Obama stands up to the Scots but not the Republicans

Well, my fellow American expats, we had a good run. Almost a whole nine months of the rest of the world thinking we were the cool kid in the cafeteria, as opposed to the inbred, pock-cheeked bully who was likely to shoot them with an air rifle behind the gym if they didn’t hand over their potato chips. We were Corey Haim in the 1986 film Lucas, the former high school pariah who is suddenly lifted on to the shoulders of the world and carried through the campus.

Admittedly, maybe some hopes about The New America, AM (Anno Messiah), were a little high. But still, one might have hoped for coverage of post-Bush America a little less shaming than YouTube clips of town hall meetings filled with people whose parents probably had the same surname before they got married, insisting that Obama has “Nazi policies”, the Nazis being well-known for their interest in expanded healthcare.

Worse, in the eyes of the British media, were reports of the sainted NHS’s (state-funded National Health Service) name being taken in vain by US politicians and so-called newscasters at the doltish end of the social spectrum. Most awkward of all, though, for the expats, were accounts of what American healthcare is actually like, with tales of people forgoing food in order to afford their insulin. Hard to maintain that air of buzzy Apple iMac modernity when everyone knows many in your country rely on a healthcare system reminiscent of a third world dystopia.

I have long cherished a theory that the real point of a country’s leader is to reflect one of its own national cliches and consolidate this image abroad. Thus, France is currently ruled by a Napoleon with a supermodel wife who sings about heroin. Italy is headed by an extra from The Godfather (the Porn Version) and North Korea is governed by the puppet from Team America. This is why Gordon Brown - who may as well be tattooed with tartan - has never really made an international impression as the U.K. Prime Minister. Equally, it explains why the leader of the UK’s Opposition Conservative party David Cameron will easily take his place, as he not only looks like a stuffy landowner from an Austen adaptation, but he literally is a character in last year’s most manically namedropping autobiography, Ferdinand Mount’s Cold Cream.

Part of the reason for the American euphoria that greeted Obama’s election last November was the prospect that he could, in home makeover show parlance, “emphasise a new aspect of the space.” Yes, yes, great stores of ignorance and xenophobia do exist in America — but look at our recently reopened All Dreams Are Possible room and our bay window looking out on to the Land of Free! Finally, when the rest of the world thought of America, their image would be based less on My Name is Earl and more on The West Wing.

Until some US citizens began defending their right to bear arms yards from the president with at least as much fervour as they are defending their right to pay $800 for an ambulance ride, that is. Meanwhile, Obama’s skill at cool and reasoned debate, which once made the world fall in love with him, is now beginning to make the world a little exasperated with him - if it means trying to compromise with people who are not interested in compromise. It was hard not to sigh and wish that he would take tips from Representative Barney Frank, who last week shouted down a woman who was waving a poster of Obama with a Hitler moustache, complaining that talking to her was “like trying to argue with a dining room table.”

And then, at the end of last week, suddenly the Obama administration was bandying around strong words such as “objection” and “a mistake,” and these words were getting reported all over the world. Unfortunately he was talking about the release of the Lockerbie bomber Megrahi, as opposed to the Republicans who are encouraging the very people most likely to suffer from the current healthcare setup to fight for the status quo, purely for their own political benefit. Despite these self-same Republicans’ lack of power, they still seem to hold a disproportionate amount of sway over the news. And this proves another long-cherished theory of mine: Fox News — officially more powerful than Libya and, um, Scotland. Combined. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

Related Topics
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Aug 5, 2020 5:20:38 AM |

Next Story