What a difference 18 months and an oil spill makes. In January 2009 Barack Obama was hugely popular on this side of the Atlantic, and could have walked on water in the eyes of the British media, the political elites, and the general public. In June 2010 however he probably qualifies as the most despised US president since Nixon among the British people. In fact you can’t open a London paper at this time without reading yet another fiery broadside against a leader who famously boasted of restoring “America’s standing” in the world.
When even Obama’s most ardent political supporters in Britain, including Boris Johnson, are on the offensive against the White House, you know the president’s halo has dramatically slipped. It’s hard to believe that any politician could become more disliked in the UK than Gordon Brown, but Barack Obama is achieving that in spades. And as Janet Daley noted of the British press, the love affair with Barack is well and truly over.
His recent handling and public persecution of the British-based. BP seems to have been the proverbial straw that even brought his most staunch supporters to criticize him:
The key catalyst for rising anti-Obama sentiment in the UK has been his disastrous handling of the BP issue, and his relentless desire to crush Britain’s biggest company. There is no doubting BP’s responsibility over the Gulf oil disaster, and it is right that the firm is being held to account for its failures. But the brutal, almost sadistic trashing of BP by the imperious Obama administration, which has helped wipe out about half its value, threatens its very future, as well as the pensions of 18 million British people and the jobs of 29,000 Americans. There is now the very real danger of the bankrupting of a great British enterprise, and the prospect even of a Chinese or Russian takeover.
Instead of adopting a constructive, statesmanlike approach, Barack Obama’s decision to launch a “boot on the throat” campaign, while adopting a thinly veiled Brit-bashing agenda, has generated significant bad blood in America’s closest ally. At the same time, the president has inexplicably rejected offers of help from the UK and an array of European countries, no doubt out of both pride and protectionism.
Of course, this hasn't been the first time that Obama's brand of "smart diplomacy" as went awry, when he has dealt with the UK. Obama has stumbled time and again, when he has dealt with Great Britain. He sent back the bust of Churchill, gave Gordon Brown a set of DVDs that won’t even work in British DVD players, and transferred Gitmo prisoners to Bermuda without telling the British government about it intentionally. He has damaged, possibly irreparably, the relationship between the two countries, at least while Obama is still in office:
As I wrote previously, we are witnessing one of the worst exercises in public diplomacy by a US government in recent memory, one that could cause significant long-term damage to the incredibly important economic and political partnership between Great Britain and the United States. And for those who say this is minor storm in a tea cup, I would point out that it is highly unusual for a British Prime Minister to have to stand up to an onslaught against British interests by an American president, as David Cameron has just done. In fact the prospect of a major confrontation between Downing Street and the White House grows stronger by the day.
Obama has lost sight of the fact that he needs Europe and Israel, and he has ostracized America’s best allies even worse than Bush had. According to the British people, he is rapidly becoming the least popular American president in recent memory:
The Anglo-American Special Relationship, the most successful partnership of modern times, will survive long after President Obama departs the White House. It is far bigger than any one president or prime minister. But there can be no doubt that it is being significantly damaged and weakened at this moment by the Obama administration’s sneering approach towards Great Britain, at a time when British and American soldiers are fighting and dying alongside each other in a major war in Afghanistan. President Obama needs to see the big picture and understand that his anti-British posturing is hugely counter-productive and highly offensive. He is already one of the least popular US presidents of modern times, not only in the eyes of the American people, but now the people of Britain as well.
If this is his idea of repairing America’s standing in the world and restoring the ties between America’s closest allies, it’s a joke. Everyone else is finally realizing what Obama’s critics have been saying since 2008. He has no idea how to be diplomatic, and his zero experience in foreign diplomacy is a liability, when he attempts to deal with other world leaders. He will have an even harder time getting people to help us in Iraq or Afghanistan. Plus, he will need help from them to solve the financial crisis and bring us out of this recession. He is only making it harder on himself and America as a whole in all our future interactions with Europe. He needs to wise-up and find that “reset” button that he used with Russia and use it with the UK, Israel, and the rest of Europe. He needs to completely retool his approach to handling our closest allies. If he doesn’t, we may not have these allies anymore by the time his term ends in 2012.