by Karyn McDermott

I’m no fan of Gordon Brown but then again who is? The Prime Minister of Great Britain is starting to look more like Nixon every day. But, give him credit and he proves patience does pay off as he now holds office in Number 10 Downing Street after years of wrangling with “Call me Tony” Blair. Like him, loathe him or ignore him, Gordon Brown deserves better than the treatment dished out by the Obama Administration.

As a dual American/British citizen I will, to use the word du jour, be “transparent” and declare that I did not vote for either man. That said, I despair as to the relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. The so-called “Special Relationship”.

President Obama is not in the Oval Office more than five minutes and the bust of Winston Churchill is sent back to the British Embassy. Why? Change, I guess. Let’s just forget the allies who have really stood by the United States and are always the first to support America in whatever foreign policy folly it gets itself into even if it is not reciprocated (think Falklands) and then head on down to meet with Castro, Chavez and Ortega who are not exactly examples of civilized democracies or friends of “Western Civilization”. That’s not my opinion that’s in their own words. Ortega’s 50 minute plus diatribe combined with Chavez’s hatred and contempt of all things American as well as the Castro brothers have all been well documented in other forums.

Churchill famously said when fighting his own axis of evil “never give in, never, never, never, never in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy”.

Not allowed to talk that way these days. Nope — no more War on Terror. Let’s just cosy up to Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Venezuela et al in the hope they will like us. They won’t. Never have and never will. Obama actually believes he is the Change We Can Believe In and that He is the One We Have Been Waiting For.

Such hubris.

A state senator from Illinois who has never had a real job in his life is now spending more time on Air Force One jetting around the globe making friends with our enemies and enemies with our friends. But despite the slobbering media coverage it’s not really working out for the No Drama Obama Administration. North Korea firing (or misfiring) ballistic missiles and Iran holding an American citizen and charging her of spying when she is a reporter just doing her job, not to mention the dog and pony show that was the Summit of the Americas this past weekend Americans should be more than slightly worried as to this new President’s foreign policy agenda — whatever that may be. And where does Hillary Rodham Clinton fit in as Secretary of State?

She was asked back in July 2007 during the CNN Democratic Primary Debate whether or not she would be willing to meet with leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela and North Korea. This was her answer:

Well, I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise the meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are.

I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes; I don’t want to make a situation even worse… But certainly we are not going to just have our President meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and the President(s) of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward will be.

Hmmmm — I know my cable is a bit wonky at times but I could have sworn I saw Hillary with Chavez this past weekend.

As Paul Greenberg of the Tribune said we “mustn’t upset the world’s tyrants. They might get mad”.

Back to poor old Gordon Brown who crossed the Pond to pay his respects to the newly elected President of the Free World as tradition dictates. Things did not go according to plan. Where was the big dinner? There was no Colgate Camp David moment a la Bush and Blair, no joint press conferences with flags flying, no real memory of the visit at all if it wasn’t for the DVD debacle. Someone recently wrote that Brown was treated less like a representative of the Mother Country than a poor relative whom his host did not wish to make too welcome lest he stay too long.

The Prime Minister (well, really the British Commonwealth and Foreign Office) had chosen thoughtful gifts for the new President: a first edition of Martin Gilbert’s biography of Churchill as well as a pen holder taken from the HMS Gannet for his Oval Office desk, known as the Resolute desk. Classy, historical and timeless. What did Gordon get in return? 25 DVDs that he and Sarah cannot even play as they are not coded correctly for the UK. What does the Protocol wing of the State Department actually get paid for? Which brings me to… The State Department…

When asked about the Brown visit and subsequent grumblings, a State Department official explained away the lack of any special welcome for America’s closest ally in a comment to the London Sunday Telegraph thus; “there is nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment”.

Guess that’s why Her Majesty was presented with an iPod of Baracks’ speeches.

Like the Queen has not managed to give a speech or two given her 57 years on the throne (and by the way, Lizzie, happy birthday for yesterday). The arrogance and disrespect shown by both Obamas is breathtaking. Queen Elizabeth the Second has been a dignified, non- partisan monarch and, whilst she came under fire for being unfeeling and cold etc. with regard to Diana, she has seen more Prime Ministers, Presidents, Heads of Commonwealth, Popes etc than possibly anyone in history.

And, for her troubles, the Obamas get her an iPod. If I were her I would have given it to the Corgis to “play with”. My only surprise is that Michelle didn’t put on some of her own advice how to get toned arms and purchase J-Crew at cut price and a few arugula salad recipes.

Yes, we could revisit the Michelle Obama grope of the Queen and her inability to dress for the occasion and other trivial, tabloid matters but there is something a little more sinister afoot here.

Britain is being treated like a second class citizen on the world stage.

The President of Venezuela gave the President of the United States a book. Nice. Obama said “thanks” and that he’s appreciative as he is “a reader” after all. Well, the book is in Spanish which he cannot read. So former President W, who speaks fluent Spanish despite being an idiot, doesn’t have a day job anymore and can, perhaps, translate. I wonder what Barack gave Hugo??

So, the US State Department and the Obama No Drama Administration say there is nothing special about the United Kingdom; Obama, what language do you speak? You are a lawyer, Harvard no less, a politician who professes to be a churchgoer (though Rev. Wright was a pretty poor choice of a pastor for over twenty years) so — what is the basis of many of America’s political, legal and religious institutions? Great Britain. Historically, diplomatically, culturally, dare we say it militarily — that’s all. Nothing much to write home about.

Who stands besides the Americans in the war on the terrorists and tyrants?

Great Britain and to a lesser extent Australia and other Commonwealth countries as wells as “minor” European nations such as Poland. Whilst Sarkozy and Merkel seem amenable to the new President they are hardly doing him any favours as evidenced by the G20 Summit which, if reported accurately, would have been seen at best a snub, at worst an embarrassment for Obama.

Sure, the Obamas tried to make it up to Gordon and Susan Brown on their recent visit to Ol Blighty but the damage has been done. The gifts were a mistake but they were a symbolic mistake which is hard to shake off. I know of many Britons who are insulted by the treatment of their Prime Minister and that’s just the Tories.

The media, for the most part, are for Obama and that’s fine and to be expected. But there must just be that niggling hint of buyer’s remorse in there somewhere.

Is it fine to shrug off your oldest and dearest allies to go schmooze with Castro, Chavez and Ortega? I wonder what the State Department has planned next… Perhaps a visit to one of those 190 countries that are equal to Britain and whether they are a tyrant or not we are all friends in the Obama era. I’m taking a punt and thinking Zimbabwe. Just a hunch, but perhaps Obama can nip next door to Kenya and visit that brother of his who lives in a shanty town on the outskirts of Nairobi on about a dollar a month. Wonder if he’s going to see any of the stimulus package?

I yet again quote Paul Greenberg who sums it up in a made up Talmudic story thus:

One morning soon after his coronation, a young prince of humble origin who had risen to command a mighty nation looked out over the palace courtyard and saw a great crowd of 190 women gathered there, most with a petition in hand, clamouring for his attention.

Only one stood apart, keeping her distance and dignity. He recognized her, she was his mother. So did his chamberlain, who asked if he should escort her into the palace at once.

“No,” said the prince in the pride of his youth and new power.

“We have no special relationship. She’s the same to me as any of the others out there.”

And he turned back to work on the great changes he had in mind for the Kingdom. But the young prince found that he was unable to concentrate, that he couldn’t focus on what was truly important and lasting. It was as if he’d lost his sense of direction.

Having forgotten from where he had come, he had no idea where he was going…

Sound a wee bit familiar?

Peter Fray

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