The right-wing blogs seem certain... the left-wing seem disinterested. But apparently even the White House feels it is important enough to deny it ever happened. From the politico:
The White House is denying that the president bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at a G-20 meeting in London, a scene that drew criticism on the right and praise from some Arab outlets.
"It wasn't a bow. He grasped his hand with two hands, and he's taller than King Abdullah," said an Obama aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Washington Times called the alleged bow a "shocking display of fealty to a foreign potentate" and said it violated centuries of American tradition of not deferring to royalty. The Weekly Standard, meanwhile, noted that American protocol apparently rules out bowing, or at least it reportedly did on the occasion of a Clinton "near-bow" to the emperor of Japan.
The full video is available here, with the bow taking place between the 50 second and 1 minute mark. Here's those few seconds clipped out if you want to avoid the load times:
The powerlineblog used this screenshot that seems to show that the White House denial is a flat out lie:
As well as this one from Malkin's website that shows the bow from another angle that doesn't show the distance between them or his other hand, but clearly shows the level/angle of his head:
Obama's head is clearly lower than the King's as well as remaining distant, which seems to rule out hypothetical explanations he was merely trying to hear him. Obama isn't grasping his hand with both of his own hands, as his other is clearly visible on his knee (though after the bow he does grasp the King's hand with both).
The problem for many is that this appears to be a first ever in our history of observing royal leaders as being the peers of our leaders, not someone to kneel to (an incredibly important part of our history). So much so that there was a brief uproar that Clinton may have tilted too much when meeting with the Japanese Emperor. As Hot Air and the Weekly Standard point out, the NY Times at the time recoiled at the historical imprudence of doing so and further described it as "unthinkable."
Even if one can dismiss this as right-wingers making much ado about nothing, why then is the White House lying its ass off to ensure people think it never happened?
Hopefully we can just chalk this up to a rookie mistake in spite of what appears to be the outright disregard for one of the fundamental principles America was founded upon. Hopefully we'll never see any such displays of fealty again.
What might help ensure that it doesn't happen again is journalists doing their job and upholding their ethical responsibility as journalists to report the mistakes of candidates they happen to like more than others. Just a thought.
-- UPDATE 8:11 PM --
The "Bush did it too!" folks seem to be relying on a screen shot of Bush in the middle of getting a medal from the king but not actually bowing. The fuzzy screen shot gives a false impression of what is going on there, but from the video it can be seen he is merely moving his head to allow the medal to be awarded. It's safe to assume that anyone receiving a medal from the president in a similar manner, whether it military awards or the medal of freedom, isn't an act of bowing before royalty.
But for those who'd like to see the distorted retort, here's a link to LGF's post on the subject claiming Bush bowed too. Notice in the screen shot the medal isn't clearly visible, but if you click the video link it is extremely obvious he isn't actually bowing to royalty there.
-- UPDATE 12:09 PM 4/22/2009 --
A late update, just due to this subject coming up again in other discussions and coming across another White House response denying the bow ever happened with the same lie and then a dodge:
Q: And then one unrelated question. When the President met with King Abdullah, there was something that took place that I believe the White House explained as just the President being taller than the King. We took a look at the video, and it does appear that the President actually bowed to King Abdullah. Did he bow or didn't he?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think he bent over with both -- to shake with both hands to shake his hand. So I don't --
Q: It appears to show one hand, that he was just --
MR. GIBBS: Well, I --
Q: Did he bow or didn't he?
MR. GIBBS: No. But I think this meeting was like a week ago, right?
Q: That's right, but this is something that a lot of people are still talking about today.
MR. GIBBS: I can only imagine it is of great cause and concern for many people struggling with the economy. (Laughter.)
I guess that settles that! (laughter)