American Elephants

Uncontrolled spending, diplomatic ineptitude, vast overreach, all in just seven weeks. by The Elephant's Child

“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.” So read the subhead of an article in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph. Don’t Blame Us, We’re incompetent!” noted Power Line.

It’s hard to know if President Obama’s boorishly insulting treatment of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was calculated, or whether the administration simply did not know how to welcome the Prime Minister of our most important ally.

Sources “close to the White House” are now saying that Mr. Obama and his staff have just been “overwhelmed” by the economic crisis, and have suggested that the president is not getting enough rest.

British officials admit that the White House and U.S. State Department staff were “utterly bemused” by complaints that the Prime Minister should have been granted a 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.

Mr. Brown brought carefully selected gifts, including a pen holder made from the wood of the HMS Gannet, a ship that helped to stamp out the slave trade in the Mediterranean that included slaves captured in Kenya from whence came Mr. Obama’s ancestors.  Also presented to the president was  a framed commissioning paper for HMS Resolute, rescued from the ice by an American whaler in 1856.  Part of HMS Resolute was made into the desk presented by Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880, and used by American presidents until this day. Included as well was a first edition of Sir Martin Gilbert’s magnificent authorized biography of Churchill in seven volumes.  President Obama gave the prime minister a box of 25 DVDs, which don’t work in British machines.

The media has reported on the White House’s busy round of nightly parties, complete with celebrity entertainment and elaborate dinners.  Power Line noted that:

The real views of many in the 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.”

After two years of sneering at the Bush administration, Obama is “surprised at the sheer volume” of work a president has to do.  It is hard to imagine a State Department that has no one who is familiar with the expectations that come with a major visit by a British prime minister.  So is this an intentional snub, or sheer incompetence?  Some have suggested that Obama dislikes Britain because the British once treated his grandfather poorly in Kenya.  Surely it is time for Obama to recognize that the presidency is not about him.  He represents the United States of America and her people. In this case he has represented them poorly.

If President Obama and his staff are overwhelmed, perhaps they should concentrate on the economic crisis, and not try to rearrange the entire United States all at once.  What the economy needs most, in order to recover, is confidence in the future.  And there is no confidence to be had.

After the stimulus plan, the mortgage bailout, the revealed portion of his FY2010 budget, the market has been emphatic in its vote of no confidence. And small wonder.  Yet to come is a cap-and-trade legislation that his budget assumes will produce a staggering $650 billion in revenue, while at the same time promising that “taxes will not be raised by a single dime.”  Also still to come is a yet-to-be-announced bailout of banks, a bailout of the car companies, and a vast universal health care plan that will cost billions. Uncounted are the promises to “reform” Social Security,  “reform” Medicare, bankrkupt coal,switch to “clean” sources that cannot supply the energy we need, cure cancer and make the oceans cease to rise.

The most accomplished manager and efficient executive or executive team could not manage nor control such an agenda.  To believe otherwise is a significant sign of incompetence.

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