Europe-Obama Love Affair Not Dead Yet

March 6, 2009

I guess I got that one wrong (and I’m barely half serious about this stuff anyway, which I hope is obvious!).

From Politico:

“BRUSSELS, Belgium — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton electrified a group of young European government workers and activists Friday in an hour-long town-hall-style meeting in which she promised more cooperation with Europe and voiced regret at Bush administration positions on climate change and other issues.

‘Certainly the U.S. has been negligent in facing up to our global responsibilities,’ Clinton said, referring to the Bush White House’s stance on addressing climate change. ‘We are making up for lost time.’

Her appearance before an enthusiastic crowd that spilled out of the auditorium and gave her two standing ovations resembled an event from her presidential campaign, only she was there as a representative of the Obama administration. And she delivered one of its early diplomatic themes: Things between the U.S. and Europe are going to be different. ”

There was this, though:

“The only mildly discordant note came when Clinton, answering a question about the European Community said, ‘Our democracy has been around far longer than European democracy.’ Though Clinton may have been referring to the formation of the European Union in 1993, her answer brought audible gasps from audience members.”

Well, it’s true, isn’t it? Of course it depends on how you define the term “democracy” (women didn’t get the vote in the US until 1920, blacks were routinely disenfranchised in the South until the mid-1960s). But I hope it wasn’t the Germans or the Italians or the Spanish or the French who were gasping (or the Greeks, or the Portuguese, or the Poles…).

I was pretty hard on the British press in an earlier post. The attention given to Gordon Brown’s visit and the perception of slights in, well, everything, screamed insecurity. But I have to say, Brown brought some pretty neat gifts with him. The pen holder carved from timber from the HMS Gannet, to go with the HMS Resolute desk, is pretty cool. The HMS Resolute, btw, was a British Navy vessel that was abandoned when trapped in Arctic ice during an 1854 expedition. It was recovered a year later by Americans, restored, and presented to Britain as a gift. It remained in service until 1879, and served as a symbol of US-British friendship (a big deal in the 19th century, when there was hardly a ‘special relationship’ – twice in the second have of the 19th century the US and Britain came close to war). In 1880, Britain presented the United States with a desk made of the Resolute’s timbers (the famed Resolute Desk which sits in the Oval Office). The HMS Gannet was the Resolute’s sister ship, and served on anti-slavery missions off the African coast.

The other gift was a first edition biography of Winston Churchill, also a great gift, and also loaded with symbolism.

Obama, on the other hand, gave Brown 25 DVDs. On this face of it this sounds pretty lame, but it was actually a collection of classic American films that was assembled by the American Film Institute special for the occasion. It doesn’t totally suck as a gift, but it’s not a pen holder made out of a famous and symbolic ship, or a first-edition, 7-volume biography.

But NO, I don’t think this was a slight in any way shape or form. I think Brown just brought some super-awesome gifts with him.


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