Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Gleam of Hope

Whatever their political allegiance, Britons must have breathed a sigh of relief to have seen the performance of their un-elected Prime Minister at Camp David. Alongside the President of the United States, who, as one commentator put it rather unkindly, appeared to have dressed himself by way of the local charity shop, Mr. Brown wore a respectably tailored suit, in sharp contrast to his elected predecessor who looked more like an ageing pop star than a statesman, on a similar occasion.
If manners maketh man, a decent suit helps a lot as does addressing people correctly.
Mr. Brown was perfectly correct to address George Bush as 'Mr. President' and not as 'Georgie baby.' It's a subtlety that Mr. Bush has failed to spot, as witness his referring to the President of France as 'my friend Jacques,' when, had he taken note, Mrs. Chirac in public always referred to her husband as 'Monsieur Le President.'
If nothing else, the British Prime Minister's performance will have set the stage for a more useful relationship between the two countries, if not between himself and his present counterpart.
Fortunately for the United States and the rest of the world, Bush has little more time in which to inflict his ideology upon them and, it must be hoped, his successor will have been taking notes.
If I had been Brown, which luckily for all you out there I'm not, I would have taken exception to being mistaken for a humourless Scot. This Texas style folksiness has no place in meetings that concern the fate of many in this world and, it is worth noting, Mr. Bush is hardly Texan anyway. His family moved there from Connecticut to avoid the swingeing taxes in that state.
In America, a friend is someone with whom you have exchanged a few words on one occasion. A good friend is someone you have met twice and a true friend is someone who has bummed twenty bucks from you (or vice versa). It's a confusion of terminology that has fooled many, public or politician.
But there can be little doubt about the wording used by Mr. Brown to describe his meetings with President Bush.
'Full and frank,' which is, of course, diplomatic speak for 'we hardly saw eye to eye on a thing.'
When Mr. Blair met President Bush at Camp David and discussed that vital world topic, their brands of toothpaste, it is possible that, due to the tightness of his jeans, some circulation of blood to the brain was impaired.
Mr. Brown does not seem to have been suffering from the same distressing malady.
But if and when an American President comes avisiting, I suggest he meets him at Heathrow in a golf cart and does a 360 spin for the press.
It's what U.S. Presidents do best.

My book on Anglo-US relations, "Grounds for Divorce," is available from Amazon etc.

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