Alex Massie: What Special Relationship?
Alex Massie writes for the Spectator.
The foreign trips of U.S. presidents, especially Barack Obama's, are rather like the tours of a rock group. There's the ridiculous entourage and onerous security measures, of course. But just as a lead singer always boosts fans' self-esteem by telling them their hometown is the best in the world, American presidents likewise cannot set foot overseas without emphasizing the importance of the country they are visiting and the specialness of that country's relationship with the United States.
Nowhere is this more true than with Britain. Every time a U.S. president takes office, the British press worries that the new man may be insufficiently Anglophiliac. This hysteria reached new heights of absurdity when Barack Obama was elected.
According to the hyperventilating press, Bill Clinton was supposed to have developed a dislike for Britain during his time as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. George W. Bush had only visited Scotland as a teenager and, besides, he was supposed to be some kind of neo-isolationist (how did that turn out?). Now there's Obama, who was said to dislike Britain because it brutally suppressed the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya, his father's birthplace. The proof of this, endlessly repeated on conservative talk radio in America, was that the president had replaced a bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval Office with one of Abraham Lincoln.
This is tedious beyond belief. The relationship between the White House and Downing Street has been fetishized beyond satire. Each new U.S. president has to be reminded by his staff to mention the magic words "special relationship" when he first meets the British prime minister. If Britain really needs this kind of validation then it's in bigger trouble than even the most anxious doomsayers thought...
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