Wednesday, May 25, 2011


"The Queen did not seem to take offence at the mishap and appeared to stifle an embarrassed smile."

This is kind of humorous and shows how reporting can go.

President Obama visited England again; I've written before about how he holds the nation in thinly veiled contempt for various reasons, but he does try to put on a good show. This time, he gave a toast to the Queen of England, and from there the story gets interesting.

President Obama raised a glass and said "Ladies and gentlemen, please stand with me and raise your glasses as I propose a toast. To her majesty, the Queen. "For the vitality--" and then the orchestra started playing "God Save the Queen."

Obama kept going, over the national anthem of Great Britain, saying "...of the special relationship between our peoples and in the words of Shakespeare to ‘this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England'. To the Queen."

When the orchestra stopped playing, Obama said "to the Queen." once more.

No one raised a glass with President Obama, because the anthem was playing. The queen looked slightly embarrassed and did not answer the toast until after the song was complete. It was awkward for everyone involved, particularly President Obama and the Queen.

So here's the headline from the Telegraph, a UK newspaper:

Barack Obama suffers royal toast mishap at Queen's banquet

And the headline from CNN, a US news channel:

Obama's toast to the queen interrupted by the orchestra

The tone of each is different; both are technically true, but each reveals their slant. CNN blames the orchestra while the Telegraph focuses on Obama's embarrassment. Its easy to guess what the CNN headline would have been like for President Bush:

Hick president embarrasses America and damages relations with yet another ally.

Both the orchestra and President Obama are to blame to some degree; the orchestra shouldn't have stepped on a toast from the President of the United States, and the president should have zipped it when the music started.

I've been in situations like that before - thankfully nothing so high profile - and there's no good way to avoid looking like an idiot, but the best option is always to cut it off early.

What's interesting here is that, say, 200 years ago or so, this would have been considered evidence that President Obama was not a gentleman and did not understand the courtesies of gentle society, so he would be excluded so as to spare him moments of this sort.

Of course the Queen worked through it, thanking the president for his "very kind words" because frankly she was born to this and has been doing it for longer than President Obama has been alive. Royals learn how to be gracious and courtly before they learn how to walk - even if some of them don't take to it as well as others.

I give Obama a bit of credit for at least trying to repair the damage he's done to the relationship between the US and England, most recently a slam at the nation while in Ireland. He just seems out of his depth so often I almost feel sorry for the guy. Today he tried to laugh it off by saying it was like a soundtrack to his speech.

Really, the String Orchestra of the Scots Guard should have known how much this guy loves the sound of his own voice and realized he wasn't likely to shut up for a while. Perhaps that's what they had in mind; as Jake Tapper noted, “It almost felt like one of those moments at the Academy Awards when the speech from the recipient for Best Original Screenplay goes on too long and the orchestra tries to hustle him or her off the stage."

1 comment:

JoelAT said...

What irritates me the most is that this guy will literally bend over forwards when it comes to greeting leaders in the Arab/Chinese world, but treats our most loyal allies like they are second class citizens.