For all his pre-election talk about restoring America’s standing in the world, international respect is an(other) area in which Barack Obama has failed.
It’s clear enemies think he’s a powderpuff (North Korea test-firing missiles, Syria’s Assad laughing at “red lines”) and our allies – let’s just say they aren’t bubbling over with respect for the man.
Highest on the list of less-than-impressed allies is England. From the Queen handing Obama a very public, highly embarrassing smack-down by letting him know his overly-pompous, six-helicopter caravan is no longer welcomed at her home, to British citizens filing excessive noise complaintsover his visits, it’s safe to say there’s little love lost between B.O. and the Brits.
The final straw in the destruction of the relationship may have come when Obama threatened the British people prior to the Brexit vote. Injecting himself into the self-governing decisions of a sovereign nation was widely disapproved. But the first straw came back in 2009 during his first weeks in office.
Following the 9/11 terrorist attack on America, then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair presented President George W. Bush with a bronze bust of the UK’s famed and beloved World War II leader, Sir Winston Churchill. Bush placed the bust in the Oval Office where it remained until Obama took over. Then, claiming that the Oval Office was looking too cluttered, Obama promptly sent the bust back.
Apparently President-elect Trump is planning to change all that. In what could signify a thawing of what’s become, at best, a frosty relationship with the British, Trump indicated his intentions earlier this week.
United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage said on Tuesday that the Churchill bust will take back its rightful place in the White House as a show of solidarity with the U.K.
Farage told Express U.K., “At the end of our time with Trump we asked him if the bust of Sir Winston Churchill that Obama had removed from the Oval Office could be put back in its rightful place. He enthusiastically thought that was a good idea. Need I say more?”
Another step in Trump’s promises to make America great again? It certainly can’t hurt.
The British widely viewed Obama’s decision to remove the bust of Churchill (it was returned to the British Embassy) as a snub, and it was widely reported by the U.K. press as such. Insult was added to the injury when, after the bust was returned, the Obama administration lied about it.
When reports initially surfaced of Obama’s decision to kick Churchill out, then-Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said, “This is one hundred percent false. The bust is still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.” The White House backed up the story that Sir Winston had merely been relocated, not removed.
The problem was that British officials knew the bust was returned, as it was sitting in the residence of Sir Peter Westmacott, Britain’s ambassador to the U.S. at the time. While it’s true that a Churchill bust remained outside the Treaty Room, that was a different one, given as a gift to President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. The White House then attempted to smooth over the rift by claiming the bust was removed as part of usual changeover operations, further citing the appropriateness of Churchill’s replacement image, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., given the Oval Office would now be occupied by the nation’s first black president.
The returning of the bust set the tone for Obama’s relationship with our European ally, and things never got much better. But it now appears President-elect Trump is poised to begin repairing the break and, frankly, that bridge can’t be built fast enough.