One wonders if the Obama public relations team is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, whether Charles Krauthammer is inside their head, or whether Krauthammer has put them on the verge of a nervous breakdown. (Perhaps Dr. Krauthammer can draw on his psychiatric training to opine on that question.)
In his weekly Washington Post column yesterday Krauthammer noted that “Obama started his presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office.” Doesn’t everybody know that? It was widely reported at the time. I thought Obama was proud of it.
As Noah Rothman reports at Mediaite, however, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer immediately denied this rather well known fact and disparaged Krauthammer for repeating a “rumor” that was “ridiculous” and “patently false.” Pfeiffer posted his purported fact check of Krauthammer on the White House blog:
Now, normally we wouldn’t address a rumor that’s so patently false, but just this morning the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer repeated this ridiculous claim in his column. He said President Obama “started his Presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office.”
This is 100% false. The bust still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.
You can read the rest of the story at Mediaite, but let’s cut to Mediaite’s admirably concise update: “The British embassy confirms that Krauthammer was correct.” Or, as our friends at Twitchy have it, “Busted: Dan Pfeiffer’s ‘Fact Check’ about Winston Churchill bust is 100% false.”
STEVE adds: Here’s the Newsweek article about this from 2009, entitled “Busted: The Churchill Flap,” in which I was quoted somewhat strangely (I told the reporter that this was a clear sign that Obama had no regard for the “special relationship”):
But the British press, as is its wont, smells a snub. The Telegraph speculated that British diplomats’ pulse rates would soar, while The Times of London wondered if a shadow had been cast over the special U.S.–U.K. relationship. A spokesperson for the British embassy, though, threw cold tea on the notion, pointing out British politician David Miliband was the first foreign minister to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Maybe it’s no surprise that Obama wouldn’t want Churchill watching over his shoulder. After all, it was Churchill who, in 1952, ordered a crackdown on the Mau Mau rebellion against British colonial rule in Kenya, Obama’s ancestral homeland. Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was labeled a subversive during the uprising and spent months in detention.
Churchill expert Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute thinks the average Briton will be unfazed by the bust’s return, saying that folks across the pond have always been puzzled by American fondness for Churchill.
I wonder if there is a bust of someone else outside the Treaty Room–Nelson Mandela perhaps?–that Pfeiffer mistook for Churchill? Given the monumental ignorance of the Obama crowd on so many things, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
STEVE adds more: Oh, good grief! It turns out there are two Churchill busts! Jake Tapper of ABC reports that there’s a second Churchill bust that has been in the White House since the Johnson administration. This is the one that is still there. But Krauthammer is right: Obama ostentatiously returned the Oval Office bust to the British embassy (so Pfeiffer is still Pfull of you know what), and did nothing at the time to knock down the interpretation that it was a deliberate slight.