Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Friendship

It had felt like some time since the latest hit on U.S.-U.K. relations from the Obama administration and I was starting to wonder. Last week however delivered the goods when Obama, in his now comfortably sycophantic mode, stated "We don’t have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy and the French people."

Stunning.

But not that much. For American presidents, Obama's appreciation for the friendship between the U.S. and the U.K. is the worst in memory. Despite the fact that the Brits are standing alongside their American cousins in the Islamist wars, in the greatest numbers and in the greatest political capital, there still seems to be a very meagre thanks. Obama's clumsy serenade of the French is only the latest in what has become a very long list of overt acts of rudeness toward America's strongest ally. Since Obama has taken office, he has:

* Publicly removed the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office. This was a loan/gift given to the U.S. from the U.K. just after the 9-11 attacks. It represented a touching gesture of friendship and solidarity as it was Churchill who first commented on the unique friendship between the two nations. Three weeks into office, Obama shipped it back.

* Made a spectacle of U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown's first state visit under Obama's presidency. Less than a month after the bust of Churchill incident, the leader of the U.K. was given a rushed and confusing stay that was beyond offensive. No ceremony, no reception, no dinner - not even a press conference. Surprisingly, this was the lesser of his embarrassments during Brown's visit. The gift exchange between the two leaders has gone down as one of his most memorable gaffes yet. Brown gave Obama a pen holder made from the timbers of the anti-slave ship the HMS Gannet, the sister ship that the White House desk was made from, in addition to a first edition, seven-volume biography of Winston Churchill. Obama gave Brown a last minute 25 DVD box-set of American movies (complete list here), which of course are perfectly incompatible with British DVD players and thus remain unwatched. Obama's kids received dresses with matching necklaces and pre-published British authored books while Brown's kids received toy replicas of the presidential Marine One helicopter. The generosity of Obama's credit account at the White House gift shop is handsome.

* Offered a weak and unconvincing response when one of his aides said to a British reporter, who asked a question about Brown's odd visit, "There's nothing special about Britain. You're just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn't expect special treatment." Unlikely a White House staffer would say something like this if it wasn't the common sentiment around the workplace.

* At least given a more personal gift to the Queen, a much more personal, and strange, gift. Obama's visit and gift exchange with the U.K.'s most revered figure was thankfully more tactful and dignified than Brown's a month earlier. While the Queen gave the Obama's the customary silver framed autographed photo of her and Prince Philip (yawn), Obama gave the Queen a video playing iPod (which she actually asked for as her current iPod could only play music) that included photos and videos from her 1957 and 2007 visits to the U.S. Also included was a charming list of American showtunes which the Queen always had a fondness for. It was a thoughtful and wonderful gift that was only marred by the inclusion of two of Obama's speeches in the playlist, as well as photos from the day of his inauguration. Though it wasn't too much of an embarrassment, it was a bizarre act of reciprocal hubris.

* Sided with Argentina, Britain's enemy, on the Falkland Islands issue. The U.K. fought a war less than 30 years ago defending the islanders from malignant Argentinian rule, and has continued to expend treasure in the service of since then. Like other colonial protectorates, the Brits will leave the island when the islanders ask, no sooner. The Obama administration took Argentina's point of view when they suggested the islands could be negotiated.


Some list for only two years in office, and these are merely my favorites - so far. His animosity toward the U.K. and the British culture in general is not hard to understand. His Kenyan ancestors' experience with British colonials was less than favorable, including accounts of his grandfather's imprisonment and torture due to acts of sedition. Both of Obama's parents were avowed communists with a disdain for the West, and his entire education and early adulthood was dominated by anti-Western zealots like Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright. Obama has been cultivated with a hatred for Anglo supremacy since his birth and will never understand the special bond between the U.S. and the U.K., nor their role as vanguards of the West.

To the Brits, the Americans, as well as many French, this latest act of sucking up to France is as phony as it looks. France is clearly not 'America's strongest friend or ally' and hasn't been for 200 years. The U.K. however shouldn't take its temporarily downgraded relationship with the U.S. too personally. While Obama may be the most anti-British U.S. president in recent memory, he's also the most anti-American.

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