Welcome to the American Revolution II

Welcome to the American Revolution II
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
"We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose and insidious in method..." and warned about what he saw as unjustified government spending proposals and continued with a warning that "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex... The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist... Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."Dwight D. Eisenhower

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Brushing off Mr. Brown, too tired' to give proper welcome to Gordon Brown

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown thought long and hard about what gift to bring on his visit to the White House last week. Barack Obama is the first African-American president, so the prime minister gave him an ornamental desk-pen holder from the timbers of one of the Royal Navy´s anti-slaving ships of the 19th century, HMS Gannet. Even more appropriate, in 1909 the Gannet was renamed HMS President.

The president´s guest also presented him with the framed commission for HMS Resolute, the lost British ship retrieved from the Arctic and returned by America to London, and whose timbers were used for a thank-you gift from Queen Victoria to Rutherford Hayes - the handsome desk that now sits in the Oval Office.

And, just to round things out, as a little stocking-stuffer, Gordon Brown gave President Obama a first edition of Sir Martin Gilbert's seven-volume biography of Winston Churchill.

In return, America's head of state gave the Prime Minister 25 DVDs of "classic American movies."

Evidently, the White House gift shop was all out of "MY GOVERNMENT DELEGATION WENT TO WASHINGTON AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT" T-shirts. Still, the "classic American movies" set is a pretty good substitute, and it can set you back as much as $38.99 at Wal-Mart: Lot of classics in there, I'm sure - "Casablanca," "Citizen Kane," "The Sound Of Music" - though this sort of collection always slips in a couple of "Dude, Where's My Car? 3" and "Police Academy 12," just to make up the numbers.

I'll be interested to know if Mr Brown has anything to play the films on back home, since U.S.-format DVDs don't work in United Kingdom DVD players. It could be worse. The president might have given him the DVD of "He's Just Not That Into You."

Gordon Brown landed back in London a sadder but wiser man. The Fleet Street correspondents reported sneeringly that he (and they) had been denied the usual twin-podia alternating-flags press conference. The Obama administration had supposedly penciled one in for the Rose Garden, but then there was that catastrophic snowfall (a light dusting). This must be the first world leaders' press conference to be devastated by climate change.

No doubt President Obama could have relocated it to a prestige indoor venue, like the windowless room round the back of the White House furnace in Sub-Basement Level 5. But why bother? Some freak flood would have swept through and washed the prime minister and his DVD set into the Potomac and out to the Atlantic. By the time the Coast Guard fished him out, the sodden classic movies wouldn't work in any American DVD player any better than in the British one.

Mr. Brown did, however, get to give an almost entirely unreported address to Congress. U.S. legislators greeted his calls to resist protectionism with a round of applause, and then went back to adding up how much pork in the "Buy American" section of the stimulus bill would be heading their way.

I would make a modest prediction that in 2012, after four years of the man who was supposed to heal America's relations with a world sick of all that swaggering cowboy unilateralism, those relations will be much worse. From Canada to India, the implications of the Obama ascendancy are becoming painfully clear.

The other week Germany's Der Spiegel ran a piece called "Why Obamania Isn't The Answer," which might more usefully have been published before the Obamessiah held his big Berlin rally. Written by some bigshot with the German Council on Foreign Relations and illustrated by the old four-color hopey-changey posters all scratched up and worn out, the essay conceded that Europe had embraced Mr. Obama as a "European American."

Very true. The president is the most European American ever to sit in the Oval Office. And, because of that, he doesn't need any actual European Europeans getting in the way - just as, at his big victory night rally in Chicago, the first megastar president didn't need any megastar megastars from Hollywood clogging up the joint: Movie stars who wanted to fly in were told by his minders that he didn't want any other celebrities deflecting attention from him. Same with world leaders. If it's any consolation to Gordon Brown, he's just not that into any of you.

What Mr. Brown and the rest of the world want is for America, the engine of the global economy, to pull the rest of them out of the quicksand. That's not unreasonable. Even though a big chunk of the subprime/securitization/credit bubble axis originated in the United States and got exported round the planet, almost every one of America's trading partners will wind up getting far harder hit.

And that was before Mr. Obama made clear that for him the economy takes a very distant back seat to the massive expansion of government it provides cover for. That's why he is indifferent to the plummeting Dow. The president has made a strategic calculation that, to advance his plans for socialized health care, "green energy" and a big government state, it is to his advantage for things to get worse. And, if things go from bad to worse in America, overseas they'll go from worse to total societal collapse.

We have already seen changes of government in Iceland and Latvia, rioting in Greece and Bulgaria. The great destabilization is starting on the fringes of Europe and working its way to the Continent's center.

We're seeing not just the first contraction in the global economy since 1945, but also the first crisis of globalization. This was the system America and the other leading economies encouraged everybody else to grab a piece of. But whatever piece you grabbed - exports in Taiwan, services in Ireland, construction in Spain, oligarchic industrial-scale kleptomania in Russia - it's all crumbling.

Ireland and Italy are nation-state versions of Bank of America and General Motors. In Eastern Europe, the countries way out on the end of the globalization chain can't take a lot of heat without widespread unrest. And the fellows who'll be picking up the tab are the West European banks who loaned them all the money.

Gordon Brown was hoping for a little more than: "I feel your pain. And have you ever seen 'The Wizard Of Oz'? It's about this sweet little nobody who gets to pay a brief visit to the glittering Emerald City before being swept back to the reassuring familiarity of the poor thing's broken down windswept economically devastated monochrome dustbowl. You'll love it!"

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn"? Oh, perish the thought. The prime minister flew 8,000 miles for dinner and a movie. But the president says he'll call. Next week. Next month. Whatever.

London newspapers are howling over a string of alleged snubs by Obama to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown during his visit to Washington last week — including a squabble over presidential gift-giving.

"President Obama has been rudeness personified towards Britain," sniffed The Daily Telegraph Friday. "His handling of the visit of the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to Washington was appalling."

The list of complaints is longer than the Magna Carta: Obama canceled a planned, podium-to-podium news conference with Brown (actually, none was ever scheduled); he recently removed a bust of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the Oval Office; and he gave gifts to the Brown family that were "about as exciting as a pair of socks," one Fleet Street wag whined.

That last bit might be true. After Brown presented Obama with a pen holder crafted from the timbers of the 19th century British warship HMS President (whose sister ship, HMS Resolute, provided the wood for the Oval Office's desk), Obama offered up ... 25 DVDs of American movie classics.

"Oh, give me strength," wrote one appalled Daily Telegraph staffer. "We do have television and DVD stores on this side of the Atlantic."

Never mind that Brown is blind in one eye and may have a hard time seeing the stars in "2001: A Space Odyssey," or that American DVDs are usually incompatible with British players.

Equally insulting, decided the Times of London, was Michelle Obama's "solipsistic" and "inherently dismissive" gifts to the Browns' two little boys, Fraser and John.

The offending souvenirs? Toy models of Marine One, the President's helicopter — gifts no doubt plucked from the White House gift shop at the last minute, The Times decided.

Brown's wife, Sarah, by contrast arrived with dresses for Sasha and Malia from the UK's trendy Top Shop (with matching necklaces) and a selection of books by British authors.

"A bit of thought had clearly gone into choosing them," crowed The Daily Mail. "Lovely."

The Brits have blown up the alleged snubs into new evidence that the "special relationship" between the two nations is no longer quite so special.

The hand-wringing began last month when Obama removed a bust of Churchill from the Oval Office and replaced it with his hero, Abraham Lincoln.

The Times of London immediately traced Obama's "disdain" for Churchill to Kenya, where Obama's grandfather was caught up in the Churchill-led suppression of the 1950s Mau Mau Rebellion that left thousands of
Kenyans dead.

"It's not surprising that Mr. Obama didn't want Churchill looking over his shoulder," explained one correspondent.

At this point, the two sides seem to be in full repair mode. The White House let it be known that Obama and Brown shared a chummy phone call as the prime minister was headed home.

And Friday, it was revealed that Obama would be granted a private audience with Queen Elizabeth when he is in London next month.

Quipped one reader of The Sun, "I hope Her Majesty likes DVDs."

Barack Obama 'too tired' to give proper welcome to Gordon Brown

Barack Obama's offhand approach to Gordon Brown's Washington visit last week came about because the president was facing exhaustion over America's economic crisis and is unable to focus on foreign affairs, the Sunday Telegraph has been told.

Barack Obama and Gordon Brown: Has Gordon Brown's meeting with Barack Obama restored his fortunes
President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown walk down the Colonnade of the White House in Washington, Photo: AP

Sources close to the White House say Mr Obama and his staff have been "overwhelmed" by the economic meltdown and have voiced concerns that the new president is not getting enough rest.

British officials, meanwhile, admit that the White House and US State Department staff were utterly bemused by complaints that the Prime Minister should have been granted full-blown press conference and a formal dinner, as has been customary. They concede that Obama aides seemed unfamiliar with the expectations that surround a major visit by a British prime minister.

But Washington figures with access to Mr Obama's inner circle explained the slight by saying that those high up in the administration have had little time to deal with international matters, let alone the diplomatic niceties of the special relationship.

Allies of Mr Obama say his weary appearance in the Oval Office with Mr Brown illustrates the strain he is now under, and the president's surprise at the sheer volume of business that crosses his desk.

A well-connected Washington figure, who is close to members of Mr Obama's inner circle, expressed concern that Mr Obama had failed so far to "even fake an interest in foreign policy".

A British official conceded that the furore surrounding the apparent snub to Mr Brown had come as a shock to the White House. "I think it's right to say that their focus is elsewhere, on domestic affairs. A number of our US interlocutors said they couldn't quite understand the British concerns and didn't get what that was all about."

The American source said: "Obama is overwhelmed. There is a zero sum tension between his ability to attend to the economic issues and his ability to be a proactive sculptor of the national security agenda.

"That was the gamble these guys made at the front end of this presidency and I think they're finding it a hard thing to do everything."

British diplomats insist the visit was a success, with officials getting the chance to develop closer links with Mr Obama's aides. They point out that the president has agreed to meet the prime minister for further one-to-one talks in London later this month, ahead of the G20 summit on April 2.

But they concede that the mood music of the event was at times strained. Mr Brown handed over carefully selected gifts, including a pen holder made from the wood of a warship that helped stamp out the slave trade - a sister ship of the vessel from which timbers were taken to build Mr Obama's Oval Office desk. Mr Obama's gift in return, a collection of Hollywood film DVDs that could have been bought from any high street store, looked like the kind of thing the White House might hand out to the visiting head of a minor African state.

Mr Obama rang Mr Brown as he flew home, in what many suspected was an attempt to make amends.

The real views of many in Obama administration were laid bare by a State Department official involved in planning the Brown visit, who reacted with fury when questioned by The Sunday Telegraph about why the event was so low-key.

The official dismissed any notion of the special relationship, 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." The apparent lack of attention to detail by the Obama administration is indicative of what many believe to be Mr Obama's determination to do too much too quickly.

In addition to passing the largest stimulus package and the largest budget in US history, Mr Obama is battling a plummeting stock market, the possible bankruptcy of General Motors, and rising unemployment. He has also begun historic efforts to achieve universal healthcare, overhaul education and begin a green energy revolution all in his first 50 days in office.

The Sunday Telegraph understands that one of Mr Obama's most prominent African American backers, whose endorsement he spent two years cultivating, has told friends that he detects a weakness in Mr Obama's character.

"The one real serious flaw I see in Barack Obama is that he thinks he can manage all this," the well-known figure told a Washington official, who spoke to this newspaper. "He's underestimating the flood of things that will hit his desk." A Democratic strategist, who is friends with several senior White House aides, revealed that the president has regularly appeared worn out and drawn during evening work sessions with senior staff in the West Wing and has been forced to make decisions more quickly than he is comfortable.

He said that on several occasions the president has had to hurry back from eating dinner with his family in the residence and then tucking his daughters in to bed, to conduct urgent government business. Matters are not helped by the pledge to give up smoking.

"People say he looks tired more often than they're used to," the strategist said. "He's still calm, but there have been flashes of irritation when he thinks he's being pushed to make a decision sooner than he wants to make it. He looks like he needs a cigarette."

Mr Obama was teased by the New York Times on Thursday in a front page story which claimed to have detected a greater prevalence of grey hairs since he entered the White House.

The Democratic strategist stressed that Mr Obama's plight was nothing new. "He knew it was going to be tough; he said as much throughout the campaign. But there's a difference between knowing it is going to be tough and facing the sheer relentless pressure of it all."

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