Bow wow

Republicans make themselves look like asses when they publicly sniff and tiff over Obama’s bow of greeting to Japan’s Emperor and Mrs Emperor. Is there anything so trivial the right won’t complain about? If they wanted to tease The One, they could have posted pics of the event with captions like, “It appears your shoes are untied”, or “I think you dropped a Yen”, or something equally inane. Better to have at least attempted humor.

Obama's bow

Clinton’s “No”

Hilary was asked if trying terrorist scum Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City will increase the risk of new attacks here. She immediately and dismissively said, “No.” Only a dedicated, true team-player would have said something so stupid. It’s funny. She used to be a formidable force. Obama should be happy he has her so well tamed.

While somebody could honestly forecast that no new terrorist attack would follow from Mohammed’s trial—say, by pointing to the plans of locking down lower Manhattan for the next three years, installing snipers from every rooftop, patting down everybody under Houston, etc.—to claim that there is no increased risk to the city is just plain asinine.

Incidentally, now’s the time to sell if you own anything within ten blocks of the courthouse.

Are all reporters so easily distracted?

The Democrats sent out their Talking Head Squad over the weekend to explain why bringing Mohammed back to the city was such a good idea. “American justice on parade!” they chorused. Several reporters at least had the wits to ask, “What if there is an acquittal?”

Not one politician answered that perfectly reasonable question. The closest thing to an answer—but not an answer—came from His Eminence Eric Holder. “We guarantee a conviction,” he smiled. “But…but…” many reporters managed to croak out. Too late. Holder, and his band of merry sycophants, had already changed the subject.

No reporter pressed.

None—left or right—wants to irritate a source, none wants to appear unfriendly by insisting on intelligibility. None wants to be difficult. If a reporter became irksome, why, just think about what people would say at the next Georgetown cocktail party!

But Holder’s “guarantee” leads to the observation: if the pre-deadman’s guilt is so certain already to all the world, why not string him up now? Why bother with a show trial? Ignore the question that the man is not a citizen and not entitled to be tried as one; if you are telling the world that the man will be found guilty, how is this a display of America’s vaunted justice system?

Others were careful to talk about Mohammed’s “rights.” The only right he has left is the right to choose between hemp and nylon.

Sarah Palin’s book

I haven’t read it and won’t buy it. But—this is for you, Laura—she is still hot! (Except the new ‘do; looks too much like post-modern sculpture.) Hilary even suggested a cafe klatsch!

Anybody know who the ghost writer is? Whose Obama’s was?

Why is it we all accept that our politicians are so illiterate that they cannot write their own biographies? Maybe it’s easier to to “committee” every sentence if the work is farmed out. I have no idea: who is the last politician that actually wrote his own memoirs?


  1. Michael Smith

    According to Holder, only certain terrorists are going to be tried in the civilian criminal defense system. The terrorists that attacked the U.S.S. Cole, for example, will still be tried in a military court. Holder’s explanation for this is that KSM and his fellow defendants attacked and killed American civilians, while those terrorists who attacked the Cole were attacking military targets.

    This means that terrorists that attack American civilians — instead of attacking our military — effectively get rewarded for their behavior by being given all the legal protections and rights afforded to defendants in our criminal justice system.

    Now how much sense does that make?

  2. You’re wrong on the Akihito thing, Bill. God knows neither Right nor Left has shown just a tonne of clues in general on this one, but I’ve been involved with Japanese culture for my entire life, and Obama made a complete fool of himself, far worse than when Bush_41 threw up on the PM. The BBS traffic on this has been in two parts: the radical Nationalists who are saying “See? The Mikado’s Mystical Presence is so strong it compelled Obama to bow” and the rest of the commenters saying “it was nice of him to make a try, but what an idiot.”

    Not that it’s going to make a major impact on US-Japan relations, but it was an unforced error: State has people who know all this stuff. Hell, Hillary gets it right: has he lost her phone number?

    What’s worse is adding that to making the same error in Saudi Arabia; is he so deaf to criticism that he didn’t learn anything from that time?

  3. Briggs


    I wonder, does that make the people who died and were attacked at the Pentagon “civilians”?

  4. Well, some of them were civilians, but it’s a good question: just what is the theory behind moving KSM’s trial to civilian courts?

  5. Kevin

    I don’t see any theory, but rather ad hoc rationalizations. O’s people seem to be trying to square a lot of his campaign rhetoric with reality, but not all of it, and not consistently. It’s like watching a rookie investor making straddle trades and never learning from the errors.

  6. costanza

    (1) Bowing is Asia’s equivalent to shaking hands (I personally prefer it – it’s more eloquent and reduces disease transmission). The depth of Obama’s bow is indicative of an inferior to a superior.

    (2) By moving the the trial of KSM et al to federal court in NY is Holder’s opportunity to put the Bush Admin on trial.

    (3) Imagine the technical difficulties of such a trial. Is information obtained by waterboarding admissible? What about finding an impartial jury of their “peers”? Change of venue issues! The problems are endless!

  7. Bernie

    He is shaking hands! But I am with you, I wouldn’t want to catch whatever Obama has!
    As to the depth of the bow — if you are right, Michelle probably has him with his forehead touching the ground.

  8. Luis Dias

    To compare Obama’s literacy with Palin’s just made my day! Oh my! Ahah!

    About Hillary’s “no”, a comment: She’s a politician, not a statistician. She’s not allowed to kow-tow to bayesian logic, but to Clintonesque logic. Should be obvious by now.

  9. stan

    Palin didn’t have the time or interest to write a book. She doesn’t pretend that she wrote it. Obama dedicated months, even years, of his life to writing a book and couldn’t get it together. He finally farmed it out, yet continues to lie about it.

    I’ve never seen the slightest bit of evidence that Obama has anything more than an average IQ. I doubt Palin’s IQ is very different from BO-zo’s. The area where they have established extensive differences is not mental, it’s ethical. BO-zo’s dishonesty, slander and comfort level with corruption differentiates him from Sarah in major ways.

  10. 49erDweet

    What stan said.

  11. dearieme

    When authorship is disputed these days, I expect a professor to announce that his software – so successful on Shakespeare – reveals that Mr X wrote tome Y. Why hasn’t this happened for the purported Obamabooks? Are all literary professors leftist tools?

  12. Harold Vance

    Wasn’t the fourth plane supposed to hit the White House or Congress? Even if they didn’t pull it off, the attack on the Pentagon was an overt attack on the government. I wonder how many planes flying into the White House it would take for BO to get the message. Five? Ten? Twenty all at once?

    This whole KSM as common criminal thing is bonkers. War can take place between large groups of individuals and a modern “nation state.” That these guys aren’t official state agents doesn’t matter one wit. War is war. The individuals (all united by a common ideology) simply and cleverly used an available means to launch the attack. They don’t have to be flying in a bomber with some nation’s flag painted on it. That’s ridiculous.

  13. Briggs


    You’re probably right about the Nipponese faux pas, but I maintain that pundits do themselves a disservice by becoming publicly indignant over it. Lefties will see Obama’s gesture, however flawed, as at least an attempt at friendship, and what’s so wrong with that? Therefore, it’s better to poke fun rather than to lecture.

  14. Mike B

    Costanza – then why is Obama bowing AND shaking hands? And why isn’t the Japanese guy bowing?

  15. Luis Dias

    I’ve never seen the slightest bit of evidence that Obama has anything more than an average IQ. I doubt Palin’s IQ is very different from BO-zo’s. The area where they have established extensive differences is not mental, it’s ethical. BO-zo’s dishonesty, slander and comfort level with corruption differentiates him from Sarah in major ways.

    This is outright delusion and confirmatory biased analysis.

    Wow. To regard Sarah Palin as something other than an half-baked crazy lunatic, and compare her to O is mind-boggling. Do you reps not have a shred of “reality” anymore? Are you so kool aid influenciable?

    That people may think of O as a “medium IQ” guy, go ahead. I think that’s wrong, but it could be true. I find it hard to believe that an average schmuck could go to Harvard and get the grades he had, but I’m sure you’ll educate me about “positive discrimination” in the US (which is an unfalsifiable claim about every high graded black person, always). So in a veeeeery disturbed version of events, one could conclude that O wasn’t that “bright”.

    To conclude that Sarah Palin even has a brain of herself though, is completely delusional.

  16. Briggs

    Luis is right. It’s a mistake to suggest anything but that Obama is highly intelligent. You simply cannot get to be president of the USA and not be intelligent. There are lots of myths that suggest otherwise, but these are all silly.

    Palin is also bright; uninformed and ignorant of many subjects, perhaps, but not dim. Again, you do not get to be the governor of a state unless you are intelligent.

  17. dearieme

    Look, I probably shouldn’t intrude into private American grief, but y’all do know that Geo. Washington was a great man for greeting people with a bow? Surely someday I’ll come across a Yank who knows something about the Founding Fathers that is actually factually correct? Eh?

  18. Harold Vance

    Briggs & Luis, you guys should be differentiating the type of intelligence: book smart versus street smart. These are two very different things.

    BO’s approach in dealing with critics (Limbaugh, Fox, et al) is somewhat clumsy and amateurish. He gives them all kinds of free publicity (in attacking them directly in public) and gets nothing or even less than nothing in return for the effort. This is not what I would call street smart.

  19. mbabbitt

    I have to disagree here (but gently) about the Obama bow. I think it is emblematic of his style: pretending a false knowledge to and sensitivity of another culture and then applying a stereotyped behavior of what he thinks tha culture (the Japanese) would like to see. (His incredibly incompetent staff should have forewarned him of his faux pas — just look at a video of the other heads of state for their greetings to the emporer and his wife.) But he wants to be different, even at the risk of creating the very opposite effect from what was intended. For Obama symbolic gestures are more important than real outcomes.

  20. Dearieme, you do know that Washington died 210 years ago, right? I think you’d find that a number of things have changed since then. Hardly anyone wears a powdered wig any more, either.

    Bill, I think you’re probably right, but making fun of something requires a sense of humor, something that the punditocracy seems real short on.

    mbabbitt, I think that’s the real issue here. Not that he made some unexpected political statement, subservience or whatever, with the bow; the Japanese are quite sophisticated enough to figure out that he’s just made a fool of himself, not Made a Statement. just that he not only made a fool of himself, but he’s now made the same mistake twice. That seems kind of worrisome.

  21. Ray

    Looking at the picture, you would think Obama was visiting the IRS for an audit.

  22. Katie

    What were the grades Obama got at Harvard? To my knowledge, nothing from Harvard Law, Columbia U., and Occidental College were ever released.

    Must be that he’s shy and doesn’t want to brag.

  23. Ari

    I’ve often said that the greatest mistake that the liberals made in sizing up Bush II was to regard him as “dumb.” He isn’t and never was. If anything, Bush was a highly capable campaigner who knew exactly what to deliver. There’s a degree of intelligence there that both Gore and Kerry lacked.

    As for the bowing, I happen to work for a major Japanese organization. I did an informal poll, and the answer from my coworkers was generally, “He probably bowed a bit too low, but it’s nothing unusual.”

    Now, I realize that it’s an argument from authority, but the Japanese response here has been, “I dunno, seemed pretty harmless.” Seems to me that he got a bit overzealous. I’ve done it before when bowing.

    Oh, and handshaking AND bowing at the same time are perfectly common.

  24. Ari

    Oh boy, more into this tempest in a teapot.


    Unless the Japanese people I work with are not Japanese enough, I think I’ll take their word on this: most 外人 (foreigners) make fools of themselves within the Japanese context without even trying. Obama’s mistake wasn’t bowing, it was that he bowed too far. Generally, one should bow to about a 45 degree angle, maybe a bit farther if the person is of a rather high station.

    But as one co-worker of mine put it, “It’s often a matter of taste. He chose to bow rather far, but I wouldn’t hold it against him.”

    I figure it’s that much easier to simply take the same position.


    Or, better yet, why should he? All this racket about politicians releasing their grades is a bunch of silliness. Who honestly cares?

    On the media,

    Now, of course, it’s up to the media to swirl this pot and see what they can make of it. Maybe if we swirl hard enough, we can see the tea leaves at the bottom and even do some soothsaying about what it all means! Hooray!

    Oh, the hand-wringing! Did we offend? Are we being subservient? What if the Japanese think badly of us? What if ______ Institutes resident Japanese expert says that it his angle was off?

    What would President ______ have done?

    Swirl swirl swirl.

  25. Katie

    I understood one of the comments attempt to correlate grades with intelligence–and my general point is that if there are no grades–how can we infer intelligence based on the strength of these non-existent grades?

    Otherwise, I believe that grades received when one is aged 18-22 really don’t mean much in later life, no matter what occupation one chooses, politicians included.

  26. Ari


    Ah, got it.

    As a TA I found there was a positive correlation between perceived intelligence and grades, but then I’d sometimes have the goofy surfer dude turn around and write for me some amazing papers.

    One of my classmates in grad school had a 2.9 in undergrad. He went on to be Mr. 4.0-curve-setting-a-hole in grad school. Jerk.

  27. Mike B

    Here’s some more information from a newsie source on the bow:


    Regarding Obama’s IQ, we know that the Bush, Gore, and Clinton (both) campaigns released their candidate’s college board scores. The Obama campaign did not, despite repeated requests. Probably modesty prevented him.

    They probably didn’t have college boards when McCain went to school. 🙂

  28. Harold Vance

    Mike B: the college boards began before McCain was born. Whether or not they held the same significance then isn’t clear, but there were boards nonetheless.

  29. Bernie

    I am not aware of many systematic and meaningful studies of the link between college GPA and life outcomes. One rare multi-cohort study is from the School of Engineering and UI Urbana. The data clearly shows that for engineering graduates there is a negative relationships between GPA at graduation and compensation 5 years and 10 years after graduation. The surveys were completed over a 10 plus year period. I found this study when I was working on an NRC/NSF study of engineers in the early 80s. Anecdotally, the same result holds for Harvard MBAs and there appears to be little relationship between class standing and career success for graduates of West Point.
    The issue is that when you are looking at folks who are 2 SDs above the mean, looking at GPA and life outcome variables is problematic. The odds are that both Palin and Obama are 2 SDs above the average. Bush and Gore were also. Other skills or other intelligences (cf Gardner) become differentiators and determinants of career success.

  30. Briggs


    The problem with those kinds of studies is that they can’t show you the GPAs of those who did not go to college. If, for example, success it positively correlated with college attendance (which it is), then there will be more successful people with any old GPA, and a group of unsuccessful people who no GPA. Overall—if you just measure people with GPAs—it will appear GPA is not well correlated with success.

    But all experience has shown that, so far, all American presidents are highly intelligent people—perhaps somewhat deluded or occasionally in thrall to an ideology, but clearly intelligent. Therefore, it is rational to supposed that Obama is, Bush II was, and the next president will be.

  31. Mike B

    Harold…I was joking. Hence the smiley face.

  32. Bernie

    You are obviously correct – but I was trying to respond to a narrower assertion, namely, a high GPA does not lead to success, especially when other things are equal. The University of Illinois study, I believe, is unique in demonstrating this point. It shows that within a population who do have GPAs in more or less the same discipline from the same college in the same time period, GPA is not positively correlated with compensation 5 years and 10 years after graduation. Most studies that I am aware of do not offer this level of control over the relevant variables. This cohort study was also notable because of, as I recall, a very high response rate. Believe me, I tried really hard to find other studies on this issue without success. As you know longitudinal cohort studies are few and far between.
    As to the IQs of Presidents and Presidential contenders, I also agree that US Presidents are all very smart – they get through one of the most strenuous tournaments one can imagine. For example, I was stunned when I read Ronald Reagan’s In His Own Hand. The incisiveness, clarity, style and wit of these essays is quite remarkable. He was not dependent on a teleprompter or ghostwriters. But academic smarts do not equate to leadership skills, political smarts and clarity of thought. Carter was a pretty good example of this. On the other hand, these same gifts frequently let them succumb to narcissism and paranoia.

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