It’s hard for me to work up much if any anger over President Obama’s failure to visit the Normandy on his recent European trip. My first thought when I saw this headline:
Barack Obama rejects Normandy trip to avoid offending Germany
…was a hearty “WTF?” The President of the United States passed up touring one of our most sacred battlefields with the President of a close ally? What the frack was he thinking? “Here we go again,” I thought. “Another liberal-lefty with contempt for our military and our history.” I was all set to write a post clubbing PBO for yet again dissing the country he leads in order to placate others.
Then I read the rest of the article. The text makes it clear that France was trying to use the American president as part of a “prestige contest” with Britain and Germany. Sarkozy’s ego and French pride were the problems here, not Obama. Not this time:
“During this trip, we wanted to maintain a balance between the British, German and France”. A White House spokesman in London declined to comment. Last month, White House officials briefed that a Normandy visit had been considered but it had not been logistically possible.
Mr Obama will arrive in Strasbourg on Friday for the Nato summit. He will hold a meeting with Mr Sarkozy and a brief press appearance in Strasbourg and then fly to Baden-Baden to do exactly the same with Chancellor Merkel of Germany. He will then fly to Prague on Saturday.
Mr Sarkozy is said by French officials to be piqued that Gordon Brown became the first European leader to meet Mr Obama and was then lavished with praise by him at a 50-minute joint press conference in London on Wednesday.
The French president tried unsuccessfully to meet Mr Obama before he was sworn in after the G20 summit in Washington last November, even stationing a French military plane on 24-hour standby nearby to whisk him to Chicago should the then US president-elect change his mind.
He had also hoped Mr Obama would agree to a meeting before attending the G20 summit in London on April 3. The French had suggested that Mr Obama fly from London to Normandy on Friday morning for a stop before the Nato summit. Instead, he is going directly to Strasbourg.
The president’s objective for the summit on this trip was to gain support for his economic agenda (whether I like it or not), and getting into the middle of a junior-high clique-fight among jealous heads of government wouldn’t support that goal, nor would it be fitting the office of the President. There’s a much better time for Obama to visit Normandy and commemorate our sacrifices there, as the article itself points out: the 65th anniversary of the landings this upcoming June.
In the end, I think the Telegraph’s headline is gratuitous, meant to inflame Obama opponents, not enlighten. It doesn’t help the Right’s cause to work itself into a lather that will only make it look irrational to middle-of-the-road voters. Do I wish PBO and his staff had found some way to avoid getting mixed up in intra-EU games while making a quiet, dignified visit to Normandy? Yes, it would have been better. But I just don’t see this as the craven appeasement of the Germans that the Telegraph paints it to be.
I’ve said before that, while I’m quite willing and ready to criticize Obama and the Democrats when they merit it (which is often), I will not descend to the level the Democrats and the far Left hit with their incessant, irrational, and Copperheaded attacks on President Bush. Obama doesn’t deserve it, the nation doesn’t need it, and it does no one any good. We can and must be better than that. The Telegraph’s headline writer should have been.
(Cross-posted at Public Secrets, my home on the Web)