I certainly understand the need of a visiting head of government to say nice things about his/her host, so I am not surprised that British prime minister David Cameron had some complimentary comments to throw Barack Obama’s way at the state dinner the White House hosted for him. But there is a fine line between being a nice guest and being a lickspittle. And Cameron crossed it.
Fortunately, British newspapers are able to look upon the Obama administration’s record with a great deal more objectivity than the British prime minister can muster:
[Cameron] takes a cheap shot at Richard Nixon – the easiest possible target in front of a gathering of Obamaphiles – and his own Tory predecessor Ted Heath. He makes corny jokes about cricket and Watergate (“call in the plumbers” - Geddit?) and then lauds Obama’s “strength, moral authority and wisdom”. No mention of Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher.
Then comes what must surely be one of the most obsequious things Obama – who is well used to adulation – has ever heard. Obama, says Cameron “has pressed the reset button on the moral authority of the entire free world”.
What? Pass the sickbag. Whichever way you look at it, that’s ridiculous. Under Obama, despite his campaign promises and indeed an executive order when he took office, Guantanamo Bay has remained open. Drone strikes have increased exponentially - it being judged easier to kill suspects than capture and interrogate them. Military trials outside the federal system continue, as does indefinite detention without trial.
Certainly, Obama has delivered some “beautiful words” around the world, starting in Berlin before he was even the Democratic nominee and continuing in Cairo. In Strasbourg, he apologised for the times when “America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive” towards its allies.
But Obama has certainly shown arrogance and dismissiveness towards the UK in a way that President George W. Bush never did. Israel considers the US an unreliable ally under Obama. Iran’s green revolutionaries might question Obama’s “moral authority” after he allowed them to be crushed by Tehran’s theocratic regime, as might the Syrian rebels and civilians currently dying at the hands of President Bashar Assad.
Just remember that Tony Blair wasn’t anything close to as much of a bootlicker when it came to his relationship with George W. Bush. And yet, his critics–and Bush’s–had no problem calling Blair a “poodle” anytime he said something nice about the president with whom he worked. Thanks to the fact that those critics are a pack of hypocrites, Cameron’s comments regarding President Obama will, of course, be categorized as the very model of sober judgment.