The Spectator’s Alex Massie comments on President Obama’s “snub” of British PM Gordon Brown by failing to engage in a joint press conference with him on the White House lawn.
Massie attributes some of this to his colleagues in the British media’s reputation for being, er, less than fully professional. But he see something more:
Indeed, for a President who wants to “renew” America’s relationship with the rest of the world, Obama is strikingly reluctant to actually, you know, speak to the rest of the world. When he embarked on his tour of Europe last summer he failed to take a single foreign journalist with him; nor did he grant any interviews while he was in Britain, not even to the BBC. That pattern has largely continued now that he’s in office.
In one sense, of course, this matters less than it used to: after all everyone can see and read his speeches online these days. But there’s still a sense that, apart from his interview with Al-Arabiya and a CBC interview, Obama doesn’t quite appreciate that there are times when his international audience might have questions of its own that are unlikely to be asked if the only people doing the questioning are the American members of the White House press corps.
This is hardly a hanging offence, and it may even be too much media special-pleading, but despite all the demands on the President’s time it would not do him any harm to spend a little of it engaging with the rest of the world’s media. After all, if he wants to lead the world – and to call on the rest of the world to do more itself – then he might deign to talk to it first.
The man’s only been in office six weeks and he’s been a trifle busy, what with the global financial collapse and all, so we can perhaps forgive him for being less than attentive to the overseas press. But Massie’s point in nonetheless well taken. American presidents like to claim the mantle of “leader of the free world.” It might behoove them to occasionally talk to their proverbial constituents from time to time.
James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.