I blogged in the weekend about Andrew Marr’s soft interview with Barack Obama in the White House ahead of his state visit to the UK. There were plenty of journalists willing to take potshots at Marr’s giddiness and obvious excitement at being in the presence of “The One“.
But newspaper journalists, commentators, pundits, broadcasters and bloggers alike have been fawning in their coverage of the US president since his arrival on our shores on Monday night.
It’s a point that hasn’t been lost on the more Obama-sceptic press corps back home in the United States. From USA Today:
President Obama traded a cozy pub for a spacious palace Tuesday, but the reception was the same: he was treated like royalty.
After basking amid one of the most affectionate audiences of his presidency Monday in Ireland, Obama arrived here to be feted by a queen and three generations of princes.
He and first lady Michelle Obama were welcomed at Buckingham Palace, where they were given a six-room suite last occupied by Prince William and his bride, Kate Middleton, on their wedding night.
They were fawned over at Westminster Abbey, greeted warmly at No 10 Downing Street and, finally, lauded at the first state dinner thrown here for a US president in eight years.
I never thought I’d find myself in agreement with the City AM editor, Allister Heath, who tweeted:
Why is the UK media treating Barack Obama’s visit with such deference? Feels like being in some 1950s BBC newsreel on trip by royal family
Forget Afghanistan or Libya, climate change or Middle East peace — the real issues have been table tennis and the Downing Street barbecue. Take the BBC, the voice of the establishment, which, on its live blog, notes:
Now the news you’ve all been waiting for. After the grandeur of last night’s state banquet at Buckingham Palace, we are told the Downing Street barbecue is a little more down to earth. Guests are apparently tucking into British sausages, beefburgers, Kentish lamb chops, corn on the cob, Jersey Royal potatoes, with tomato, mozarella and basil salad, then summer berries and ice cream to top it off. Sounds tasty.
Doesn’t the “leader of the free world”, the president of the globe’s only remaining superpower, the commander-in-chief of the mightiest armed forces on earth, deserve proper scrutiny? Rigorous and serious coverage? Yes, he is a great speaker and a cool dude. Yes, he isn’t George W Bush. But he is a foreign president who has done some pretty dodgy things (from helping undermine Copenhagen to doubling the number of drone strikes inside Pakistan). Or are all these issues off-limits?
As I type this blog post, I’m watching Obama and Cameron on television, in shirt sleeves and ties, grilling sausages in the No 10 garden. This is what geopolitics has been reduced to; this is what the “special relationship” is all about. Gimme a break . . .
The cult of Obama, especially in the British media, is deeply dispiriting. Having said all this, I’m now off to Westminster Hall to see the US president address both Houses of Parliament on issues unrelated to ping-pong and barbecues and I’m sure I won’t be able to stop myself from going all weak-at-the-knees when he starts speaking. Agh!