Americans anxiously watching their 401ks melt away may not have noticed
the Obama administration is off to a rocky start in foreign policy, too.
We were told often during the campaign that Mr. Obama would repair
relationships with foreign governments allegedly damaged by the "cowboy"
diplomacy of George W. Bush. But in his first weeks in office,
President Obama gratuitously has offended allies, and has made clumsy
overtures contemptuously rebuffed to adversaries.
Most puzzling has been the back of the hand treatment the president has
given to our closest ally.
Most in Britain were ecstatic when Mr. Obama was elected. None more so
than Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who hoped proximity to The One would
boost his own flagging standing in the polls back home.
It didn't work out that way.
"The murmurs began when President Obama returned to the British embassy
the Winston Churchill bust that had been displayed in the Oval Office,"
wrote Dana Milbank of the Washington Post.
"The fears intensified when press secretary Robert Gibbs...demoted the
Churchillian phrase 'special relationship' to a mere 'special
partnership' across the Atlantic.
"And the alarm bells really went off when Brown's entourage landed at
Andrews Air Force Base," Mr. Milbank said. "Obama, breaking with
precedent, wouldn't grant the prime minister the customary honor of
standing beside him in front of the two nation's flags for the TV
It got worse. The White House initially cancelled a joint press
conference with the prime minister on account of snow. This explanation
was unconvincing to Toby Harnden of the London Telegraph, who noted
"there are 132 rooms in the White House at least some of which,
presumably, are free of snow."
When Mr. Obama did hold a truncated press availability from which most
of the British press were excluded, he went right to questions, skipping
the usual words of welcome for his guest. The hapless Mr. Brown didn't
even get invited to lunch.
The president's "exceptionally rude treatment" of the prime minister
will have consequences, predicted British journalist Iain Martin. "We
get the point, sunshine. We're just one of many allies and you want
fancy new friends. Well, the next time you need something doing,
something which impinges on your national security, then try calling the
French, the Japanese, or best of all the Germans."
We may need the help the Brits no longer will be so eager to provide
sooner rather than later, because Mr. Obama's overtures to our enemies
have been rebuffed.
There will be no thaw in relations with the U.S., and no concessions on
its nuclear weapons program, Iran's intelligence minister made clear
In a "secret letter," President Obama told the Russians he would abandon
U.S. plans to put anti-ballistic missiles in Poland and the Czech
Republic if the Russians would "help" with Iran.
On March 3, Russian
president Dmitri Medvedev flatly and publicly rejected the deal.
Earlier, the Russians pressured Kyrgyzstan to deny us the use of an
airbase vital to supplying our troops in Afghanistan, though
Kyrgyzstan's president has indicated recently he'd be willing to
reconsider if his palm is crossed with enough silver.
Since the Brits and the Canadians are the only others besides us doing
any heavy lifting in Afghanistan, the slap to the British seems
particularly ill timed.
It may have been deliberate. In the first of his autobiographies, Mr.
Obama said his grandfather was tortured by the British during the Mau
Mau uprising in Kenya in the 1950s. Winston Churchill was prime
minister at the time.
If the snub was deliberate, this is remarkably churlish behavior. If it
wasn't, it is evidence Mr. Obama is not ready for prime time.
He's not alone. "Hillary Clinton raised eyebrows on her first visit to
Europe as secretary of state when she mispronounced her EU counterparts'
names and claimed U.S. democracy was older than Europe's," the Reuters
news service reported Friday.