British PM Gordon Brown talks with President Obama all the time. But, if you believe the British press, and that is a big if, he really wanted to “talk” with President Obama this week, as in a formal, sit-down, diplomatic, bilateral talk. As the Guardian reported Thursday:
Gordon Brown lurched from being hailed as a global statesman to intense embarrassment tonight, after it emerged US President Barack Obama had turned down no fewer than five requests from Downing Street to hold a bilateral meeting at the United Nations in New York or at the G20 summit starting in Pittsburgh today.
This is essentially par for the course. If Brown and Obama are going to be in the same city, the British Press, apparently aided by leaks from Downing Street, just has to throw a tantrum of some sort. Is the special relationship between Brown and Obama really special? How special? Etc.
Yesterday White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked about the latest “controversy” over whether Brown would get his precious bilat with Obama. His impatient response is worth the read.
QUESTION: Gordon Brown, are we snubbing him? And if not, why did we turn down five requests for bilaterals?
GIBBS: The notion that there remains anything other than a special relationship between the two countries is silly and absurd. The President spoke with Prime Minister Brown on the phone in the lead-up to G-20 just two weeks ago. They spent time after the climate change dinner on Monday. They spent time after the Security Council today, and obviously went into the Friends of Pakistan meeting together, on an issue that’s of great concern to both countries.
So I think — I think this is a media-generated bunch of silliness.
QUESTION: Bunch of silliness?
GIBBS: Bunch of silliness.
QUESTION: But why did we turn down the request for a bilateral?
GIBBS: We have — because we’re talking to them constantly. The notion that you can only do this in one meeting I think would — doesn’t make any sense. Because of the special relationship we have, we’re in constant communication.
QUESTION: Can I ask a…
GIBBS: Stop reading those London tabloids…
Apparently, however, the silliness was not so silly for Brown, who has won the day with persistence. His request for a private meeting (and yet another important-looking photo) with Obama has been granted at the last minute. The news came in a White House press release at 9:03 a.m. They will meet this morning. I would not be surprised if the bells of Big Ben are chiming.