What You Mean “We”, Kemosabe?

I am more than a little concerned about our new president’s stewardship of the vital friendship between the U.S. and Britain. Mr. Obama gave Prime Minister Gordon Brown the cold shoulder during his recent visit, saying he was “too tired” for a state dinner, and later a Foggy Bottom staffer blithely dismissed the snub, saying “There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.”

This is not only shamefully, mortifyingly rude, and a gross factual absurdity, but shockingly clumsy and stupid as well. It is, however, revealing, I think.

I first began to worry about this when I heard that Mr. Obama had removed from the Oval Office the bust of Winston Churchill (America’s greatest friend and ally since the Marquis de Lafayette) that had stood there during the Bush years.

I wondered why he would have done that — after all, any student of the history of these two great nations surely must realize that Churchill was history’s greatest proponent and spokesman of the unique, and uniquely valuable, cultural, linguistic, historical, and philosophical ties that bind England and America each to the other — only briefly, until I remembered that Mr. Obama’s father was a black man from Kenya. Blood is thicker than water, and I imagine that when Mr. Obama thinks of England, what comes first to mind is not our magnificent common heritage of language, literature, and law, but rather the stormy history of British colonialism, as seen through his father’s eyes.

In retrospect, given Mr. Obama’s background, it should have been obvious that he might feel this way about the British, but I don’t recall anyone having pointed it out during the campaign. It is all understandable enough, of course, but it is most unfortunate — in ways that, if Mr. Obama really is determined to turn his back on our oldest and truest friend, and our closest cousin, will become painfully apparent all too soon.

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  1. JK says

    Mr. Duff?

    Posted March 17, 2009 at 11:44 pm | Permalink
  2. Court says

    Not sure where the root of Obama’s non-favoring of the UK comes from (although I suspect you are correct in your speculations), but here is some more evidence that this is long-standing with BHO:

    Mr Obama’s roots lie in Kenya, Indonesia and Kansas—any continent but Europe. His two books hardly mention Europe at all. “The Audacity of Hope” includes a disparaging reference to the idea that America should “round up the United Kingdom and Togo” as supporters—and then do as it pleases. The only European country that gets a mention in the index under “Foreign policy, US” is Ukraine—and that nation gets less space than Indonesia.

    From The Economist.

    In light of the Bush years, I find the UK & Togo comment amusing, in any case.

    Posted March 18, 2009 at 12:17 am | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Amusing, perhaps, but worrisome. Mr. Obama is now the steward of an American nation that has deep and essential roots in British culture, and which has fought at Britain’s side in the greatest convulsions and paroxysms of modern history. The English language is the indispensable glue that binds our enormous and heterogenous American society into a unitary whole, and the solidarity of the English-speaking nations is not something to be put aside lightly.

    I can hear Messrs. Lawrence Auster and Dennis Mangan already, making a rationally defensible point about culture and race. If culture is ever actually going to trump race in this country, this is where the “rubber meets the road” (if you will forgive me for an atrocious jumbling of metaphors). I have argued passionately that it can, and I do not wish to be proven wrong. I do hope Mr. Obama realizes what the stakes are here.

    Posted March 18, 2009 at 12:39 am | Permalink
  4. Jack says

    If our culture has such deep roots in British and European culture (and it does), perhaps it doesn’t need much nurturing. On the other hand, our relationship with the rest of the world is on much more tenuous ground. Mostly because we’ve treated it as the playground for our geo-political and economic ambitions.

    I don’t think the Brits are really going to invade America. Or sneak in a few terrorists…

    Posted March 20, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says


    Nobody is suggesting that the British are about to invade America. Where did you get that from?

    The point is that we should maintain good relations with our foremost ally. Such friendships, like all important relationships, actually do require nurturing, and they certainly are not nurtured by snubs and insults.

    Posted March 20, 2009 at 2:07 pm | Permalink