Don’t Blame Us, We’re Incompetent!

We devoted almost all of our radio show today to the Obama administration’s recent foreign policy stumbles–in particular, Hillary Clinton’s European apology tour and President Obama’s mysteriously insulting treatment of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. We speculated about whether Obama’s treatment of Brown was calculated disrespect, or whether the administration simply doesn’t know how to host the Prime Minister of our most important ally on a state visit to Washington.

The White House, evidently stung by negative reaction in Great Britain, is now telling the British that the insult to Brown was inadvertent, the problem being that President Obama is “overwhelmed” by his job:

Sources close to the White House say Mr Obama and his staff have been “overwhelmed” by the economic meltdown and have voiced concerns that the new president is not getting enough rest.

British officials, meanwhile, admit that the White House and US State Department staff were utterly bemused by complaints that the Prime Minister should have been granted full-blown press conference and a formal dinner, as has been customary. They concede that Obama aides seemed unfamiliar with the expectations that surround a major visit by a British prime minister.

But Washington figures with access to Mr Obama’s inner circle explained the slight by saying that those high up in the administration have had little time to deal with international matters, let alone the diplomatic niceties of the special relationship.
Allies of Mr Obama say his weary appearance in the Oval Office with Mr Brown illustrates the strain he is now under, and the president’s surprise at the sheer volume of business that crosses his desk.

A well-connected Washington figure, who is close to members of Mr Obama’s inner circle, expressed concern that Mr Obama had failed so far to “even fake an interest in foreign policy”.

Where to begin? Obama, after two years of expressing smug contempt for the Bush administration, is “surprised at the sheer volume” of work the President has to do. And he’s too tired to deal competently with one of the most important foreign officials he will meet during his term in office. So: maybe he should cut down on the late-night White House partying?

And why in the world does the White House–let alone the State Department!–not have someone who is “[familiar] with the expectations that surround a major visit by a British prime minister?” If true, this is rank incompetence.

To some extent, the Brown fiasco might be attributed to Obama’s failure to “even fake an interest in foreign policy.” (Just think, by the way, how much work he will have to do when he realizes that as President, he has to deal with both domestic and foreign policy!) But I’m not sure that’s the whole explanation. The Telegraph’s story contains this suggestion that Obama’s slight of the British Prime Minister may have been intentional, at least in part:

The real views of many in Obama administration were laid bare by a State Department official involved in planning the Brown visit, who reacted with fury when questioned by The Sunday Telegraph about why the event was so low-key.

The official dismissed any notion of the special relationship, saying: “There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.”

So: was the Brown fiasco intentional, or was it the result of Obama administration incompetence? Or a combination of the two? Most likely, I think, the latter.

Via Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.

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