President Obama's appeal greater overseas?
President Barack Obama bows as he is greeted by Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on Saturday in Tokyo. (Photo: AP)
We scrutinize his falling poll numbers, not to mention his every move. They turn out in droves to cheer him on. Is there more love for President Barack Obama overseas?
“It’s two different worlds,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “The president abroad is seen almost as a heroic figure, and here he comes back to a kind of tense political atmosphere and has difficulty getting through legislation.”
No doubt Obama is respected in the U.S., but not by everyone. Former Vice President Dick Cheney pounced Tuesday, calling Obama’s deep bow Saturday before Japanese Emperor Akihito a “sign of weakness.” Supporters said Obama likely meant it as a sign of respect.
“To Americans, the bow showed too much humility. Americans would have been happy with a handshake, equal footing,” said Steven Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation.
Overseas reverence of Obama is fractured among the regions just as it is among U.S. political parties.
Japan, China and other Asian countries — which were satisfied with the policies of Obama predecessor George W. Bush — are reserved about Obama, while African countries have ecstatically welcomed him, said Reihan Salam, author of “Grand New Party” and a New America Foundation fellow. The president enjoys steady support in Europe as well, Salam said.
The Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to Obama in October, was a symbol of the president’s global appeal.
“Certainly, some people are still really, really, really excited and they’ll never be cured of that, regardless of what happens,” Salam said. “But internationally, just as domestically, there’s been some disappointment.”
Some New Yorkers on Tuesday shared Salam’s sentiment that Obama’s allure overseas may not endure.
“It says something about our culture. People overseas see him as a new hope for the world because most people see America as the leader of the world,” said Max Wilison, 37, of the Bronx. “That said, those opinions may soon change.”
Courtney Crowder contributed to this story.
Barack Obama isn’t the only U.S. president to spark a flap over behavior with foreign leaders. Here are a few others:
1959: Dwight Eisenhower bows to French President Charles de Gaulle.
1971: Richard Nixon bows to Japanese Emperor Hirohito.
1992: George H.W. Bush vomits into the lap of Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, then faints.
2005: George W. Bush kisses and then holds hands with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.
2006: The younger Bush gives German Chancellor Angela Merkel a quick shoulder rub.
April 2009: Obama bows to the Saudi king.