American presidents can’t keep their hands off of other heads of state. It has become embarrassing. They touch their shoulders, their backs and hold their arms as they guide them to places to stand or sit. It is as if their guests were little children or blind men who need the assistance of the almighty American president-father. Kings, Queens or common dictators? It doesn’t matter. Our presidents manhandle them all, especially the women.
Not since George H.W. Bush have we had a president who has enough foreign policy experience to know what most American tourists have learned from their own world travels, namely, that you should not touch other people without permission. In some countries of Asia and Africa it is considered unsanitary and dirty, the ultimate offense. You respect the body of the other person. Shaking hands, a western habit, has only been recently accepted and even it is an offense to many of the masses. One can see the awkwardness in the faces of our visiting heads of state. Except in rare political instances, such as Queen Elizabeth’s encounter with Michelle Obama, they don’t touch back. They don’t say, “Thank you for helping me find my spot for the photo op, I was lost and couldn’t read my name on the floor of the stage.” Or, “Say, thanks Mr. President, for the assist in getting into my chair. Although I am younger than you I was afraid I was going to take a tumble.”
One can see when they are the host in their own country and our president is the guest, they are not hugging or manhandling him. He isn’t required to kiss on both cheeks in France. He is allowed to stand tall, with dignity, not inches but feet away from the French president. The ushers, doormen and military aides in many foreign capitals (including France) actually still wear white gloves.
My guess is that there are diplomats and analysts in the U.S. State Department who are horrified by this presidential behavior and have written eloquent, respectful memorandum, tediously explaining the toilet habits of masses of people from different cultures, offering excellent explanations for why and how these traditions have evolved. And why no matter how close they feel to their leader counterpart, it is often an offense to the people to see their nation’s leader pawed over. If so, such memorandum never made it past the White House sycophants who cannot stop telling the president-emperor how wonderful he looks in those clothes of his.
The fact is, the emperor is naked. America’s ignorant presidents from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barack Obama make us look patronizing, rude and condescending. Their obsessive manhandling of foreign leaders and their small gestures of touch and feel, meant to endear, have had their part to play in the collapse of America’s foreign policy. It is not what the actions themselves have done as much as the contempt they express toward other nations and their cultures. If an American president is so isolated that he can’t get this obvious memo from Foggy Bottom, then what else is he missing? What other, more outrageous and idiotic mistakes are being made? No wonder America has moved from a country that is hated to a country that is now ridiculed in jokes around the world.
In years past I have despised the soft on communism apparatchiks at the State Department. Now, I admit that we need them to assert themselves. Someone needs to blow the whistle. American is losing its public relations battle worldwide out of ignorance and arrogance. We can see it on television. Yes, this touchy-feely tendency is only a symptom but it shows that the corruption is complete. Even our recent secretaries of state have been too cowed by the all powerful American celebrity president. Somebody needs to speak up.
George H.W. Bush, experienced as a diplomat and ambassador, a former head of the CIA, was America’s last respectable foreign policy president. He accomplished something that history had never seen. He united the world behind the effort to enforce the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. Yes, he didn’t finish off Saddam Hussein but that was part of the price for world unity and Saddam was clearly kept in check. Today, having finished off Saddam Hussein and seeing the death of tens of thousands, Iraq has turned into an Islamic nation. Christians who trace their heritage back to the apostle Thomas have been tortured, murdered and burned out. Being Gay or even looking gay has become a death sentence in Baghdad. Al Qaeda now operates freely in Iraq. And the American economy, suffering from a $2 trillion war that was off the books, has fallen into its second worst depression in history.
Critics are now berating President Barack Obama for backing down from world leadership. Maybe we should leave him alone.