Clueless and Classless
The election of Barack Obama was hailed as a great opportunity to restore America’s respect in the world. Yet, his diplomatic efforts so far have been clueless and classless. One of the first things Obama did when he took office was return a bust of Winston Churchill that had been given to President Bush by British Prime Minister Tony Blair after 9/11. As Britain stood by our side during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Churchill bust stood in the Oval Office throughout George W. Bush’s presidency. Needless to say, many Britons were shocked when Barack booted Winston from the White House.
This week, Obama had an opportunity for a “redo” when Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited Washington. Unfortunately, President Obama again snubbed our ally with behavior that one British columnist described as “very odd and, frankly, exceptionally rude.” First, the White House denied the prime minister a formal press conference. Only once in more than a dozen meetings with Tony Blair did George W. Bush not grant the British prime minister such an honor, and that exception occurred during a hastily arranged visit after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Instead, Obama and Brown sat briefly together in the Oval Office in what the Washington Post described as “a chilly reception.” But the worst was yet to come.
It is customary for heads of state to exchange gifts when they meet, and Prime Minister Brown presented President Obama with a pen holder carved from the wood of the HMS Gannet. The Gannet was engaged in anti-slavery and piracy missions for a time off the coast of Sudan. She was the sister ship of the HMS Resolute. The wood of that ship was used to make the Resolute Desk, which was a gift from Queen Victoria to President Hayes in 1880. It is instantly recognizable as the magnificent desk that currently sits in the Oval Office.
Clearly, considerable care and thought were given to the gift Prime Minister Brown would present to President Obama. What did our president give the prime minister in return? Here’s how the U.K.’s Daily Mail put it: “For despite being leader of the world’s most bountiful nation, President Obama handed over nothing more thought-provoking than 25 classic American films on DVD. It was the equivalent of receiving a pair of socks from an unfamiliar aunt at Christmas — and a less-than-glowing affirmation of the UK-US bond.”