Pres. Obama and Prime Minister Gordon Brown finally held their meeting and press conference, which had been canceled due to snow. Curiously, the event had originally been scheduled for the rose garden… in March?
The Brits were underwhelmed by the pretext:
By 8pm, the press conference – if there’d ever been one planned – was officially off. The White House press schedule stated: “There will be a pool spray of the meeting.” In layman’s language, that means a small collection of reporters and perhaps two or three quick questions. That means something very short and ample opportunity to dodge anything difficult.
As Ben Brogan of the Mail puts it, this is “not the standing podium-to-podium with the Messiah image that Mr Brown imagined”. Trying to spin as best they can, the British Embassy is describing it as a “press availability” while Downing Street officials are apparently saying that “we are still negotiating”.
Ken Shepherd points out that this was embarrassing for Brown, as Obama managed to hold a full press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a six-hour visit. Of course, one also remembers that bust of Churchill that Obama unceremoniously sent packing (more on that in a moment).
The press conference finally took place, but few reporters were allowed,
Obama talked about being unconcerned about stocks
What I’m looking at is not the day-to-day gyrations of the stock market, but the long-term ability for the United States and the entire world economy to regain its footing. And, you know, the stock market is sort of like a tracking poll in politics. You know, it bobs up and down day to day. And if you spend all your time worrying about that, then you’re probably going to get the long-term strategy wrong.
But Brown is here to push his agenda. The London Times:
In Washington this week, and at the G20 summit in London next month, Mr Brown will press his case for reform of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Financial Stability Forum. He will also call for a “low-carbon recovery” that spreads wealth more fairly around the world by honouring the millennium development goals.
Prior to his trip, Brown’s article, The special relationship is going global, spelled out some of what he has in mind: “a global new deal” that would provide “security to the hard-working families in every country” through a “programme of internationally coordinated actions”
First, universal action to prevent the crisis spreading, to stimulate the global economy and to help reduce the severity and length of the global recession. Second, action to kick-start lending so that families and businesses can borrow again. Third, all countries renouncing protectionism, with a transparent mechanism to monitor commitments. Fourth, reform of international regulation to close regulatory gaps so shadow banking systems have nowhere to hide. Fifth, reform of our international financial institutions and the creation of an international early warning system. And last, coordinated international action to build tomorrow today – putting the world economy on an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable path towards future growth and recovery.
It didn’t take long for a response, such as this article by Toby Harnden, Gordon Brown’s desperation for “special relationship” with Obama is embarrassing, which among other things pointed out,
“And there is no international partnership in recent history that has served the world better than the special relationship between Britain and the United States.” (Gordon Brown article)
This before meeting a president who built his campaign on having opposed the Iraq war and has written that the US “can no longer afford to go to the UN prepared for war, armed only with the signatures of Britain and Togo”. Maybe it was still on the laptop from Tony Blair remarks alongside President George W. Bush.
Brown wants Obama to double the IMF funding, among other things, and will address Congress. Mrs Brown will be meeting Mrs Obama, too.
Brown’s pushing all this now in preparation for April’s G20 meeting in London.
Still, the feeling remains that Gordon Brown fiddles abroad while Britain burns
Instead of managing the fine detail of domestic recovery, the Prime Minister is caught up in the global ‘vision thing’, that the Brown visit is a make-or-break moment, and that Brown’s blueprint, which I mentioned earlier,
reform of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Financial Stability Forum. He will also call for a “low-carbon recovery” that spreads wealth more fairly around the world by honouring the millennium development goals
are ideas that will not work on the UK’s own financial crisis. The worst thing a politician can have is to be regarded as “utopian”, an out-of-touch idealist by the folks at home.
Showing up at the White House with a full set of all seven volumes of Sir Martin Gilbert’s Churchill biography to gift the guy who sent that bust of Churchill packing doesn’t help, either.
The question remains, does Obama’s own agenda have enough points in common with Brown’s globalized own?