This post looks at the German culture where such public touching is frowned upon, even among intimates.
From the comments, another German adds:
"Being a German I'd say that today it's a bit more relaxed. I see 'casual touches' between close friends everyday. Even in public.Likewise boyfriend-girlfriends are a lot more 'affectionate' in public today.:)
But nobody would dream of acting that way during official events. Just isn't done. Even her husband wouldn't have touched her that way. It would show total disrespect for her official role and her job as chancellor. Her being 'someone with stature'. :)"
And that strikes me as true here too. It would not be right if Merkel was an administrative assistant, but she is the leader of the German people. Bush continues to show the world that he lacks even a basic understanding of diplomacy or respect for other cultures. I am embarrassed.