Barack Obama was supposed to be America's answer to the suave, European head of state. A debonair gentleman of the world, he would charm even the most sophisticated foreign leaders and prove, finally, that the United States is developed culturally, not just economically.
Then he gave some DVDs.
Ian Drury of London's Daily Mail wrote on March 8, "As he headed back home from Washington, Gordon Brown must have rummaged through his party bag with disappointment.
"Because all he got was a set of DVDs. Barack Obama, a box set of 25 classic American films -- a gift about as exciting as a pair of socks."
Brown had given Obama a set of pens made from part of the HMS Gannet, a Victorian-era anti-slave ship. A desk that has sat in the Oval Office since 1880 was made from the timbers of the HMS Resolute, the Gannet's sister ship. It was a stunningly thoughtful and unique gift left unreciprocated.
But even worse, Obama refused to hold a joint press conference with Brown or invite him for an official White House dinner. And to top it all off, he sent back a bust of Churchill that was lent to the White House after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Russia Today wrote that week, "Despite Barack Obama's eloquent elocution, ivy school credentials and electric charisma, there is talk that he lacks the most crucial element of any great leader: judgment."
Since March, Obama's social gaffes have continued. In April he bowed to the Saudi king; in July he was photographed staring at the rear end of a 16-year-old girl and suggested that Cambridge Police Officer James Crowley was stupid; in October he refused to meet with the Dalai Lama; in September he refused five requests from Gordon Brown for a one-on-one meeting but found time to fly to Copenhagen to promote Chicago's Olympic bid; and this month he sent Hillary Clinton to attend the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, then topped it all with an obsequious bow to the emperor of Japan.
Obama cannot even blame the Japan bow on proper protocol. It was anything but proper. It was so inappropriate that it even offended the Japanese.
President Bush supposedly offended the rest of the world with his cowboy chauvinism, but at least he followed proper etiquette while telling the leaders of other countries that America was going to go its own way. Obama doesn't even know to invite the Prime Minister of Great Britain to a state dinner. He doesn't even bother to learn the proper way to greet kings and emperors.
For all of George W. Bush's swagger, it is Barack Obama who has systematically offended three major allies -- Britain, Germany and Japan -- in the span of nine months, needlessly straining important relationships and making his country look simultaneously backward and arrogant.
The reason for this is simple and obvious: Obama's singular arrogance. Only arrogance can explain the way Obama has treated Gordon Brown. Only arrogance can explain the president's snubbing of Germany and repeated refusal to learn the proper protocol for greeting other world leaders.
Obama might be cultivating world opinion by insulting his own country in speech after speech and undermining its interests with his foreign policy, but the joke is on him. For his transparent disdain for other world leaders and customs is making him every bit the image of the buffoonish American president he tries so hard to convince the world he is not.
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