Mr. Brown goes to Wash­ing­ton

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Gor­don Brown thought long and hard about what gift to bring on his visit to the White House two weeks ago. Barack Obama is the first African-Amer­i­can pres­i­dent, so the prime min­is­ter gave him an or­na­men­tal desk-pen holder hewn from the tim­bers of one of the Royal Navy’s an­ti­slav­ing ships of the 19th cen­tury, HMS Gan­net. Even more ap­pro­pri­ate, in 1909 the Gan­net was re­named HMS Pres­i­dent.

The pres­i­dent’s guest also pre­sented him with the framed com­mis­sion for HMS Res­o­lute, the lost Bri­tish ship re­trieved from the Arc­tic and re­turned by Amer­ica to Lon­don, and whose tim­bers were used for a thankyou gift from Queen Vic­to­ria to Ruther­ford Hayes — the hand­some desk that now sits in the Oval Of­fice.

And, just to round things out, as a lit­tle stock­ing-stuffer, Gor­don Brown gave Pres­i­dent Obama a first edi­tion of Sir Martin Gil­bert’s seven-vol­ume bi­og­ra­phy of Win­ston Churchill.

In re­turn, Amer­ica’s head of state gave the Prime Min­is­ter 25 DVDs of “clas­sic Amer­i­can movies.”

Ev­i­dently, the White House gift shop was all out of “MY GOV­ERN­MENT DEL­E­GA­TION WENT TO WASH­ING­TON AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT” T-shirts. Still, the “clas­sic Amer­i­can movies” set is a pretty good sub­sti­tute, and it can set you back as much as $38.99 at Wal-Mart: Lot of clas­sics in there, I’m sure — “Casablanca,” “Ci­ti­zen Kane,” “The Sound Of Mu­sic” — though this sort of col­lec­tion al­ways slips in a cou­ple of “Dude, Where’s My Car? 3” and “Po­lice Academy 12,” just to make up the num­bers.

I’ll be in­ter­ested to know if Mr Brown has any­thing to play the films on back home, since U.S.-for­mat DVDs don’t work in United King­dom DVD play­ers. It could be worse. The pres­i­dent might have given him the DVD of “He’s Just Not That Into You.”

Gor­don Brown landed back in Lon­don a sad­der but wiser man. The Fleet Street cor­re­spon­dents re­ported sneer­ingly that he (and they) had been de­nied the usual twin-po­dia al­ter­nat­ing-flags press con­fer­ence. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion had sup­pos­edly pen­ciled one in for the Rose Gar­den, but then there was that cat­a­strophic snow­fall (a light dust­ing). This must be the first world leaders’ press con­fer­ence to be dev­as­tated by cli­mate change.

No doubt Pres­i­dent Obama could have re­lo­cated it to a pres­tige in­door venue, like the win­dow­less room round the back of the White House fur­nace in Sub-Base­ment Level 5. But why bother? Some freak flood would have swept through and washed the prime min­is­ter and his DVD set into the Po­tomac and out to the At­lantic. By the time the Coast Guard fished him out, the sod­den clas­sic movies wouldn’t work in any Amer­i­can DVD player any bet­ter than in the Bri­tish one.

Mr. Brown did, how­ever, get to give an al­most en­tirely un­re­ported ad­dress to Congress. U.S. leg­is­la­tors greeted his calls to re­sist pro­tec­tion­ism with a round of ap­plause, and then went back to adding up how much pork in the “Buy Amer­i­can” sec­tion of the stim­u­lus bill would be head­ing their way.

I would make a mod­est pre­dic­tion that in 2012, af­ter four years of the man who was sup­posed to heal Amer­ica’s re­la­tions with a world sick of all that swag­ger­ing cow­boy uni­lat­er­al­ism, those re­la­tions will be much worse. From Canada to In­dia, the im­pli­ca­tions of the Obama as­cen­dancy are be­com­ing painfully clear.

The other week Ger­many’s Der Spiegel ran a piece called “Why Oba­ma­nia Isn’t The An­swer,“ which might more use­fully have been pub­lished be­fore the Obames­siah held his big Berlin rally. Writ­ten by some bigshot with the Ger­man Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions and il­lus­trated by the old four-color hopey-changey posters all scratched up and worn out, the es­say con­ceded that Europe had em­braced Mr. Obama as a “Euro­pean Amer­i­can.”

Very true. The pres­i­dent is the most Euro­pean Amer­i­can ever to sit in the Oval Of­fice. And, be­cause of that, he doesn’t need any ac­tual Euro­pean Euro­peans get­ting in the way — just as, at his big victory night rally in Chicago, the first megas­tar pres­i­dent didn‘t need any megas­tar megas­tars from Hol­ly­wood clog­ging up the joint: Movie stars who wanted to fly in were told by his min­ders that he didn’t want any other celebri­ties de­flect­ing at­ten­tion from him. Same with world leaders. If it’s any con­so­la­tion to Gor­don Brown, he’s just not that into any of you.

What Mr. Brown and the rest of the world want is for Amer­ica, the en­gine of the global econ­omy, to pull the rest of them out of the quick­sand. That’s not un­rea­son­able. Even though a big chunk of the sub­prime/se­cu­ri­ti­za­tion/credit bub­ble axis orig­i­nated in the United States and got ex­ported round the planet, al­most ev­ery one of Amer­ica’s trad­ing part­ners will wind up get­ting far harder hit.

And that was be­fore Mr. Obama made clear that for him the econ­omy takes a very dis­tant back seat to the mas­sive ex­pan­sion of gov­ern­ment it pro­vides cover for. That’s why he is in­dif­fer­ent to the plum­met­ing Dow. The pres­i­dent has made a strate­gic cal­cu­la­tion that, to ad­vance his plans for so­cial­ized health care, “green en­ergy” and a big gov­ern­ment state, it is to his ad­van­tage for things to get worse. And, if things go from bad to worse in Amer­ica, over­seas they’ll go from worse to to­tal so­ci­etal col­lapse.

We have al­ready seen changes of gov­ern­ment in Ice­land and Latvia, ri­ot­ing in Greece and Bul­garia. The great desta­bi­liza­tion is start­ing on the fringes of Europe and work­ing its way to the Con­ti­nent’s cen­ter.

We’re see­ing not just the first con­trac­tion in the global econ­omy since 1945, but also the first cri­sis of glob­al­iza­tion. This was the sys­tem Amer­ica and the other lead­ing economies en­cour­aged ev­ery­body else to grab a piece of. But what­ever piece you grabbed — ex­ports in Tai­wan, ser­vices in Ire­land, construction in Spain, oli­garchic in­dus­trial-scale klep­to­ma­nia in Rus­sia — it’s all crum­bling.

Ire­land and Italy are na­tion­state ver­sions of Bank of Amer­ica and Gen­eral Motors. In East­ern Europe, the coun­tries way out on the end of the glob­al­iza­tion chain can’t take a lot of heat without wide­spread un­rest. And the fel­lows who’ll be pick­ing up the tab are the West Euro­pean banks who loaned them all the money.

Gor­don Brown was hop­ing for a lit­tle more than: “I feel your pain. And have you ever seen ‘The Wizard Of Oz’? It’s about this sweet lit­tle no­body who gets to pay a brief visit to the glit­ter­ing Emer­ald City be­fore be­ing swept back to the re­as­sur­ing fa­mil­iar­ity of the poor thing’s bro­ken down windswept eco­nom­i­cally dev­as­tated monochrome dust­bowl. You’ll love it!”

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”? Oh, per­ish the thought. The prime min­is­ter flew 8,000 miles for din­ner and a movie. But the pres­i­dent says he’ll call. Next week. Next month. What­ever.

Mark Steyn is the au­thor of the New York Times best-seller “Amer­ica Alone” and is an in­ter­na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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