that America’s enemies will see
this failure on his part as a sign of weakness, if you will, and one which they can exploit. A president
which cannot be bothered to understand foreign cultures, as President Obama has shown himself to be
today, is one which will also be unable to understand the threats posed by certain radical elements
within foreign cultures. It is precisely this sort of inexperience that should have precluded him from
holding an office he is plainly unqualified and unprepared to hold, and this sort of hubris and self-
importance which keeps him so out of touch with the world around him.”
In two other, somewhat more distant parallel realities, in both of which John McCain won the 2008
presidential election, wherein McCain met with the emperor of Japan and, in one, bowed before him,
and in the other did not, the Dick Cheneys of these worlds had nothing whatsoever to say on the topic,
recognizing it as so trivial as to be unworthy of comment.
*It's all relative, really.