I decided to look behind the headlines to see what British commentators from some of the print media have been saying about the Obama visit.
Perhaps the most revealing column is by Cole Morton, writing in the Independent (perhaps my favorite of all the British publications). In a piece entitled “Obama on Tour: Three Special Relationships in One Day,” Morton writes this interesting passage:
When Barack Obama arrived at No 10 yesterday, he looked happy, relaxed and pleased to be there. He smiled and waved to photographers on the other side of Downing Street, calling a cheery, “Hello!” Camera flashes caught Gordon Brown waiting for him in the shadows of the hallway.
But when the US presidential candidate came out again two hours later, after a long chat with the beleaguered Prime Minister, he looked shattered. The smile had faded. Now he spoke so softly that only the closest microphones could hear him. As usual, the cut of his sharp, dark suit echoed the Kennedy era, but the charisma had drained away.
He had no advice for Mr Brown. But he did have an observation. “You’re always more popular before you’re actually in charge of things,” he said. “Once you’re responsible, you’re going to make some people unhappy.”
In case you haven’t heard, Gordon Brown is in a very precarious position at this moment. There are rumors of moves by his own party to have him removed. (Echoes of the forces that worked against Hillary Clinton?)
Morton goes on to say:
Afterwards Barack said their chat had been “wonderful”. But after the euphoria of Berlin and the glory of Paris, his Washington entourage was shocked to be made to sit outside on the tarmac. One said the White House would never be allowed to look as tatty as the grimy No 10. In one window the nets had been pushed aside for a cardboard packing case. The symbolism was unfortunate.
The senator talked about Afghanistan and Iraq, climate change and the credit crunch, saying some problems were best solved together. Was there still a special relationship? “Absolutely.” He paid tribute to British troops. Then he seemed to lose interest.
If he lost interest on this visit, what’s he going to do if he has a hard morning in the Oval Office? And isn’t his staff just “precious” about their horror of waiting out in the street and being put off by the less-than-grand 10 Downing Street?
Meanwhile, the Telegraph has the results of a new poll on the public’s attitude to David Cameron, the Conservative leader.
The first detailed analysis of the public’s perception of the Conservative leader reveals that his popularity is increasing rapidly but there is still concern over his substance and ability to connect with ordinary people.
Today’s poll found that half of the British public regarded the Conservative leader as a “lightweight” with 44 per cent of those questioned saying he is “not in touch with ordinary people”. Only 27 per cent of people describe Mr Cameron as “deeply serious” with 39 per cent saying he is “somewhat shallow”.
Mr Brown and Labour have repeatedly accused Mr Cameron, a former public relations executive, of being a “shallow salesman”.
However, the poll also finds that the Conservative leader is increasingly popular with the public and his strategy of moving the party away from its nasty image is beginning to work.
“Lighweight” but “increasingly popular”…. Sound familiar? And a forrmer PR guy as Prime Minister? WOW!
In the Sunday Times, Richard Wood details the Obama-Cameron encounter in his piece, “Barack Obama: He Came. He Saw. He, er, Left.”
The two met outside in New Palace Yard. The senator placed a hand on Cameron’s shoulder, and Cameron gestured up at Big Ben, an image of old and new, power and changing times that probably had Brown gnashing teeth and biting nails all at once.
Cameron rammed home the point that he’s the same sort of new kid on the block by giving Obama a selection of CDs by the Smiths, Radiohead and Gorillaz.
For more than an hour Obama talked with Cameron, overrunning his allotted time as they discussed world affairs, the Middle East (again) and balancing politics with family life. Tory insiders later claimed that the senator had said to Cameron: “I want to congratulate you on all you’ve achieved.”
Onlookers chanted: “Oba-ma! Oba-ma! Oba-ma!” But in truth, the prophet underwhelmed. As he implied, he is neither genius nor idiot, just an everyday global saviour.
I’d like to ask Obama exactly what he thinks Cameron has achieved…is he referring to his admiration of the Cameron’s PR skills??
Wood also provides more detail about the “time to think” exchange.
Cameron:“These guys just chalk your diary up.”
Obama:“Right. In 15-minute increments . . .”
Cameron:“We call it the dentist’s waiting room. You have to scrap that because you’ve got to have time.”
Obama:“And, well, and you start making mistakes, or you lose the big picture. Or you lose a sense of, I think you lose a feel . . .” Cameron:“Your feeling. And that is exactly what politics is all about. The judgment you bring to make decisions.”
Obama:“That’s exactly right. And the truth is that we’ve got a bunch of smart people, I think, who know 10 times more than we do about the specifics of the topics.
“And so if what you’re trying to do is micromanage and solve everything then you end up being a dilettante but you have to have enough knowledge to make good judgments about the choices that are presented to you.”
Yup, Obama is ready to rely on all those advisors he has because they know “10 times” more than he does. Well, considering that he knows zip, how much more can these advisors know? Not encouraging. He sounds EXACTLY like George Bush when he was running in 2000.
But what’s missing from the accounts of the “new kids” confab is the the subject which Cameron brought up a couple of weeks ago, before the arrival of The Chosen One.
A little over a month ago I wrote about an interview in which Cameron praised Obama’s Father’s Day speech (Breaking: Tory Leader David Cameron “Hearts” Obama Talks About “Progressive Goals” Achieved by “Conservative Means)
Even more interesting is a comment Cameron made about how he views the modern Conservative Party in the UK.
Cameron “appeals to the centre and left ‘to recognise that the modern Conservative party is on the brink of a very big and exciting argument that if you want to pursue progressive goals in Britain, whether it is greening the environment, tackling poverty, unlocking social mobility, there is a really good case to say that you can best achieve those by Conservative means.'”
MMMMM. Are Cameron and the Tories following Obama’s lead, or is it the other way around?
I’m still wondering about that statement. And I still think it describes the way Obama thinks to a “T.” He talks a good game, but in the end, many of his ideas sound like they could fit in with Republican approaches. We’ve seen his flip-flopping vote on FISA. Social Security is one area I wouldn’t trust him on…all that money from Wall Street is coming in for a reason. And, how “progressive” was his bill on nuclear safety after he caved to the “conservatives”/GOP and re-wrote the bill to help out Exelon?
If there’s one thing that should be kept in mind as this miserable election season progresses, it is Cameron- the-PR-man’s clever phrase “progressive goals…best achieved… by conservative means.” It sound great as a slogan, but what would actually happen if Cameron–or Obama–wound up in charge?
My guess is that with Obama we’d get “watered down progressive goals” to achieve the satisfaction of “conservatives.” And that’s reality, not PR…
Filed under: Current Politics | Tagged: Barack Obama, Cole Morton, Conseratives, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Labour Party, Progressives, Richard Wood, The Independent, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, Tory Party | 5 Comments »