Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The British ambassador in Washington called Sen. Barack Obama aloof and decidedly liberal but also pragmatic and smart in a letter to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, which was leaked to the press in London last week.
Obama's politics and policies are still evolving, Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald said, in his assessment of the Democratic presidential candidate, adding that Mr. Obama's terms in the Illinois Senate and U.S. Senate give us only a few clues as to his likely priorities in office.
His voting record was decidedly liberal. But the main impression is of someone who was finding his feet and then got diverted by his presidential ambitions.
Mr. Sheinwald's candid evaluation of Mr. Obama created a stir in London when the Daily Telegraph first reported on the letter last week. However, his analysis of a candidate in a U.S. presidential election is fairly typical of private diplomatic correspondence between foreign ambassadors and their political leaders.
The letter was written in July to help Mr. Brown prepare for his meeting with Mr. Obama, who stopped in the British capital on his summer European tour.
Mr. Sheinwald noted Mr. Obama's lack of experience, saying, If elected, he would have less of a track record than any recent president.
However, he added, Mr. Obama is intellectually smart, cerebral and noted that his meteoric rise from freshman senator to the Democratic presidential candidate began with his mesmerizing speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.
The charge of elitism, however, is not entirely unfair, Mr. Sheinwald wrote, citing Mr. Obama's notorious comments at a private fundraiser in San Francisco, where he referred to some small-town Pennsylvania voters as clinging to their guns and religion.