Diplomatic Hiccup

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The headline in the London Times is that the White House decided at the last minute to cancel a joint press conference between President Obama and British PM Gordon Brown, and instead do a “pool spray” in the Oval Office, where fewer reporters will have less time to shout out some questions. Says the Times:

British officials said that a joint “press availability” in the White House Rose Garden had been cancelled because it was blanketed in snow, but did not elaborate on why the event was not moved indoors.

Not true, a White House official tells me this morning. There never was a press conference scheduled. Though Spokesman Robert Gibbs said yesterday in his briefing that Obama and Brown would take questions, he did not say whether or not there would be a press conference. There is also something a bit objectively funny about the explanation of “British officials” in the London Times. Snow or no snow, an outdoor press conference on March 3 in Washington D.C. would be an extraordinary thing, especially since there are so many indoor spaces in the White House complex that could handle such an event.

UPDATE: I just finished a TV interview with a British station. All the questions were about how special the cross-Atlantic relationship is, and whether Obama, who is from Hawaii, is as much an anglophile as President Bush. Toby Harnden, a U.S. correspondent for the British Telegraph, has perhaps the best summary of this overwhelming insecurity:

Gordon Brown hasn’t even arrived here in Washington yet and I’m feeling slightly queasy. Of course, Britain should want to be a pre-eminent ally of the United States. But do we need to be quite so crawlingly needy and obvious about it? The way the British government craves approval from President Barack Obama is humiliating, and very probably counter-productive.

Funny how it becomes self-fulfilling. British officials, so concerned to demonstrate close ties, announce a Rose Garden ceremony (in winter!) when no such ceremony has been firmed up. Then when the ceremony doesn’t happen, their worst fears are realized, even though in fact there is no real issue in America about the “special” relationship.

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