Makes Bush looks like sophisticated Man-Of-The-World
I have refrained from commenting on this until now, waiting for the fallout to settle so the damage might be assessed.
The military—of any nation—is composed of human beings. As in any group of people, in the military you will find those who are the salt of the Earth, those who are absolute jerks—even villains, and everything in between. Correspondingly, you are taught that when you salute, you are saluting the uniform and not the man.
Obama might have learned that lesson had he ever served in the military. But he didn't. He has apparently never even heard of the practice—that, or he just doesn’t care.
Obama appears to be an Anglophobe. He has said that his grandfather was detained for more than six months by the British who suspected him of involvement in the bloody Mau-Mau rebellion. True or not this should be irrelevant. In dealing with the heads and the ambassadors of other nations, Obama is mandated to represent the people of the United States of America—not embark on childish and disgraceful public snit-fits.
First, Obama surprised and insulted the British by returning a bust of Winston Churchill, presented to the Oval Office by the British Government as a show of friendship and solidarity after 9/11.
Then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown arrived in Washington—the first official visit of any head of state to the new President.
Obama cancelled the Rose Garden press conference—traditional in welcoming heads of state—"because of snow" and held a small, awkward and ill-prepared press conference in the Oval Office, leaving out more than a dozen British reporters for lack of room, (there are 132 rooms in the White House, including the huge East Room which was presumably free of snow at the time.) Obama also denied the British prime minister an official state dinner.
Prime Minster Brown presented Obama a pen holder carved from the remains of the HMS Gannet, a Victorian warship that once ran anti-slavery missions along the African coast. The wood of HMS Gannet's sister ship, HMS Resolute, was used to create the President's famous Resolute Desk, a gift from Britain which has been in the Oval Office since 1880. The Prime Minister also gave Obama the framed, original commission of the HMS Resolute, and a first edition of Sir Martin Gilbert's seven-volume authorized biography of Winston Churchill.
Obama's gift to the Prime Minister? A box of 25 DVDS including ET, The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, Raging Bull, Casablanca, The Graduate and—perhaps most poignant of all—Psycho.
To make matters worse—if that's possible—Obama wasn't smart enough to know that DVDs made for US audiences won't work on British DVD players. British and American DVD players use incompatible formats.
Mrs. Brown then presented the Obama children with two outfits from Topshop, one of Britain's trendiest and most expensive women's-wear stores.
Apparently having learned the art of tastelessness at her husband's side, Mrs. Obama had an aide run down to the White House gift shop to snatch away two toy Marine One Helicopter
pieces of junk models for the Prime Minister's children.
Obama then cut the meeting short in order to meet with a group of Boy Scouts, (I'm not making this up, folks.)
But wait—there’s more:
British Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell is now saying that 10 Downing Street is finding it "unbelievably difficult" to get in touch with members of Obama's administration. British officials can't seem to get past the White House answering machines as they try to coordinate plans for the upcoming G20 summit.
O'Donnell said that when he tries to get in touch with key members of Obama's Treasury Department "there is nobody there." The phones ring and no one answers or he gets only a answering machine message. "You cannot believe how difficult it is," O'Donnell said to participants of a civil service conference.
I could say more about this disgraceful state of affairs, but what more needs be said? Well, perhaps more of the British reaction. I will end with comments on the debacle from the UK's Telegraph newspaper:
One thing’s certain when President Obama arrives in London at the end of March - he’ll receive a far warmer and more cordial welcome than the one he doled out to Gordon Brown in Washington earlier this week. As the British media widely noted, the Prime Minister was given a humiliatingly low key reception at the White House at the hands of a new US Administration that seems to care little for the Anglo-American alliance or even the basics of international diplomacy.
No British leader in modern times has been greeted with less decorum by his American counterpart, and the amateur reception he received was more fitting for the arrival of a Third World potentate than the leader of America’s closest ally...a British Prime Minister deserves to be treated with respect, even he is a lame duck at home or is barely recognizable to much of the American public.
President Bush was frequently labeled a cowboy and an isolationist by his critics, but the Bush White House knew how to receive its guests (including traveling press corps) with tremendous dignity, respect for tradition and sincere warmth towards visitors who had traveled thousands of miles to be there.
When Joe Biden outlined the US administration’s foreign policy at the Munich Security Conference last month, he delivered a muddled, quintessentially European-style speech that projected naiveté and confusion. It was a weak-kneed address that could easily have been drafted in Paris or Brussels, a celebration of “soft power” at a time of growing threats to international security. His words revealed a soft underbelly to the American superpower, one that will be probed and exploited by Washington’s worst enemies.
Whether Obama is actually up to the task remains to be seen. His meeting with Brown this week was nothing short of a PR disaster, the embarrassing fledgling steps of a new president unschooled in foreign affairs. He was out of his depth and it showed... the young president could learn a thing of two about leadership from Sir Winston Churchill, the British hero whose bust he so crassly removed from the Oval Office.