British officials made five attempts to secure official talks with the US President and even agreed to a policy change in an attempt to land a joint appearance between the two leaders, said diplomatic sources.
But the White House rebuffed the offers and Mr Brown, who had hoped to increase his popularity by appearing on his own with Mr Obama, had to settle instead for a snatched conversation with the President in a New York kitchen.
The setbacks led to fears that relations between Downing Street and the White House were at their lowest point since John Major’s frosty dealings with Bill Clinton.
It was disclosed earlier this week that Mr Brown would not hold bilateral talks with Mr Obama, despite the President hosting individual meetings with the leaders of Japan, China and Russia. Downing Street claimed that this was not unusual.
However, a British diplomat told The Daily Telegraph that the White House’s refusal to meet Mr Brown had been a serious embarrassment for the Prime Minister.
“It is wrong for people to say that we have been relaxed about the way things have gone,” the source said. “There were five attempts to set up a meeting and none have come off.”
The most striking example of Downing Street’s desperation to engineer a meeting was a change of policy on supplying swine flu vaccines to Africa. It aimed to match America’s commitment and was announced last week. As a result, it had been hoped that Mr Obama would agree to a joint press conference, according to a senior source. However, the meeting never happened.
The White House said that Mr Brown and Mr Obama would chair a meeting tonight about Pakistan, and would “spend all day Friday together.” However, Friday’s meeting in Pittsburgh involves the full G20 group of world leaders.
The release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, appears to have been behind the new chill in relations between Washington and London.
One might think: But ST, isn’t this a show of strength by our President – letting Brown know that the UK’s role in the release of the Lockerbie terrorist was completely unacceptable? Well, er, no – not when you consider the other “world leaders” who he has met with – or has expressed interest in meeting with directly – since becoming President. Michael van der Galien elaborates:
Megrahi should obviously never have been released. But insulting a loyal ally because of one (admittedly big) mistake isn’t exactly what I’d call smart diplomacy.
Especially not considering the fact that Obama has no problem whatsoever meeting with Iran’s, Venezuela’s and other anti-American dictators who have sponsored and continue to sponsor terrorism against America.
Many have speculated in recent months that Obama may treat Britain badly because of his personal history. Unlike most Americans he has no personal bond with this country.
Perhaps there’s something to that explanation, but you wonder how it is that he does treat, say, Venezuela well since he and his family have no personal history with that country either.
Here is my guess of why he rebuffed Brown not once, not twice but five times: Brown supports the war on terror, Obama does not. Obama holds Brown (partially) responsible for the Iraq War. He believes this war to be unjust. And as has become clear due to his constant bashing of his predecessor George W. Bush, he has nothing but contempt for those who decided to remove one of the worst dictators in modern times from power.
I think a commenter to Michael’s post is closer to the mark on the “why?” question:
Simple answer: Obama hates America. Therefore he befriends our (traditional) enemies and rebuffs our (traditional) friends.
While I don’t think Obama “hates” America, he clearly is ashamed of it – which is why he routinely apologizes for it, just like he did yesterday at the UN. He is going out of his way to forge new “alliances” with countries that have never shown much – if any – sincere interest in working with us on any issues mutually beneficial to both our country and their respective countries. In fact, some of the countries he’s working with have been downright hostile and in some cases threatening to both the US and her interests abroad, while he’s throwing under the bus the ones we’ve been able to count on over the years – in particular, the UK. If our alliance with the UK is damaged, we might as well have no allies because they are the only country that consistently stands with us when push comes to shove on national security-related issues.
I remember the various outcries during the Bush administration when the left believed we were treating our allies wrongly like, for example, when Rumsfeld referred to certain countries in Europe as “old Europe” – the left went nuts, chiding the administration for “bad form,” “poor diplomacy skills,” and for alleged deliberate attempts at “alienating” our allies. Where is there outrage now? Not only has he damaged our close relationship with the UK, but he’s alienated Germany as well, not to mention the Czech Republic and Poland.
I thought Obama was supposed to be some diplomatic dreamboat, “restoring” America’s good reputation throughout the world? Turns out the joke’s on everyone who voted for this diplodunce in disguise, on everyone who thought two lackluster years in the Senate, a few more years in the Ill. State Senate, a history of associating with Chicago leftist radicals like Bill Ayers and Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a brief overseas rock star tour over the summer, and a few years spent on foreign soil as a child prepared candidate Obama for the tough international challenges Presidents routinely face.
And unlike the left, who were close to gleeful everytime they could rub some diplomatic faux pas in the face of President Bush, this doesn’t make me want to do a tap dance on my desk. I’m deeply disturbed with this administration’s arrogance and hostility towards our traditional allies in favor breaking bread with the likes of Hugo Chavez and Iran’s Islamofascist “leader.” America, to me, is still that “shining city upon a hill” and to see the light dimming under the rule of President Obama is something in which I take no pleasure. Brown is not my cup of tea (pun intended), but that doesn’t mean I think he deserved to be snubbed by the “leader of the free* world.”
*Free for how long?