Tales from the Trail

Well isn’t that special! Clinton reassures Britain on its U.S. relationship


It turns out the relationship between the United States and Britain is very special.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to great lengths on Sunday to reassure Britons and their political leaders that the “special relationship” between the two allies is strong and intact.

Exhibit A: at a news conference with Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Clinton opened her remarks by stressing their strong relations.

“First, let me just underscore how grateful I am for this opportunity to reaffirm the historic importance of the special relationship between our two countries,” she said.

Exhibit B: at a meeting later with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Clinton reiterated the message again. Note how many times the word “special” creeps into her sentence.

‘Sir Edward’ cheered at Obama healthcare summit

Senator Edward Kennedy showed up at President Barack Obama’s healthcare summit Wednesday and got a welcome befitting his new title.
“Sir Edward Kennedy,” Obama said, gesturing toward the Massachusetts senator, a longtime leader on the healthcare issue. The crowd at the White House event applauded warmly.
“That’s the kind of greeting a knight deserves,” the president said.
The British government announced Tuesday that Kennedy had been awarded an honorary knightood by Queen Elizabeth in recognition of his service to U.S.-British relations. The announcement came as Prime Minister Gordon Brown was visiting Washington.
Kennedy, who turned 77 on Feb. 22, has brain cancer and has spent little time in Washington this year.
He underwent surgery last year to remove a malignant tumor and suffered a seizure Jan. 21 at Obama’s inaugural luncheon.
Kennedy was an early supporter of the president and chairs one of the Senate committees that oversees healthcare.
“It is thrilling to see you here, Teddy,” Obama said. “We are so grateful for you taking the time to be here and the extraordinary work that your committee has already started to do.”
Kennedy praised Obama for bringing the diverse group together.
“I’m looking forward to being a foot soldier in this undertaking,” he said, “and this time we will not fail.”
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Kennedy receives warm welcome at healthcare summit)

So much for that special British relationship with the U.S. Congress

The grumblings in the British press about how Prime Minister Gordon Brown was treated on his visit to the United States will almost certainly increase when they learn that several Senate committees kept working while he addressed a joint meeting of Congress.

Brown’s session with President Barack Obama at the White House was cast by some in the British press as a bit of a snub because there was no formal news conference, dinner with their spouses or other fanfare for his visit — the first by a foreign leader with the new president. Instead the two chatted with reporters in the Oval Office and took a handful of questions.

BRITAIN-BROWN/And as the British leader addressed members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, a rare honor bestowed a visiting foreign leader, at least four Senate committees plowed ahead with their hearings on a wide variety of subjects.

The First Draft: Downtown Gordon Brown

That Gordon Brown, he won’t leave town. The British Prime Minister speaks to Congress at 11 a.m., where he is expected to urge lawmakers to steer clear of protectionism. OBAMA-BRITAIN/

There’s lots more happening on Capitol Hill today.

The Senate Judiciary Committee at 10:00 considers a “truth commission” that would examine the Bush administration.

At 2:30, the IRS testifies to the Senate Investigations subcommittee about its effort to force Swiss bank UBS to disclose the names of its well-heeled clients who may be hiding assets to avoid paying taxes.

Obama as stockbroker in chief?

President Barack Obama is wearing many hats these days — commander in chief, head of state, father — so what about stock broker?
The new president, who has spent the first weeks of his administration working on proposals to boost the economy, lifted eyebrows and, at least briefly, stocks on Tuesday when he suggested that battered shares were a potentially a good investment at low prices they are currently touching.
Speaking in the Oval Office with visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Obama said it was natural that markets would be suffering from bad economic news.
But then he weighed in with this observation:
“What you’re now seeing is — is profit and earning ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you’ve got a long-term perspective on it.”
Sound like cheerleading at all?
Stocks inched upward in response to his words, but his spokesman, Robert Gibbs, played down the comments later, saying they were in line with Obama’s previous statements on the economy.
Tell us what you think. Is the president encouraging Americans to buy stocks? And is that good advice?
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama and Brown at the White House)

Britain’s Brown probes Obama on possible tennis match

We all know that Barack Obama knows his way around the basketball court. He also has a decent golf swing. But what about tennis?

That is one of the things British Prime Minister Gordon Brown inquired about during his first visit to the Oval Office since Obama took over the presidency on Jan. 20. Tom Bradby of ITV News asked them how they found working with each other.

OBAMA/PRIME MINISTER BROWN: Yes, Tom, I’ve enjoyed every conversation that we’ve had, both on the telephone and when we’ve met. I don’t think I could ever compete with you at basketball — perhaps tennis.

The First Draft: chilly winds and hot air

There’s a cold wind blowing in Washington on Tuesday morning, one day after a late-winter storm dumped up to a foot of snow on the region. DC residents anticipate a thaw when our national leaders provide their daily dose of hot air. WEATHER-USA/SNOW

President Obama meets U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the White House at 11:30. They are expected to discuss their efforts to revive the global economy.

After that, Obama meets with Boy Scouts at 3 p.m.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies to Congress about the economy starting at 10:00, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies about Obama’s budget proposal at 12:30. Markets are continuing to swoon after yesterday’s plunge; will their testimony spark a rally?

British PM Brown goes to DC bearing gifts for Obama

By Sumeet Desai and Matt Spetalnick

With the British anxious about the state of their “special relationship” with the United States, Prime Minister Gordon Brown goes to Washington this week bearing gifts for President Barack Obama as reminders of that long transatlantic lovefest.

Brown, the first European leader to visit Obama since his Jan. 20 inauguration, will give him a first edition of Martin Gilbert’s seven-volume biography of Winston Churchill, whose World War Two partnership with Franklin Roosevelt epitomized the Anglo-American alliance.
The second gift will be a framed commissioning paper for HMS Resolute, a Royal Navy ship that became icebound in the Arctic in the early 1850s while searching in vain for British explorer John Franklin’s lost expedition that had been seeking a Northwest Passage to Asia.
An American whaler later found Resolute and it was freed from the ice and returned to Queen Victoria in 1856. In 1880, the British goverment, as a gesture of thanks, presented President Rutherford B. Hayes with a desk made from timbers of the ship, and ever since it has been used in the Oval Office by most presidents, including Obama. A replica figured as a plot device in the Hollywood thriller “National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets”, in which a secret compartment in the desk contained pieces of a clue.
At their White House talks on Tuesday, Brown also planned to give Obama a pen holder fashioned from the timber of HMS Gannet, a sister ship of the Resolute that also served for a time on anti-slavery missions off Africa.
The hope, it seems, is Obama will be reminded of America’s longstanding ties to Britain, which lost its 13 colonies after they rebelled against the Crown in 1776 but which later forged an alliance that spanned two world wars in the 20th century.
Brown wants to strengthen an alliance with Obama to combat the global financial crisis and reinforce London’s relationship with Washington. But there is growing concern in Britain that Washington’s attention is increasingly on Asia, with its growing economic clout, rather than Europe. 

There was no word, however, on what gift Obama might have in mind for his guest.
For more Reuters political news, click here