Tuesday, July 31, 2007

 

George Needs Gordon as Much (or Maybe More) as Gordon Needs Him

The Guardian leader today is headed: 'Leaders bond, Iraq splits'. Certainly the second part rings true, but not the first. As Nick Robinson notes(yes, I nicked his pic), Gordon was careful to avoid any statement of personal warmth with the US president, in contrast to Dubya who, as the leader noted, piled it on:

Gordon Brown was a humorous Scot, not a dour one, a problem solver with the same sense of morality. He was a principled man who wanted to get something done. He was a man who saw a glass half full, not half empty, and when it came to battling terrorism and providing leadership, "he gets it".

The explanation for this apparent lack of reciprocity, of course, is that Brown is striving to make a statement: unlike his predecessor, he is not Bush's poodle. There is no message his national constituency would better like to hear than that and Gordon has subtly let it be known: no tactile bonding, no jokes about shared likes, no crutch hugging jeans, no ill chosen sweater- just a businesslike suit and tie. Brown has already shown how subtle he is at communicating via symbols; his Cabinet appointments were gleaming with them and his subsequent public words have been cleverly nuanced to indicate shifts from the past.

Indeed, the whole business of distancing himself from the US has been achieved in this way. He was happy to allow junior ministers- Balloch- Brown, Alexander- to make statements edging away from too close a relationship with American foreign policy so that he could 'reinforce' the Atlantic alliance with his own careful statement. US officials were 'worried' we were told, even 'irritated', but Gordon was happy to let these apparent slights remain: the signals were received. So it follows that he has carried on passively communicating during his visit, apparently moving closer while actually stepping back.

That Bush seemed to understand all this is not just evidence of his political acuteness, he is now squarely a lame duck president who desperately needs his British ally to stand firm while he plays out the next 18 months or so. Since Blair flew over in 2001 to stand 'shoulder to shoulder' and sign blank cheques of support, the relative power relationship has substantially shifted.

Comments:
I think you are clutching at straws here Skipper. I watched the press conference, and it would have been hard to imagine two world leaders being warmer with each other. Broon went out of his way to talk of shared philosophies and the like. He agreed with everything Bush said on Iraq(and Bush was in fairly militant mood on the subject).

All the signs are that Broon is very pro-American, and of course that is a good thing for Britain. He went out of his way to say that the relationship would get stronger. And it will. It is merely a reflection of American power and resolve, and European weakness and cowardice in facing this danger.

There won't be the personal warmth enjoyed by Blair/Bush. This is simply a reflection of reality(that unfortunately Bush will have to finish in 18 months - after two endorsements from the US people). Broon will have to play it careful in case the Americans elect a Democrat next time(looking at the quality of their two main candidates, I still think the Republicans should win with a strong candidate, and that would obviously be good for the US and Britain, and bad for Al Qaeda and its European allies).
 
Michael
Fair points made and you may be right but I think the press conference was significant more for what was unsaid than said and I'm sure he established distance. You may be also right re next president but I do hope not.
 
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