If You Had a Friend

While James Taylor was serenading our French friends with “You’ve Got a Friend” yesterday, President Obama was holding a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron (video below). In his remarks Obama subtly alluded to the old Communist Pete Seeger’s progressive classic “If I Had a Hammer.” To understand the Obama administration — not that you need the help — James Taylor is a distraction; Pete Seeger is where it’s at.

At his patronizing best, Obama offered some advice to our European “friends” (at around 44:00). Referring to the “vicious attacks” in Paris and the roundups cum shootout in Belgium late this week, Obama advised: “It’s important for Europe not to simply respond with a hammer and law enforcement and military approaches to these problems.”

Cameron didn’t have to say: “Thanks, pal.” But it’s what he was thinking, in his own gloss on James Taylor’s performance.

Obama had more tough love, contrasting America and Europe to the latter’s disadvantage: “Our Muslim populations [sic], they feel themselves to be Americans….There are parts of Europe in which that’s not the case.”

There are parts of Europe in which they don’t feel themselves to be Americans? Well, we take the point. They feel themselves to be Muslims.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I think the folk songs convey Obama’s hidden message to Europe. It’s somewhere between “You’ve Got a Friend” and “If I Had a Hammer.”

It’s either “If I Had a Friend” or, more likely, “If You Had a Friend.”

The video above runs for an hour. It makes for extremely painful viewing. I can’t find the White House transcript yet. C-SPAN has posted a transcript based on uncorrected closed captioning here.

Reading Obama’s remarks is far easier than watching him make them. Obama’s prepared statement at the outset of the press conference is detached, condescending, evasive, self-referential, and altogether embarrassing.

There is much more of interest in Obama’s remarks, and Cameron’s, especially on Iran (long story short: sickening), but also the threat posed by “foreign fighters” emerging from Syria. For present purposes, I want to note only the new set of verbal gymnastics performed by Obama to avoid any reference to Islamist terrorism while Cameron was specifically decrying it and its associated “poisonous, fanatical death cult.” Obama limited himself to expressions of concern about “the phenomenon of violent extremism.”

With Cameron at his side, everyone could understand what Obama meant. Given the side-by-side contrast with Cameron, however, the verbal gymnastics performed by Obama had a slightly higher degree of difficulty than usual.