Obama's royal snub?
5/6/2011 12:14:00 PM
By Tom Giffey
In the same week that President Barack Obama had to once again prove the obvious (that he was born in the United States) and made one of the biggest decisions of his presidency (eliminating Osama bin Laden) claims circulated that the fact he wasn't invited to the royal wedding constitutes a snub on the part of the British. I've received several emails to that effect, and recently radio host Rush Limbaugh fretted about how the president and first lady had been ignored. Limbaugh speculated it was because Queen Elizabeth II didn't like the gift the Obamas gave her in 2009, or that the Brits were peeved that Obama removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office when he became president. Other commentators have wondered why the Obamas were excluded while celebrities such as Elton John and David Beckham were invited to watch Prince William and Kate Middleton tie the knot.
So what's the truth? Was this a snub? As far as I can tell, all signs point to no. According to FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan website operated by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the Obamas weren't alone among world leaders in not receiving invitations. In fact, a spokesman for Prince Charles told the website in February that "no other heads of state other than those from foreign royal families have been invited to the wedding."
A guest list subsequently published by the royal family confirms this. The only foreign leaders included are either governors-general or prime ministers of members of the Commonwealth of Nations (i.e., the remnants of the British Empire, such as Australia, Canada, the Bahamas, etc.) or other royalty (the sultan of Brunei, the queen of Spain, etc.).
And, as FactCheck.org points out, even if the president had been invited, it wouldn't have been unusual for him to take a pass, as Presidents Harry S. Truman and Ronald Reagan did. (While Reagan didn't attend the nuptials of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981, first lady Nancy Reagan did.) Other presidents -- including Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton -- were not even invited to royal weddings that occurred during their terms of office. Somehow, the "special relationship" between the U.S. and Britain has survived all these "snubs."
And what about the iPod given to Prince William's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, when the Obamas visited her in 2009? It was loaded with photos and videos of the Queen's 2007 visit to the United States -- which hardly seems like a snub -- and was accompanied by a songbook signed by composer Richard Rodgers. (The Queen supposedly likes showtunes.) Perhaps giving her back a few of the colonies would have been a more generous gift, but an iPod isn't bad. The queen replied with a traditional (and narcissistic) gift: a framed photo of herself and her husband, Prince Philip. As for the bust of Churchill in the Oval Office: I imagine the British have more important matters of protocol to consider than how foreign leaders decorate their own workspaces. Should Americans be miffed if British Prime Minister David Cameron doesn't keep a bust of Abraham Lincoln next to his desk? As they would say across the pond, that's poppycock.
Overall, suggestions by Limbaugh and others that perceived slights by Obama have somehow harmed the U.S.-British relationship are highly doubtful. A diatribe circulating on the Internet and erroneously attributed to the London Daily Telegraph's political editor, suggests Obama's supposed animosity toward Great Britain stems from the nation's history of ruling his ancestral homeland of Kenya. (Others, including Newt Gingrich, have peddled such two-bit, unsubstantiated psychoanalysis.) If that were the case, I wonder, wouldn't all Americans have a serious bone to pick with the Brits, considering our nation was born from a rebellious collection of colonies?
So what's the status of the U.S.-British relationship? According to the 2010 installment of an annual international poll conducted by the Pew Global Research Center, the United States is viewed more favorably now in most nations surveyed than it was for much of the last decade. In Britain, 65 percent of those surveyed last year viewed the U.S. favorably; while that was a dip from 69 percent the previous year, it was a sharp rise from the 51 percent figure in 2008. (Between 2008 and 2010, favorable views of the U.S. grew from 42 percent to 73 percent in France and 31 percent to 63 percent in Germany.) Furthermore, it has been suggested that the U.S. participation in military action against Libya has less to do with humanitarianism than it does with ensuring out European allies -- including the British -- have continued access to North African oil. How's that for a special relationship?