Tennis anyone? Brown’s audience with Obama

March 3, 2009

After all the angst, the special relationship is alive and well. For Gordon Brown, it must feel like job done, to a certain degree.

Before his trip to Washington, there was endless speculation about whether or not the new president really cared about the so-called special relationship between the two countries.

And while Brown may have been the first European leader to visit Barack Obama in the White House, Japanese PM Taro Aso got in there first.

Then there was the fuss about whether or not there would be a news conference. A snow storm and sub-zero temperatures this week in Washington meant the Rose Garden was out of the question.

The news conference was going to be a few questions in the Oval Office — Brown snubbed was the immediate reaction from some of the British media travelling with the prime minister.

But to be fair, Aso just managed a doorstep.

The truth is more likely that the new administration just has its own way of doing things. The full pomp and ceremony of a state visit might not seem totally appropriate when the economy
is in such dire shape and millions of Americans are worried about whether they will stay in work.

The Oval Office setting probably suited Brown more though as he managed to avoid the unease he sometimes possesses at his regular news conference in Downing Street.

And the two men were almost gushing over each other. We both have wonderful families, said Obama, when asked what they had in common — a probably more dignified frame of reference than
George W Bush saying he and Tony Blair shared the same toothpaste.

Sport was another shared passion, according to Brown, telling Obama he couldn’t compete with him at basketball. “Perhaps tennis,” said the prime minister.

“I hear you’ve got a game,” was the president’s reply.

Perhaps they’ll play at the London G20 summit next month, but for now the seal of approval from arguably the world’s most popular current leader is just what Brown needs as he lags in the opinion polls at home.

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