President Obama's got a lot riding on his first big adventure overseas. This isn't like his campaign jaunt when the world went gaga for him.
Now he's got issues like the global financial crisis, the
war effort Overseas Contingency Operation in Afghanistan, U.S.-European Union relations, reducing tensions between Muslim and Western worlds, and relationship-building between the U.S. and China and Russia.
As our much smarter colleague Howard LaFranchi noted earlier today, relationship-building is key here. Really key.
Mr. Obama may well find himself in the inverse position from where George W. Bush stood by the end of his White House run. Whereas Mr. Bush enjoyed greater cooperation and like-mindedness with many key foreign leaders, though he remained unpopular with the international public, Obama is expected to encounter an adoring public but a deep skepticism – even resistance – among heads of state.
Well, we know where he's got to start. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The president stiffed him the last time they were together. Kinda 'rick-rolled' him as the kids would say.
My gift to you
When Brown was in the U.S. three weeks ago, the two leaders met and had their customary gift exchange. The offices of protocol are responsible for this transaction. And in the case of President Obama, his office performed about as well as Rick Wagoner.
The British PM presented our president with a carved ornamental penholder from the timbers of the anti-slavery ship HMS Gannet. A perfect gift to place on his desk in the Oval Office which just happened to have been made from the sistership of the Gannet -- the HMS Resolute.
Think of it this way: 129 years after Queen Victoria presented President Rutherford B. Hayes with the desk made from the Resolute, Prime Minister Brown reunited the ships with this exquisite offering.
Could there have been a more beautiful gift? Outside of perhaps a few trillion dollars?
And for you
Diplomacy goes both ways. And we Americans assuredly don't want to ruin our sterling reputation abroad. Furthermore, it's our pal -- the U.K.
Sure they burned down the White House. But that's water under the bridge. It's Churchill and Roosevelt. Reagan and Thatcher.
McCartney and Jackson.
They deserve something substantial. Like maybe they could have one of the original 13 colonies back. Is anyone really going to miss Rhode Island anyway? No offense.
The envelope please
So with history recording every move, President Barack Obama presented Prime Minister Gordon Brown with.....25 DVDs.
And not just any DVDs. But really good ones. Psycho was on one of them. And Star Wars. And E.T.
"Harumph!" said the the snooty British press.
"A gift about as exciting as a pair of socks," wrote one reporter at the Daily Mail.
And then there was that other problem. The DVDs didn't work.
"Alas, when the PM settled down to begin watching them the other night, he found there was a problem," reports the Telegraph. "The films only worked in DVD players made in North America and the words "wrong region" came up on his screen."
"He mournfully had to put the popcorn away," they added.
He wasn't the only one mourning.
"British diplomats in Washington are still answering more than 2,000 letters of apology from American citizens for Mr. Obama’s alleged insult to the Prime Minister when he visited the White House this month," the London Times reports.
To be fair, it's not like Obama gave Brown 25 Ben Affleck movies. That would truly be horrific.
The good news is that our president can redeem himself and perhaps offer up Rhode Island as a gift. Throw in Vermont too. And do we really need Nebraska?
The two leaders meet for three hours Wednesday. First they have breakfast, then a formal bilateral meeting and a press conference.
Note to our British friends: Based on what we've seen so far at the White House, you might want to request that the fake President Obama from Madame Tussauds House of Wax participate in the press conference instead of the real deal. He would probably be more interesting.
We'll try live blogging it tomorrow if we can stay awake.