London Versus The West Wing

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 110 months ago
London Versus The West Wing

Marine One by BWJones
Can you hear a whiny roar of dissatisfaction outside your window? It's probably the howling and gnashing of teeth that London has engaged in following the meeting between President Obama and Gordon Brown. According to the NY Daily News, the whole of Londinium is "aghast" over the "string of snubs" that the Leader of the Free World administered to our blighted Brown, a series of slaps to the chops that has left our febrile media fuming like the Boston Tea Party had just broken out.

Hacks on newspaper desks have described as "appalling" the treatment shown the PM by the Prez, with sneering directed principally toward the lopsided exchange of gifts: Brown bequeathed Obama a pen holder crafted from the wood of a 19th century clipper, and he was rewarded with a DVD box set of classic American films — as "exciting as a pair of socks", according to the imagination-deficient Mail. "Rudeness personified" was the Telegraph's verdict on the whole debacle. More lip-trembling was to come over the temerity of Obama's decision to send a bust of Winston Churchill (a gift from one T. Blair) from the Oval Office back to Blighty, the wartime leader's less-than stellar record over Kenya cited as one possible reason. And would you believe it, the ruddy Yanks didn't even notice Brown's visit!

The Post also reports that the gifts exchanged for the children of the respective statesmen were lacking in equality — Topshop clobber for Sasha and Malia Obama, versus White House gift shop tat in the form of Marine One models for John and Fraser Brown, gifts that the Times dismissed as "solipsistic". 'Cause of course, the last gift a young boy would want is a model helicopter, how very inappropriate.

The "snub heard around the world"? Londonist must have slept in. These are truly worrying times for our media if they have nothing more to scribble about than a perceived lack of protocol between two leaders who have more weighty matters on their minds. Frankly we'd have been satisfied with a hearty handshake, an exchange of postcards, and a quick settling down to business. That our antiquated political commentators see cause for complaint reveals a little too much about the ostrich-like tendencies of London's media elite.

Last Updated 07 March 2009


I can only hope that someday I will be in a position where a gift I give is termed "solipsistic" by anyone.

Person of Choler

To add a few details, the ship from which the penholder timber came was one of the Royal Navy’s anti-slaving ships of the 19th century, HMS Gannet. Brown thought that Obama might be into that anti-slavery thing.

Brown also presented him with the framed commission for HMS Resolute, Sir John Franklin's lost ship retrieved from the Arctic and returned by America to London. Perhaps Brown thought that would be a nice reminder of that peaceful cooperation everyone talks about.

Finally, Brown gave President Obama a first edition of Sir Martin Gilbert’s seven-volume biography of Winston Churchill. This might have been Brown’s big mistake. Obama had already packed up and sent back to London a bust of Churchill that had been in the White House for some years. One could expect that a substanceless teleprompted egoist like Obama would feel uncomfortable beneath the stony gaze of Churchill. And the seven volume Churchill biography is a continuous reminder of how small Obama looks alongside old Winston. Compare Churchill’s life accomplishments by Obama’s age to those of the Great Community Organizer and you get the picture. No serious scholar will ever write seven volumes on Obama. That task will be left to Obama himself, who has already produced two of the volumes.

One wonders if Obama left the 25 greatest movies box in the original Walmart bag, or if he had someone gift wrap it. Can the DVDs even be played on ordinary UK region equipment?

Present exchanges aside, Obama’s whole treatment of Brown during his state visit was, to say the least, a little unusual. No joint press conference, no fancy lunch, no substantive discussions of anything. The whole thing made me feel a bit sorry for Brown, something I never in my life thought possible.

The question remains for the diplomatic chicken entrail readers: was Obama’s behavior a calculated snub, or is Obama simply a boorish hick? I’m betting on the second second explanation. We shall find out which in due course.

Person of Choler

London might or might not be aghast, but as an American, the aghastness of London means little to me. Aghastitude notwithstanding, it does seem peculiar for Obama to have treated so dismissively the head of state of a rather important country. Again, was this a calculated snub or the expected behavior of someone who just fell off the last turnip truck?


Dave, quite right, the "snub" exists solely in the minds of political commentators with circulations to breathe life into and expensive contracts to justify.

Person of Choler - the rhetoric in your first comment amused me greatly. You do realise, of course, that the election is over, and you're stuck with big bad Obammy for at least four years, so partisan posturing and witty insults won't exactly get you very far.

As for your talk of Churchill, not only is a comparison between he and Obama ludicrous on any number of levels, it's worth remembering that until WW2 the British PM had a highly blemished record, particularly in colonial relations, which given Obama's Kenyan heritage makes his decision to remove the bust from the Oval Office understandable and renders Brown's gift of a seven-volume biography a blunder in its own right.

Person of Choler

I do realize that the election is over but, like omnibuses, another one will be along soon. My partisan posturing and witty insults are my small way of suggesting that we might have picked a world class dud this time around and ought to think about not remaking that mistake.

As for Churchill, we shouldn't ignore his effectiveness in the years of the runup to and fighting of WWII. A man's development does not stop at the point in his life when it becomes inconvenient for you to discuss it.

And I'm all Rhett Butler on the subject of Obama's Kenyan heritage. He is the President of the United States, not Kenya. Accordingly he should divest himself of any baggage of colonial resentments, or at least liberate Puerto Rico (please). Let him go to England and displace Gordon Brown to make up for England's colonial depradations if he can't get that stuff out of his head. Frantz Fanon was enough of a pain writing books; we don't need one of his acolytes running the USA.

And, while we're on the subject of Kenya, please feel free to convince me that it is better governed today than under British administration.


So much for Obama's repairing America's reputation abroad, Mr citizen of the world and all that crap. He's been insulting allies since before he got elected so don't feel so bad Mr. Brown. Hillary just made a jackass of herself in Russia as well so the whole Obama team is on the same page at least.

He's a clueless Chicago punk aligned with obnoxious radicals who never had a real job in his life and more people will start to notice that once the novelty of his skin color wears off.


The Churchill bust was simply a misunderstanding; Obama simply wanted to exchange it for the Karl Marx bust on his grave at Highgate Cemetery.


Britain may not be a great empire or even relevant at all in the world today, but at least your prime minister can pick out nice gifts. I guess you've got to have something to be proud of.


"England can kiss my ASS!"
- Dennis Quaid in "Great Balls of Fire".
I wonder if that movie was in the box set.


If it involves Michael Douglas, I'm there already!