Quentin Letts is a columnist for the Daily Mail. He cut his teeth as the Telegraph‘s Peterborough, and has been The Times‘ New York correspondent. Much of what he writes is calculatedly over the top (think: Maureen Dowd but without the labored Shakespeare references).
Today he fixed his sights on this morning’s joint press conference by President Obama and Prime Minister Gordon Brown. I think it’s fair to say that Mr. Letts’ respect for the PM is….measured. If Frost/Nixon started out as Peter Morgan’s five finger exercise in comeuppance for Sir David Frost for his many years of masquerade as a Tory wolf in Labor’s clothing (which it did), imagine what fun Mr. Letts would have with Brown/Obama.
Oh Gordon, your smile! The Prime Minister, appearing alongside Barack Obama after breakfast today, stared at his American visitor and almost shattered the TV camera lenses with his moony grin.
Mr Obama uttered a sentence. Mr Brown nodded. Mr Obama paused. Mr Brown froze, frowning. Mr Obama made a very slight joke. Mr Brown gassed himself, laughing for a good 30 seconds, eyelids fluttering like the wings of a soft-flapping Cabbage White.
Allegedly the most charismatic politician in the world, Mr Obama was a disappointment. It sounded as though he had a blocked nose and so his lack of energy may have been a symptom of a cold. Jet lag, too. He probably wished he could have stayed in bed.
He spoke slowly, in a meandering manner. Some might say that he was thoughtful and professorial. Others might call his manner circuitous, even yarny. Am I saying that he was a bore? Oh dear. I find that I possibly am.
But in a good way, arguably. He came across as a president who would consult and think thrice before bombing the smithereens out of a foreign capital. This, comrades, can be counted progress.
The usual goons were in attendance. What a kerfuffle an American presidential creates. Outside, in the road off Whitehall and in the great court of the Foreign Office, I counted 24 Range Rovers, all of them pretty brand spanking new.
Mr Obama fiddled with the cuff of one sleeve, Prince Charles-style, while Mr Brown hosed him down with treacle. The Prime Minister, fluffing with nerves in a couple of places, spoke of the president’s ‘leadership, vision, courage, dynamism, energy, achievements…’
On and on it went. Stop, man! But he would not. ‘A partnership of purpose, resilient, constant.’ We were in total love mode. For his part, Mr Obama stared at Mr Brown with two weary, slightly glazed eyes, his mouth agape.
When Mr Brown let him get a word in, it was ‘Gordon’ this and ‘Gordon’ that. Mr Brown had by now turned his profile to us and it meant we could see the silhouette of his pouchy-cheeked, greedy grin. His lips puckered, forming the shape of a robin’s beak, and he nodded slowly, repeatedly, at times even swallowing, so much was he salivating.
When he turned back to face us his eyes were narrow with creamy pleasure and he pushed forth his chin, stretching his lower neck. Now he placed his hands behind his back and bounced a half inch or so on the balls of his feet, relishing the sound of Solomon Obama’s replies to a few questions from the Press.
Secretary of State Clinton and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in London this morning. Quentin Letts writes: “What an odd duo Mrs. Clinton and the boy Milipede make. She looks like a mother taking her teenage son round a university campus on Open Day.”