I have no idea how this important vote will go. Passionate views about immigration, Muslims, Britishness, sovereignty, borders, assimilation or lack of it…. the issues revolving around whether Britain should stay in the European Union or should it go touch every third rail ever forged. It’s their choice.
The President of the United States, not surprisingly, has an opinion on which way he would like the vote to turn out. Back in April, he appeared alongside Prime Minister David Cameron urging stay, and even penned a column in the UK Telegraph that was titled: Barack Obama: As your friend, let me say that the EU makes Britain even greater that began this way:
“In 1939, President Franklin D Roosevelt offered a toast to King George VI in the White House. “I am persuaded that the greatest single contribution our two countries have been enabled to make to civilisation, and to the welfare of peoples throughout the world,” he said, “is the example we have jointly set by our manner of conducting relations between our two nations.”
Not surprisingly, the first polls taken after the president’s “intervention” in British domestic affairs (having an opinion qualified as intervention for the purposes of public opinion polling) showed backlash movement against Obama’s urging to stay in the Union and anywhere from 55-60% disapproval that he even would render a public view in the first place. How dare he, of course. This may have been payback, 52 years in waiting, for the negative reviews seen here when the Beatles first arrived in America in 1964. World-renowned rightwing music critic William F. Buckley had written in September of that year: The Beatles are not merely awful; I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are god awful. They are so unbelievably horribly, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music, even as the imposter popes went down in history as “anti-popes.”
Even more not surprisingly, Republicans lectured President Obama for his unpresidential, out-of-line, possibly illegal, maybe impeachable-offense-level buttinsky tactics. On Monday 6/20, the Hill reported that…
“Senators Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Lee (Utah) and Jeff Sessions (Alabama) warned the President in a Monday letter not to try to influence Great Britain’s Thursday referendum to stay in the EU or leave, dubbed the “Brexit.” The senators wrote that the U.S. should take “no official position” on the referendum, objecting to comments Obama made about it in April.“Regardless of the outcome of the United Kingdom’s referendum,” the senators wrote, “we firmly believe that the United States and the United Kingdom should continue to work closely together for the benefit of all.”
Just how upset were those three Senators when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was invited over-the-head of the President to lobby the US Congress about the Iran nuclear deal? Not very. In fact, they were thrilled. Was Netanyahu’s an “official position,” that could be construed as intervention in our domestic politics? The answer is that of course Netanyahu was trying to influence the congressional vote… he did nothing illegal.. he was allowed to have an opinion… but ultimately failed and the deal went through. Same rules apply to the President of the United States being perfectly within his rights to opine on the crucial Brexit vote. So the Obama Double Standard stands…. and is not to be defied by any Republican Senator, ever. Let the hypocrisy and disrespect drip all the way to January 20, 2017.
In the end, no matter the outcome of the vote, we’ll be by the Brits’ side and they will be by ours. As we were 75 years ago in WWII.
The British hardly have clean hands here. Hang in with me. Much of the current American voter anger, strife, racial animus, and distrust of government goes far back in American History. You could even make the case that Donald Trump is the living embodiment of every divisive grievance you can think of, rolled into one, going back hundreds of years….. that brings us to the US Civil War, more than 150 years ago. Military History Monthly reminds us that
“When the South seceded in early 1861, it possessed at most 10% of the industrial base of the former Union. The young Confederacy would go on to make heroic efforts to create an industrial base, but even at its best could produce only a small fraction of the needs of a nation at war.
‘How, then, did the Confederacy fight on so long and bitterly? The output of British factories, mills, shipyards, and arsenals flooded through the Union blockade of Southern ports to provide the bulk of Confederate needs. Without that massive support, the Confederacy would surely have collapsed within 12 to 18 months. Given that the bloodiest years of the war were 1863-1865, it was British material support that allowed the vast majority of the blood-letting to occur.”
It could be just me, but I consider British military and industrial support for the South in the Civil War just a bit more explicit and interventionist than a politician, even a president, merely having an opinion on an upcoming vote. It took Teddy Roosevelt, some 50 years later, to put the Civil War animosity to bed, forging the partnership we’ve had for more than 100 years. Let the Brexit fish and chips fall where they may.