American pundits in Washington are saying that President Barack Obama is looking ‘drawn’, ‘tired’ and has been ‘overwhelmed’ by his first 100 days in office, and this is being touted as one of the reasons for the apparent ‘off-hand’ reception given recently to Mr Bean.
Some are already starting to joke about an increase in presidential grey hairs since he assumed office in January. The American officials don’t see any reason for talk of a ‘snub’ regarding the visit. British officials in Washington see the visit by Mr Bean as a great success. Across the pond, however, there is still the perception that some sort of ‘snub’ occurred, if only in the minds of the media.
So what were the ups and downs of the visit?
It was an official visit by an unelected head of state to a country in recession with a new President who seems to have little regard, or interest, at the moment in foreign policy. Elected with the heavy burden of being touted as the ‘saviour of America’, he is seemingly trying to fix everything at a stroke and without help.
Even Barack Obama’s most steadfast supporters are apparently beginning to notice a flaw in the man’s character and, after only 100 days in office, the guy is seemingly knackered. This could, as the Americans contend, be the reason for the ‘off-hand’ reception afforded Mr Bean.
Mr Bean, or more likely his backroom lads, scored heavily on the ‘presents’ side of things. Carefully chosen gifts to the American President included a pen holder made from the timber of a warship that helped stamp out the slave trade, a sister ship of the vessel from which timbers were taken to build Mr Obama’s Oval Office desk. President Obama handed over a boxed set of DVD’s. Not really a snub, just a bit tacky.
Addressing both houses of Congress, a rare honour, Mr Bean was given rapturous applause and received just one less standing ovation than former (elected) British Prime Minister Tony Blair. No sign of a snub there. Not too surprising, though, as Mr Bean’s speech seems to have been made up almost entirely, and in many cases word for word, of soundbites uttered by Barack Obama during his presidential campaign. Just what Congress wanted to hear. Again.
America, like almost everywhere else at the moment, is facing a domestic crisis, and in the past they have tended to drift towards isolationism or protectionism to solve their problems. In addition, the world is changing. America is no longer the superpower it once was, with many of the mice brazenly coming out to play, or even beginning to roar.
If, as some are suggesting, President Barack Obama really doesn’t have any interest in foreign policy or countries other than America (or maybe Russia and China), then there could be a few more visiting statesmen receiving a rather ‘low-key’ reception.
Perhaps a lesson could be learned from the episode. Rather than trying to hang on to the apron strings of America, why don’t the politicians divert their attention to putting the ‘Great’ back into Britain, ignore the rest. That, of course, would require a new set of politicians. At least Barack Obama does seem to care about his own country and does give the impression about wanting to put things right and help the people.
It may, of course, all be an illusion, only time will tell.