UPDATED: Do you support Obama’s approach to foreign policy? VOTE HERE.
We’ll always have Berlin…. the days when it was all “Hope” and “Change” and governance was just a word. The cheering throngs, the coordinated signs, the events and emotions and condescension palpable. If the atheists could suspend their values for a moment, surely they too would acknowledge that last summer – in Berlin – that from the hereafter, Leni Riefenstahl looked upon Obama’s European debut with great pride in his stagecraft. (something she knew a little about after filming “Triumph of the Will“)
Okay, maybe not. And certainly not now. President Barack Obama was for many Americans and Europeans and Africans a welcome change from the presidency of George W. Bush. After all, War is hard. No one likes to be inconvenienced by terrorism, bombings, kidnappings, beheadings, hijackings, and fights with OPEC over oil, and with Ghaddafi over their stash of WMDs, and Iran over nukes, and seriously – who isn’t tired of the Palestinian problem? Like, Hamas? It’s like – we’re tired, man. We want some hope-n-change.
War is hard. Of course, to be honest – it’s not like America – or George W. Bush picked this fight. Poverty is not a motivator for Usama bin Ladin. He’s got a few hundred million dollars in liquid assets. I don’t think he’s losing sleep over Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. And he’s probably laughing that President Obama actually believes there are “two” Talibans. One that we can work with, and one we can’t. My guess is that the ones we can work with were the spectators in the soccer stadiumback in the pre-9/11 days when they beheaded women and stoned them to death for having an ankle exposed. But hey, they were just watching. So, compared to the guy with the machete – they were pretty moderate.
Anyway, that’s an uncomfortable topic. Let’s refocus on Europe for a minute. July 2008 – Obama was gaining steam, kicking Hillary Clinton’s arse, and readying to take the world by storm. Or, as Der Spiegel put it: “People of the world, Look at me.”
Trust. Hmm. Trust implies the relationship between America & Germany – or America and any of her European allies is special. That was then.
This is now:
Further confirmation that the Obama administration may be downgrading the Special Relationship with Great Britain is provided by a State Department official in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph.
Asked about the underwhelming reception given to Gordon Brown when he visited the White House last week, the “furious” unnamed official, who was involved in the planning of the meeting, declared:
Alrighty then. So, the Brits can basically stuff it. Nothing special. My guess is that France and Germany should not expect anything different. This kind of commentary won’t go unnoticed at the G20 meeting in London next month. However – don’t expect Obama to be snubbed. Instead, expect him to be showered with the good graces of his hosts. Because PM Gordon Brown isn’t a tacky fellow. To the contrary – he is an extraordinary man who will simply outclass Obama at every turn.
PM Brown’s visit was the icing on a rancid cake in my opinion. What cake? Ah, well – after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 – then PM Tony Blair offered a bust of Winston Churchill as a loan, as a sign of solidarity with the American people and our President. It remained in the Oval Office for the duration of W’s tenure as President.
From the Times: (updated for those requesting additional data)
Obama summoned an official from the British embassy to retrieve the artifact. No war on terror. No acknowledgement of the gracious spirit in which it was given. And then, when it came time for the current Prime Minister to visit… things got even uglier.
Protocol. Manners. Etiquette. These are things that matter. They communicate who we are as a people to our counterparts across the globe. The White House protocol folks, the State Department protocolfolks, and the masters of protocol (in my not so humble, used to be one of them snarky way) at Military District Washington, MDW, would never advise, under any circumstance the wholesale tackiness that was to ensue.
MDW manages the arrivals ceremonies – at Andrews Air Force Base. At the White House. At the Pentagon. And pretty much anywhere else inside the National Capitol Region. They oversee the Presidential Honor Guard, a joint-service group that act as the President’s Official Escort. And in some ways, they act as his proxy. They also manage every burial at Arlington National Ceremony. They are the faces you see in solemnity presiding over state funerals – think Reagan, Kennedy, Ford. Those folks KNOW protocol. It is their job. They are dedicated and assigned full time to protocol on behalf of the State. And they are the President’s own for Inaugurals… these folks have been doing this since the beginning. The Old Guard, the 3rd ID at Fort Myer – well, they harken back to General George Washington’s days. So, it’s not like they – nor any of the protocol professionals that advise a president – are new at their jobs.
When PM Brown arrived, there was no presence. No arrival at Andrews AFB. No arrival on the South Lawn at the White House. No State & Territorial flags with a cordon along the White House driveway. No formal press conference in the Rose Garden, or the East Room. No State Dinner. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Not special enough I guess. But it didn’t end there. Presidents and their counterparts offfer gifts to each other. Thoughtful, meaningful gifts are exchanged to symbolize the “special relationship” between our people. President Obama must not agree because he gave PM Gordon Brown a boxed set of 25 DVDs showcasing American classic films. No, I am not kidding.
From the Daily Mail:
While the Daily Mail was a bit cheeky in their response, Toby Harnden of the Telegraph was straightforward in his piece “No need for DVDs: Gifts Obama Could Have Given Gordon Brown.” My favorite on his list:
While perhaps not as grand, I would certainly have taken a quick drive from my new house out to my old neighborhood and asked for advice on behalf of the stumbling Obama White House from Civil Rights icon Myrlie Evers, widow of Medgar Evers who was slain on his own doorstep. Certainly, Mr. Obama could have found something from the Civil Rights era… or anything on Mr. Harnden’s list. But DVDs? It is truly unconscionable.
What did PM Gordon Brown offer? Well, in addition to a first edition seven-volume set biography of Winston Churchill (ahem) he brought a penholder carved from the Oak timbers of the HMS Gannet. Why is that significant? Well, the Gannet participated in anti-slavery missions, and was the sister ship to the HMS Resolute, from which two desks were carved. One sits in Queen Elizabeth’s study, the other resides in the Oval Office. To say Gordon Brown ‘thought it through’ is a great understatement. It was a kind, thoughtful acknowledgement from our greatest ally of the true accomplishment that America is leaving the stain of the Middle Passage behind her.
Of course, the insult continued. With First Lady Michelle Obama. Her detractors are having “I told you so” moments from sea to shining sea. In a stroke of complete ignorance, she gave Prime Minister Brown’s wife Sarah couple of toy plastic Marine One helicopters for their sons. Seriously.
From the Times:
Like her husband, Sarah Brown brought thougtful books, dresses and jewelry from London’s Top Shop, for Sasha and Malia. What made the plastic helicopters so insulting was they came from the White House gift shop, downstairs in the OEOB. The gifts were clearly a rush, an afterthought, and not of any significant importance.
As an American, I am embarrassed. Unfortunately, it’s not just protocol that is the problem. It’s policy. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made some curious remarks about Human Rights, leading some to believe that closing Guantanamo was about appeasing the American anti-war Left, while doing nothing to really make a stand on Human Rights.
Nowhere are these basic needs more under assault than in Darfur. Obama promised “unstinting resolve” in 2008. But, to date, he has done nothing. Not even mentioned it as a priority. Every president has a huge portfolio. So, bad economy or not – he doesn’t get a pass. Hiring a couple of staffers, appointing an envoy, and getting engaged is cheap, easy, and effective.
Why does Darfur matter? There are many, many reasons. Not the least of which is our own national security. In 1993, when our troops were in Somalia delivering humanitarian aid to the Somali people – who suffering because of a horrible famine… something happened. A little known anti-Saudi, anti-US terrorist was just getting his sea legs. Spurned by the Saudis, his citizenship revoked, and humiliated in front of his family and followers – Usama bin Ladin cowered in the Sudan and Afghanistan. He funneled his millions through construction and other projects to dirty warlords, like Mohammad Farah Aidid. He provided Aidid with cash, weapons, missiles, food, and other staples — in October 1993, Aidid’s men – armed by bin Ladin – struck back against our troops. Creating the “Blackhawk Down” incident.
Had Clinton stayed, fought, and taken down Aidid – and a much weaker bin Ladin – instead of an aspirin factory, we would be living in a much different world. (note link to NYT piece, utilizing Peter Bergen & Mark Bowden’s research on the topic)
What we do in Africa, and what we don’t do, matters. Darfur is not only terrorized by the Islamic militant Janjaweed – who rape, torture, and murder – but also by the shadow of Rwanda. When America, also on Bill Clinton’s watch, turned a blind eye to a genocide.
Now, the International Criminal Court at the Hague has issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Bashir, who is in bed with the Janjaweed, he has expelled humanitarian aid organizations. Kicking out the very people who provide food, potable water, and medical care – but also the witnesses who would tell the story of Darfuris being mowed down.
From Save Darfur on March 11, 2009:
And Obama remains silent.
PS: I’ve updated this post with links to source articles, and additional excerpts to provide those seeking clarity more of it.