Tim Shipman notices Obama snubs England.
British Embassy staff, irritated themselves, had to twist Robert Gibbs' arm to get even two questions per side in a quick oval office doorstep. The press availability was initially going to be a 'pool spray' with softballs lobbed by the agencies. No10 and the embassy have managed to get this changed. But they were caught spinning that a Rose Garden presser had been cancelled because of the weather. The White House denies a presser was ever planned. In the old days we had cold weather pressers in the Old Executive Office Building, across from the White House.
Why does this matter? Three reasons:
- Major British hack involvement in a full blown press conference has always been regarded as useful by the White House press corps. We ask different questions from them, usually more aggressively and get answers they could not. There were several spiky and revealing moments between President Bush and the BBC political editor Nick Robinson. It is bizarre that Mr Obama is less willing to answer questions than Mr Bush. It reflects very poorly on his tendency towards control freakery, which has been in evidence since his campaign.
- It's discourteous to Mr Brown, who was desperate for his big moment with the podiums. On his two set piece trips to see Bush there were proper pressers at Camp David and then in the Rose Garden. Why gratify him with the first European trip and then snub his big PR moment? There will be no private relaxation time for Mr Brown with Mr Obama, a given on previous prime ministerial trips. I know he's busy but it shows that he is not really that interested, as my sources were telling me last week.
- Obama has been running scared of the international media and the British press in particular since the start of his campaign. He didn't give a single interview to a British outlet even when he was in the UK. This is very unusual, particularly from a man who so desperately wants to be loved on the world stage. We know we're not special, given Obama's general contempt for beat reporters (as opposed to his schmoozing with editors), but it is still peculiar.
Yes Obama loves the media, provided that it's tame.
Meanwhile, let's see what "Smart Diplomacy" does.
Look, if we could get the Iranian nuclear program stopped with Russian's helping us in return for selling out the Poles and the Czechs on missile defense, I'm enough of a cynic and a realist to say we would do it the same way that Kissinger agreed to delegitimize and de-recognize Taiwan in return for a large strategic opening with China.
But Kissinger had it done. He had it wired. What happened here is it was leaked. The Russians have dismissed it. We end up being humiliated. We look weak in front of the Iranians, and we have left the Poles and Czechs out to dry in return for nothing.
The Czechs and the Poles went out on a limb, exposed themselves to Russian pressure, and we have shown that Eastern Europe is not as sovereign as it appears if the Russian influence is there, and we will acquiesce in what they consider their own sphere of influence.
This administration has prided itself, flattered itself on deploying smart diplomacy. "Smart diplomacy" is a meaningless idea, but if it has any meaning at all, it is not ever doing something as humiliating, amateurish, and stupid as this.