Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. President:
Barack Obama’s offhand approach to Gordon Brown’s Washington visit last week came about because the president was facing exhaustion over America’s economic crisis and is unable to focus on foreign affairs, the Sunday Telegraph has been told.
Sources close to the White House say Mr Obama and his staff have been “overwhelmed” by the economic meltdown and have voiced concerns that the new president is not getting enough rest.
British officials, meanwhile, admit that the White House and US State Department staff were utterly bemused by complaints that the Prime Minister should have been granted full-blown press conference and a formal dinner, as has been customary. They concede that Obama aides seemed unfamiliar with the expectations that surround a major visit by a British prime minister.
But Washington figures with access to Mr Obama’s inner circle explained the slight by saying that those high up in the administration have had little time to deal with international matters, let alone the diplomatic niceties of the special relationship.
The real views of many in Obama administration were laid bare by a State Department official involved in planning the Brown visit, who reacted with fury when questioned by The Sunday Telegraph about why the event was so low-key.
The official dismissed any notion of the special relationship, saying: “There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.” The apparent lack of attention to detail by the Obama administration is indicative of what many believe to be Mr Obama’s determination to do too much too quickly.
In addition to passing the largest stimulus package and the largest budget in US history, Mr Obama is battling a plummeting stock market, the possible bankruptcy of General Motors, and rising unemployment. He has also begun historic efforts to achieve universal healthcare, overhaul education and begin a green energy revolution all in his first 50 days in office.
The Sunday Telegraph understands that one of Mr Obama’s most prominent African American backers, whose endorsement he spent two years cultivating, has told friends that he detects a weakness in Mr Obama’s character.
“The one real serious flaw I see in Barack Obama is that he thinks he can manage all this,” the well-known figure told a Washington official, who spoke to this newspaper. “He’s underestimating the flood of things that will hit his desk.” …
So far, Obama’s first few weeks remind me of Bill Clinton’s first few weeks, which were marred by a series rookie missteps. Hopefully, Obama will figure out that there’s only so much even the most powerful man in the world can do.