Curt Smith: The end of a ‘special relationship’ with England?

Curt Smith

Recall Connie Chung, interviewing Newt Gingrich’s mother. “This is just between us,” she told 30 million viewers. Last November, loathing W.’s 2001-08 horror house, I backed Barack Obama. Please: Keep that just between us.

Obama’s young presidency has already plunged from erratic to horrific. Touting stimulus, he signs a $783 billion non-stimulus bill. Scoring earmarks, he OKs 8,500 in a $410 billion pork potpourri. Hyping civility, he imputes dishonor to those who differ. Lashing “division,” he divides. His worst sin may be trashing America’s closest ally.

Every president has known what Great Britain is — and means. It bred our heritage and language, civilization and law, tying a stiff upper lip, stiffer spine and knowledge that Gibraltar would tumble before British character did.

In 1939, King George VI visited Washington. Presenting the singer Kate Smith to his majesty, Franklin Roosevelt said, “This is America.” Next year defined Britain. When Hitler bombed Buckingham Palace, the Queen Mother said, “Finally, we can look the (battered blue-collar) East Side in the face.” Churchill said of the Nazis: “What kind of people do they think we are?” Presidents knew — until now.

Roosevelt’s 1941 Lend-Lease helped Britain survive The Blitz: Saving America as America-Firsters dithered. Before Pearl Harbor, Churchill and FDR forged the Atlantic Charter. Later the English lion moved into the White House to plot war stratagem. Names ring like chimes: Ike and Monty and Normandy and the Bulge. Our two nations intersect like vines around a trellis. Presidents were glad  — until now.

In 1961, Harold MacMillan befriended John F. Kennedy. The 1990s: Bill Clinton and Tony Blair knit the global economy. Post-2000: Blair and Bush 43 deemed fighting terrorism Job 1. Churchill augured Britain’s finest hour. The 1980s: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher built democracy’s finest post-war age. Britain steeled us in Libya, Panama and Persian Gulf. In 1990: “This is no time to go wobbly,” Thatcher told George H.W. Bush of halting Saddam Hussein. He didn’t: The Brits never had. Presidents knew that — until now.

In 1991, Queen Elizabeth visited the White House, Bush giving five speeches in three days. I wrote each, 41 personally editing. Unlike Obama, the war hero knew that without England we might today be speaking German. Historically, a president and British prime minster hold a joint press conference when the latter visits Washington. Obama scrapped it for Gordon Brown’s recent welcome: Also, the traditional visit to Camp David: Insult, meet injury.

As a gift, Brown gave Obama a penholder crafted from the timbers of the 19th-century British warship HMS President: Its sister ship HMS Resolute providing wood for the Oval Office’s desk. In return, our celebrity-in-chief gave Brown 25 DVDs, a tart worthy of Britney Spears or your nearest mall. In ObamaWorld, if eloquence is emperor, shallowness is king.

Obama flack Robert Gibbs reduced the “Special Relationship” to “Partnership.” The White House then returned to the British Embassy the Oval Office bust of Churchill given W. post-9/11 by Blair. Unbelievably, a lackey called “Britain just another country;” a Kenya or Indonesia. Obama never corrected him, too busy emptying the treasury. It is said that money can’t buy class. Obama can’t even rent it.

A year ago, many described Obama in traits I found unfair: Alien, un-American, irreligious, a socialist, thought the middle class déclassé. Were such skeptics right? They now seem Solomonic. In the 1950s, Churchill, suppressing the Mau Mau Rebellion, jailed thousands of Kenyans, including Obama’s grandfather. Does hatred explain Obama trashing Britain? Does pique mask a bias that makes him unfit to lead?

Most Americans don’t give a damn about the Mau Mau Rebellion. We care about the United States: Especially Britain’s gift of liberty, opportunity, independence, rights by God, not a king or pope or faux Messiah. The Daily Telegraph wrote: “President Obama Rudeness Personified Toward Britain.” Was Churchill a bigot; England, racist; the Nation that toppled Hitler, base? If Obama thinks so, say so. Inquiring minds want to know, even as many minds have already changed.

At this point in 1989, first-year Bush had a 70 percent approval rating. Obama’s current Rasmussen poll is 56: Lower than W. at the same point in 2001. His left-wing usual-suspect base retains secularists, public unions, social workers, the media and academe, in two months having lost moderate, conservative, and nearly all GOP support. Is this all he had to offer? Was he always an empty suit?

Edmund Burke said of a colleague, “He may live long. He may do much. But he can never exceed what he does this day.” Perhaps Obama should spend a day reading Shakespeare: e.g. “this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.” Paraphrasing Churchill, what kind of a person is Obama? We are learning, to our regret.

Obama will have a private audience with Queen Elizabeth on his upcoming trip to Europe. The British, being far more gracious than their guest, will treat him far better than he deserves.

Curt Smith is a former Speechwriter to President George H.W. Bush and author of 12 books. Mr. Smith writes twice monthly for GateHouse Media’s Messenger-Post Newspapers. E-mail: curtsmith@netacc.net.