Supposedly he did not bow.
I see two camps of thought on this.
Camp 1: American Presidents do not bow to Royalty.
Camp 2: Who cares, it was a meaningless gesture and it garnered good will.
I am in Camp 1. My reasons are legion, but let's talk about Camp 2 and why it does matter.
First off it is a HUGE deal that our President bows to someone who is a King. Reason one, it is a sign of fealty not respect. Respect between two men of stature in any country and culture involves looking directly at each other and a gesture of peace and trust. That may be a hand shake, that may be a hug, that may be a kiss, but at no time should a leader of any country show any gesture that overtly says "I am inferior to you."
Here is the reason.
Some in our country say that it is no big deal it does mean much in our country if you bow. It also does mean much if you throw your shoe at someone in this country either. However, in the Arabic world it means a lot. Now does it mean that the US is subservient to Saudi Arabia? Not in real terms no. But the symbolism of the most powerful man on the face of the Earth bowing to someone INSTEAD OF SHOWING THEM AS AN EQUAL means a tremendous amount in other cultures.
Try and negotiate with a person from an Arabic country after you have shown fealty to them. Some say that it can be a tactic. I say that it backfires a lot more than it works. Some folks say that they need to sell their oil more than we need to buy it. I say, look at what happened when gas hit the $3.50 - $4.00 mark in the US. Besides, the Indians and Chinese will happily sop up what we do not buy.
No this was a very dangerous thing that Obama did. His protocol office is failing miserably and it even has dangerous overtones.
Not to mention that saying he did not bow is a bald faced lie. So much for Obama's integrity.
Ben Smith's Blog: White House: No bow to Saudi - POLITICO.com