President Obama’s ignorance of Winston Churchill is monumental. It is such that at his first press conference in 2009 Obama could quote Churchill in support of Obama’s high-minded approach to war: “We don’t torture.” If you know anything, and I mean anything, about Churchill, however, you know Churchill never said any such thing. I made this point at the time in “Obama veers into the Daily Ditch.”
Yesterday at his press conference with Prime Minister David Cameron in London, Obama took up the subject of Churchill. “I love Winston Churchill, love the guy,” Obama asserted. Obama then launched into an account of the removal of Churchill’s bust from the Oval Office in 2009. Removal of Churchill’s bust from the Oval Office reflected no hostility to Churchill or the British people; another bust of Churchill remains on the second floor of the White House in the Treaty Room. As the first black president, Obama explained, he had chosen to return the bust in the Oval Office to the Brits to make room for a bust of Martin Luther King.
Cameron called on Obama to support Cameron’s case against withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. Obama obliged in the style to which we have all grown accustomed in the course of the past eight years. I thought his performance was patronizing, threatening and otherwise offensive. Obama even somehow managed to pull a race card from the deck. It was quite a performance (video below).
In 2012, White House flack Dan Pfeiffer accused Charles Krauthammer of spreading a ridiculous rumor in a column mentioning the the removal of the Churchill bust in passing. Pfeiffer denied that any such thing had taken place. He even disseminated a photo of Obama showing Cameron the bust of Churchill in the White House in 2010 together with his “Fact Check” of Krauthammer.
When the British embassy confirmed Krauthammer’s accuracy, however, and Krauthammer asked for an apology, Pfeiffer backtracked. He offered Krauthammer his apology in a private letter. At Krauthammer’s request the letter was posted on the White House site as follows:
I take your criticism seriously and you are correct that you are owed an apology. There was clearly an internal confusion about the two busts and there was no intention to deceive. I clearly overshot the runway in my post. The point I was trying to make – under the belief that the Bust in the residence was the one previously in the Oval Office– was that this oft repeated talking point about the bust being a symbol of President Obama’s failure to appreciate the special relationship is false. The bust that was returned was returned as a matter of course with all the other artwork that had been loaned to President Bush for display in his Oval Office and not something that President Obama or his Administration chose to do. I still think this is an important point and one I wish I had communicated better….
Note the operative language: “The bust that was returned was returned as a matter of course with all the other artwork that had been loaned to President Bush for display in his Oval Office and not something that President Obama or his Administration chose to do. I still think this is an important point and one I wish I had communicated better.”
Obama had another story yesterday along with his advice for the British people. Now it’s theoretically possible that Obama was playing it straight yesterday, yet his avowal of love for Churchill along with Pfeiffer’s 2012 account make that highly unlikely, or so it seems to me. Obama was simply playing the British people for chumps much as he has, well, us, all in the interest of a supposedly good cause.