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
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.