If it were not so pathetic, the amateurism of this White House would actually be funny. Let’s face it – Obama hates Winston Churchill, who although a God awful military strategist, was our firm friend and an anti-Communist. For third world liberationists such as Barack Obama father and son, Churchill was an imperialist and they prefer to admire people such as Mao Zedong.
by Nile Gardiner
The White House is continuing to tie itself in knots over the Churchill bust issue. As I noted in my previous blog, Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer was forced to back peddle furiously this weekend after he ludicrously denied that a loaned bust of Sir Winston Churchill had been sent back to the British government by the White House in 2009 soon after President Obama took office. In fact he wrongly accused Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer of an outright lie when he brought up the matter of the bust in an op-ed piece for The Post last Friday. After the British Embassy pointed out that Pfeiffer’s comments were factually wrong, the White House staffer issued an embarrassing clarification in the form of an “update” on the White House blog.
Pfeiffer’s gaffe over the Churchill bust has continued to build momentum in the US media and on Twitter, with former ABC and Fox News correspondent Brit Hume describing the whole episode as “amateur hour at the White House.” Even The New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal called the White House’s handling of the issue “bumbling and amateurish.” A follow-up piece by Mr. Krauthammer calling on Dan Pfeiffer to apologise for his attack is currently the most-read article on influential US news aggregator RealClear Politics.
The issue was also raised on Monday morning at a White House press conference given by Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who has added fuel to the fire with his adamant rejection of the idea that President Obama might have snubbed the British by deciding to turf the Churchill bust out of the Oval Office. In response to a question by an American journalist, Earnest replied (watch the video here at RealClear Politics) that the White House was determined to combat “a myth floating in the darker corners of the Internet” regarding the motives behind returning the Churchill bust:
Question – Can you tell us why the White House decided to weigh in on this whole Winston Churchill bust scandal, and whether you guys are gonna clarify what bust is where, and … [drown out]
Josh Earnest – It is almost like a bad Sherlock Holmes script, right? The case of the missing Winston Churchill bust? Uh – the reason – uh –that we waited on Friday is because there is – uh – a myth floating in some of the darker corners of the internet that suggests that upon taking office the president went out of his way to snub the British people by prematurely returning the bust of Winston Churchill that had occupied a prominent place in the Oval Office of the previous president.
That’s not true. Uh – as the White House curator has previously explained and I believe as we’ve explained on the end of the day on Friday – uh – the bust was loaned to President Bush by the British government. Uh – as is customary at the conclusion of President Bush’s term and before President Obama entered the Oval Office – uh – the bust was returned to the British Embassy.
Mr. Earnest, who is clearly no Sherlock Holmes, did not elaborate what he meant by the “dark corners” of the Internet, but he was almost certainly referring to the British press in an insulting fashion, which reported widely on the decision to return the bust and how the move was causing consternation at the time among British officials concerned about a possible weakening of the Special Relationship under President Obama.
First to break the story of the Churchill bust being returned to the British Embassy was The Sunday Telegraph’s Tim Shipman (now at The Daily Mail), who wrote in February 2009:
Barack Obama has sent Sir Winston Churchill packing and pulse rates soaring among anxious British diplomats. A bust of the former prime minister once voted the greatest Briton in history, which was loaned to George W Bush from the Government’s art collection after the September 11 attacks, has now been formally handed back.
The bronze by Sir Jacob Epstein, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds if it were ever sold on the open market, enjoyed pride of place in the Oval Office during President Bush’s tenure.
But when British officials offered to let Mr Obama to hang onto the bust for a further four years, the White House said: “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Two weeks earlier, in January 2009, The Times had revealed the bust had been removed from the Oval Office and placed in storage, in a piece headlined: “Churchill bust casts shadow over the Special Relationship” (no longer online, but available on news databases such as Lexis/Nexis). Significantly, The Times noted that the British government, led at the time by Gordon Brown, was keen for the bust to go back to the Oval Office:
Britain wants President Obama to put a bronze bust of Sir Winston Churchill back in the Oval Office, where it stood for the past eight years as a symbol of an enduring special relationship with America. The White House is not so sure.
The bronze was lent to George Bush by Tony Blair in 2001 from the Government Art Collection for the duration of his presidency. It is now due to be returned.
However, a spokesman for the British Embassy in Washington said yesterday: “We have made it clear that we would be pleased to extend the loan should Mr Obama so wish.” He added that no response had been received; yesterday the White House declined to comment.
It is very clear from these articles in two of Britain’s leading newspapers that the British government gave every opportunity for the Obama White House to keep the Churchill bust, but the president chose not to do so. After all, he could easily have accommodated both Lincoln and Churchill in the Oval Office. The White House, however, remains firmly in denial over the return of the bust, which carries great symbolism on both sides of the Atlantic.
By any measure this was an insensitive snub to America’s closest friend and ally, at a time when 10,000 British troops were fighting alongside their US allies on the battlefields of Afghanistan, and continue to do so today. And this was no isolated incident, but part of a broader pattern of disdain for the US-British alliance, culminating recently with the Obama administration’s appalling decision to back Argentina’s call for UN-brokered negotiations over the sovereignty of the Falklands. The White House is quick to mouth platitudes about the Special Relationship, but in practice clearly doesn’t believe in it.
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