Magazine article The Spectator

Obama's Overreach

Magazine article The Spectator

Obama's Overreach

Article excerpt

The US President is in no position to lecture the British about foreign policy


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 polls show that Britain is split on the EU, so King Barack will come and help the nation resolve its indecision -- to the delight of David Cameron and George Osborne.

The timing of his visit, halfway through the EU referendum debate, is no accident. There is a longstanding international understanding that world leaders don't visit during election campaigns -- but such conventions were obviously designed for lesser mortals. Obama has no qualms and the Prime Minister has no shame: he needs every endorsement he can get. The Chancellor is pulling all the strings he can so the likes of the IMF's Christine Lagarde ask us to stay in. Short of engineering a Second Coming, a visitation from King Barack is to their minds the best plug imaginable.

That enthusiasm does not seem to be shared as much by British voters. 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'. A majority of us recognise that Mr Obama finds it easier 'to deal with Europe as one bloc'.

It's not, as some Tory MPs have alleged, that Obama hates Britain. It's just that he cares less about us -- and our neighbours -- than any of his recent predecessors. The 'pivot' to Asia, turning America's strategic gaze away from Europe and towards the Pacific, has been his chief international objective. The turmoil in Europe and the Middle East -- the Ukraine and Syrian refugee crises which have, at the very least, been encouraged by US withdrawal from the world -- were distractions from his focus on China and the rising economies of East Asia. The world has not become a safer place as a result of Obama's policy of 'leading from behind'.

It's natural that Britain's admirers want us to stay in the EU. As the former Australian PM, Tony Abbott, recently put it, 'There is no international problem that British involvement doesn't improve', and 'no international organisation that British membership doesn't help'. Abbott, Obama and countless other global politicians don't worry much about what EU membership means for the British economy or British democracy. They simply want us to put our national interests second and the wider interest first. Few of them would allow citizens of much poorer neighbouring states to have full rights to live and work in their countries or let foreign courts change their laws. But that, apparently, is what Britain should accept.

The arrogance is breathtaking but it is far from the only manifestation of, dare I say it, the madness of King Barack. Mr Obama does not let any adviser, voter or foreign leader get in his way. During his two-term presidency, his Democratic party has lost control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. …

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