The Special Relationship
Posted on March 14, 2012
Last time we saw David Cameron and Barack Obama together, they were playing ping-pong against a couple secondary school students in London. The press was ushered out of the room before the PM-POTUS were defeated by the kids.
The President is now showing the British Prime Minister around the United States. He took Cameron to the opening round of March Madness in the swing state of Ohio, thinking, I suppose, that bringing a world leader to the Buckeye State might be worth a few extra votes come November.
Cameron reacted to the game like the average American would react to the average cricket match, which is kind of odd, if you think about it. Basketball isn’t exactly some new-fangled sport just dreamed up by those crazy colonists. I mean, it will be featured in the London Olympics, like it has been featured in most Olympic contests for most of last hundred years.
But this whole Cameron-Obama relationship is kind of odd.
Cameron has been busy trying to cut the Hell out of British spending, while Obama’s spending binge was only interrupted by the pesky Republican Congress, which swept into power in 2010.
The Tory leader doesn’t exactly preach the gospel of the hard left, the philosophical space where Mr. Obama feels most comfortable.
Obama wants to spend more on public education. Cameron is spending a lot less. Obama is working to socialize medicine in the U.S., while Cameron is attempting to make it health care less socialized.
Both Obama and Cameron inherited financial and foreign policy messes from their predecessors, so they have that common bond, I assume. Cameron has had to navigate carefully through the financial disintegration of the European Union, an added complication, and although the British pound is not tied to the Euro, the British economy is tied closely with the European market.
Obama too has had to weather the blowing storms from Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. The fact is that the American economy can’t fully recover until there is more certainty that Europe won’t completely collapse.
Both Obama and Cameron also face the complications of an Afghan war that seems to never end. The average American wants us to get out of Afghanistan soon. The average Brit wants to get out of Afghanistan yesterday.
We were the ones attacked on September 11th, but the British face a more dire security threat from radical Islam. Because of the legacy of the Empire, a bigger percentage of their population is Muslim, and because of the British caste system, a bigger percentage of those Muslims are radical. That means that Cameron’s foreign policy decisions have an even more profound impact back home.
Mr. Cameron doesn’t share the philosophy of Mr. Obama, nor does he have the relationship with the American President that Tony Blair had with George W. Bush. That is probably for the best.
It is all well and good that Mr. Obama and Mr. Cameron play ping-pong, watch basketball and have a few pints every once in a while. But that doesn’t mean that they have to be best buddies. Nor does it mean that the “special relationship” be anything more or less what it has been in the past.