President Obama has given an interview to the BBC that bears on his beliefs and the cast of his mind. The European Union, he told listeners, “made the world safer and more prosperous.” That’s strange enough, as Greek hostility towards Germany reaches new peaks, the debts and deficits of several EU members are too large ever to be repaid, the value of the euro itself is in doubt, and Europe’s share of world trade shrinks annually. To growing numbers of realistic people, the EU appears to be a perfect mechanism for generating divisiveness and poverty.
Sometime soon, the United Kingdom is due to have a referendum on whether or not to stay in the EU. Should the United Kingdom choose to leave, then according to Obama it will lose influence. The threat is ridiculous. On its own in the practice of international diplomacy, the United Kingdom would be in a much stronger position to lobby and bargain and make a nuisance of itself than if it is one among twenty eight EU members obliged to pool their interests.
In Obama’s published books, the British cut poor figures as imperialists and colonists. In office, Obama rid the White House of a bust of Winston Churchill, who in his day epitomized everything Britain stood for. He also directed that British prime minister Gordon Brown enter the White House through the kitchen. Underlying that BBC interview is the emotional aspiration to be rid of the United Kingdom once and for all.
CORRECTION: My good friend and colleague Jay Nordlinger points out that President Obama actually snubbed the then–British prime minister Gordon Brown far more openly than I remembered. Their brief encounter was not via the White House kitchen, but in a New York kitchen. And Obama likes to talk of partnership.