Turnabout Is Fair Play

Obama tells the British how to vote. Will they obey?

Editor's Note: Every writer and publisher has a few favorite works from the past that still make him smile to re-read, even after many years.

We at Scragged are no different, but we also have a rare privilege: Because the Scragged style frequently compares the events of the past with current news to gain enlightenment, it's not uncommon for one of our own past articles to be an appropriate citation in a new one.

And when that lucky article from the archive is about one of our very favorite political incidents, well...

The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language.

 - George Bernard Shaw

The United Kingdom and its ex-colony the United States have had perhaps the world's closest international relationship for a hundred years.  Brits and Yanks happily and freely hop across the pond for business, tourism, academic work, and even romantic assignations.  A trip to London is a highlight for an American, as is a trip to New York or Los Angeles for an Englishman.

Yet when it comes to retail politics, and despite the fundamental similarities of their traditional liberties and practices, the two nations aren't that much friendlier than in 1776.  Americans may like Brits as people and seem to have a somewhat inexplicable affection for Her Majesty the Queen, but when the denizens of Old Blighty presume to interfere in the process of our picking our rulers, the colonial response is a right royal Bronx cheer.

Most memorably, the good burghers of Ohio roundly rejected Anglo intervention in the 2000 Bush-Kerry election.  As were their fellow Europeans, the British were aghast at the idea of yet another rootin'-tootin' cowboy in the White House, vs the sanctimoniously urbane internationalist (and choice of rich widows everywhere) John Kerry.  So, urged on by the Guardian newspaper, 11,000 of them decided to make their feelings known directly to Obio voters, using a helpful online list of voters' names and addresses.  As we wrote:

In the fullness of time, the responses came wending their way back across the pond.  Slate's Andy Bowers reports what happened next:

Americans who had heard about the project (most of them not from Clark County) fired letters back at the Guardian. A few were appreciative. Many more were vicious. The paper printed some of them under the headline "Dear Limey A**holes."

The answers were scatological, medical, orthodonic, historical, surgical, genealogical, sexual, ethnological, and on and on in that infinite variety of base profundity at which Americans excel.  Suffice it to say that middle Americans do not care to be told what they ought to think by their own elites; when the losers of the American Revolution presume to do the same, the results were explosive.  The final 2004 election results showed that

Kerry won every Gore county in Ohio except Clark. He even increased Gore's winning margin in 12 of the 16. Nowhere among the Gore counties did more votes move from the blue to the red column than in Clark.

The result was the exact opposite of what the British leftists wanted.  Instead of persuading Americans to ditch Bush for the choice of the rest of the world, Ohio voters decided that any supposed American so beloved by foreigners must have something wrong with him.  The plan backfired spectacularly.

Which brings us to this week.  While the United Kingdom has been a member of the European Union for many decades, the terms of its membership have been the subject of heated debate for nearly as long.  In some ways, it's reminiscent of our own issue of illegal immigration: EU regulations and freedom-of-movement policies have destroyed working-class Britain much as illegal Mexican immigration has ruined the job market for America's unskilled.  In both cases, the elites benefit hugely from this destruction of the lower orders and so are all in favor of it, regardless of party.

Donald Trump, and to a lesser extent Ted Cruz, are an American response to the scourge of illegal immigration which our conventional elites refuse to address.  England's rebels may not be as bombastic as Mr. Trump, but the displeasure is making itself felt in a pending referendum on whether Britain will remain in the EU or leave - commonly known as "Brexit."

As in America, the political, media, and business elites are unanimously in favor of the internationalist choice.  As in America, an awful lot of ordinary people are vehemently opposed to losing their nation.  And just as in America, the polls are ambiguous, some showing a tie, others with the elites in the lead.

And just as in 2004, their cousins from across the pond decided to shed the scintillating light of exalted wisdom upon the benighted souls who have to actually live with the decision.

Barack Obama: As your friend, let me say that the EU makes Britain even greater

The European Union doesn’t moderate British influence – it magnifies it. A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain’s global leadership; it enhances Britain’s global leadership. The United States sees how your powerful voice in Europe ensures that Europe takes a strong stance in the world, and keeps the EU open, outward looking, and closely linked to its allies on the other side of the Atlantic. So the US and the world need your outsized influence to continue – including within Europe.

President Obama wasn't content to merely tell the English what was good for them.  He felt it necessary to make it plain that he'd make good and sure it was, as English commentator and politician Norman Lamont pointed out indignantly:

The point is that every country wants to be told it has a ‘special relationship’ with the United States, and Obama knows it. He also knows how to use it to get what he wants.

For instance, in a recent interview with American magazine The Atlantic, it was revealed that Obama had said Britain would no longer be able to claim a special relationship with the U.S. unless it committed to spending at least two per cent of its GDP on defence. So the Government had jumped to attention and promptly done so.

Yesterday’s unsavoury threat over trade deals — which, incidentally, would be negotiated after Obama left office — is another case of him trying to get his own way.

The stark warning amid the pleasantries reminds us that the friendship can only remain true if the British people do as the U.S. says.

Mr. Lamont kindly moderated his ire by claiming to be an admirer of or current President.  Others were not so charitable:

London Mayor Boris Johnson, who was born in New York, wrote an an angry riposte in The Sun. "It is incoherent. It is inconsistent, and yes it is downright hypocritical," he wrote. "The Americans would never contemplate anything like the EU, for themselves or for their neighbors in their own hemisphere. Why should they think it right for us?"

He later doubled down on those remarks. "It is very odd, it is perverse, it is hypocritical," he told reporters.

And these are members of the elite!  Of course many of Britain's leaders have circled the wagons around our President, but others are more perceptive, to say nothing of eloquent.

Nobody could describe Donald Trump as lacking in self-confidence, but the billionaire egomaniac is emotional jelly compared with King Barack. Even before he won the Nobel peace prize, Obama was telling America that his elevation to the presidency would be remembered as ‘the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow’. He doesn’t have Mr Trump’s gold-plated helicopter, private jet, penthouse and yacht. But when it comes to self-reverence and sheer hauteur there is no one to beat him.

Someone who believes his political personality can reverse global warming will have no doubts about his ability to persuade the British people to stay in the European Union. Just a few of his mellifluous sentences and a flash of those teeth and surely the British people will go weak at the knees!

The arrogance is breathtaking but it is far from the only manifestation of, dare I say it, the madness of King Barack.

...Polls show that only 4 per cent of us think Mr. Obama’s primary reason for wanting us to stay in the EU is because ‘he cares about Britain’...  As Barack Obama offers his hand to the Queen this week, and lectures the British on their place in the world, voters here might feel somewhat resentful, too.

The voters of Britain would have to be more than human not to, just as the voters of Ohio did.  As the Daily Mail summed up the kerfluffle:

This President is the last man we should heed.

The tone was patronising, the language menacing – and the message not only hypocritical but, frankly, insulting.

Certainly, Barack Obama has every right to say he thinks it’s in America’s best interests for Britain to remain in the EU, if that is what he believes.

But he has no business to come here and preach that submission to Brussels is good for the people of the UK.

If only our European betters had realized this eight long years ago!  We've known Mr. Obama as "the last man we should heed" for nigh on a decade now!  But better late than never.

And with this new understanding, perhaps Mr. Obama has done the Mother of Parliaments a good turn by becoming the embodiment of ridicule.

For the plain and simple truth is, as the EU is currently constituted it does, by definition, remove British sovereignty just as Mr. Obama has removed individual sovereignty in America.  Freeborn Englishmen are now answerable, not to a jury of their peers the next town over, but summary arrest warrants from thousands of miles away issued by totally foreign legal regimes.  EU-written regulations have destroyed the British fishing fleet, aluminum smelting, steel manufacture, and a host of other now-dead industries.

It's one thing if one's own elected leaders destroy the jobs that keep us fed, as Mr. Obama is determined to do regarding energy.  For good or ill, he was freely and fairly chosen by the American people who suffer under his reign.  We ignored the warning "be careful what you wish for."  We voted for change, and we got it.

But no ordinary Brits voted for the President of the EU.  The British Parliament can't impeach or call to account overreaching EU bureaucrats the way our Congress can.  Britain may not even control its own borders - at least we could if we decided to.

The British response to Mr. Obama's meddling may not be as hair-curlingly vulgar as we saw in Ohio.  It's there with a vengeance nonetheless - and on June 23 we'll find out just how strong their reaction to Mr. Obama's blackmailing threats really was.

God save the Queen, long may she reign - and long may she have an actual independent nation to reign over, despite the best efforts of the ministers who supposedly serve her and her people.

Read other Scragged.com articles by Hobbes or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

"and on June 23 we'll find out just how strong their reaction to Mr. Obama's blackmailing threats really was"

We will? How?

April 25, 2016 4:29 AM

That's when the UK votes on Brexit. We'll see which side wins, and by how much.

April 25, 2016 6:41 AM

If ever there was a time when the royal family could demonstrate monarchical value, this it. Yet even now, they do not. Worthless lot.

April 25, 2016 10:11 AM

Yes, that much we will see obviously, but how will that tell us the magnitude of the reaction to Obama?

April 26, 2016 5:17 AM

The Bush-Kerry story doesn't make any sense to me. Wasn't that contest in 2004? If Kerry increased votes over ?Gore in every county save Clark, how was the Guardian's plan a spectacular failure?

April 27, 2016 10:27 AM

What happened was, Clark County was the area specifically targeted by the Guardian. Normally, you'd expect its voting results to be more or less the same as its surrounding counties, adjusted by the previous election. But after the Guardian's efforts, Clark County stood out from its neighbors in that Kerry did better than Gore everywhere else - but not in Clark.

So the Guardian's politicking had exactly the opposite effect from what was intended.

April 27, 2016 5:25 PM
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