Slighting an old friend when there’s a death in his family, sending a bouquet of wilted petunias by the chauffeur, is trashy behavior no matter who orders it.
That’s the only message our friends on the other side of the Atlantic can take from President Obama’s decision to send low-key, former government officials to the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. It may be that higher-ranking funeral delegates still haven’t recovered their strength from their exhausting trip to Caracas for the rousing obsequies for Hugo Chavez. This ordinarily would have been the job of Joe Biden, since attending funerals is traditionally the first duty of a vice president, but Joe is Irish, and the Irish have their issues with the English. Who knows what the veep might have said in London.
Mr. Obama clearly doesn’t much like our British friends, and it wasn’t the first time he made a ceremonial point of it. On his first presidential trip to Britain in 2009, he gave Queen Elizabeth II an iPod loaded with Broadway show tunes, including songs from “West Side Story,” “My Fair Lady” and “South Pacific.” The playlist also featured “Oklahoma,” “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” “Memory” from “Cats” and “Shall We Dance?” from “The King and I.” He probably thought the queen would put in the earbuds at once, listening the night away and wondering why there were no pictures of the president practicing his slam dunk.
Soon after his inauguration, the president returned to the British Embassy a bust of Winston Churchill that had been presented to the White House after Sept. 11 as a symbol of the enduring relationship between the two countries. The special relationship between Britain and the United States, forged through two world wars, obviously rankles Mr. Obama. He made a point of declaring in 2011 that the United States has not a “stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy and the French people.” This reflected either an ignorance of American history or a reference to his Kenyan forbears. His father never forgave Britain its suppression of Mau Mau terrorism.
The Obama administration has given Britain a thumb in the eye in the dispute over the Falkland Islands, the small island chain off the coast of South America at the bottom of the world. The White House approved an Organization of American States declaration supporting “sovereignty” of the islands code for support of Argentina in an attempted seizure of the islands, which have been British territory longer than Puerto Rico or Guam have been possessions of the United States. When 99 percent of the residents of the Falklands voted earlier this year to remain British, the State Department recognized only “competing claims” to the islands.
The snub of Mrs. Thatcher in death was particularly petty in the wake of history that Mr. Obama does not appreciate. The Iron Lady stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States through dark and troubled times, and risked her own political fortunes to stand with this country. The long and storied relationship, through good times and bad, will surely last beyond the Obama years, but the president should have shown a little respect, a little affection even, for an ally that Americans cherish even if he doesn’t. It’s true that nations have no permanent friends, only permanent interests, but it’s difficult to imagine a world without the protections of “the special relationship.”
The Washington Times