Carney Clueless on Real 'Relationship' Between Obama and the UK

During Thursday's regular press briefing White House Spokesman Jay Carney was asked by ABC's White House correspondent Jake Tapper about the unattributed "Anglo-Saxon" comments which drew a negative response from Vice President Biden. Carney referred that question to the campaign then offered his positive spin on the special relationship between the US and the UK:

When this president came into office, our alliances were under strain and frayed; our standing in the world had been diminished. In the three and a half years that President Obama has been in office, he has strengthened our alliances around the world, including and in particular with NATO countries and including and in particular with the United Kingdom, with whom we have a remarkably strong bond, a special relationship that has never been stronger. And you know, I’ll leave the back-and-forth to the campaign.

But let’s talk about policy and fact here. And I would note that in that article in question, again, as a matter of policy, the only difference that I could tell, aside from the quote that’s gotten a lot of attention that was focused on, was the need to — you know, that the only difference in policy proposals that seemed apparent were that we should move a bust from one room to another in the White House. And that was a principal policy difference, which is pretty preposterous.

There are several problems here. First, what is it about the word relationship that Jay Carney doesn't understand? It's not enough to claim that the policy hasn't changed even as the President continually rebuffs, embarrasses, and snubs the Prime Minister of our number one ally. That is what Obama has done since he took office.

In 2009, PM Gordon Brown made five separate requests to have individual talks with Obama. He was refused. Instead Obama announced he would meet with "the leaders of Japan, China and Russia." This followed the incident in early 2009 in which Gordon Brown gave some very nice gifts to the President and his family, including a pen holder carved from the timbers of a British anti-slavery ship and a first edition of Churchill's biography. In return, Obama gave Brown a cheap set of DVDs which couldn't even be played in Britain because they were region coded for the US. When the Telegraph asked a White House spokesman about this snub, the spokesman reportedly "sniggered."

All of this followed the most well-known incident in which Obama returned a bust of Churchill which the British government had loaned to the White House. Contrary to what Jay Carney claimed today, the bust was not moved "from one room to another in the White House." It was returned to the British government despite their generous offer to let us keep it another four years. The bust now resides at the home of the British ambassador. Carney got this wrong.

But even on policy the President has not always had Britain's back. In April of this year, within weeks of the 30th anniversary of the Falklands war, Obama gave a speech in Cartagena, Colombia in which he referred to the Falkland islands as the Malvinas, i.e. the Argentinian name for the islands. Actually, Obama blew it and referred to the islands as "the Maldives," a different group of islands 8,000 miles away in the Indian Ocean. Perhaps the teleprompter wasn't working that day. Still, Obama's intent was to side rhetorically with Argentina against the UK. As recently as last month, the US State Department continued to say it is neutral on the matter, i.e. not supporting the British claim to the islands. Interestingly, the Argentinian President calls the Falklands a "colonial enclave." In other words, she's making an anti-colonial argument, one with which President Obama seems to agree.

Relationships with allies are about more than policy. Obama has repeatedly snubbed Britain even as he reached out to the Middle East, China and Russia. With an election coming in a few months, it's a good time to ask what Obama's counter-intuitive foreign policy prerogatives have achieved, if anything.


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