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Friday, May 27, 2011

The Griswold’s in Europe

“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience.” — Albert Camus

In 1985 there was a very funny movie called “European Vacation.” The film starred Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo and was about the misadventures of middle-class family from Chicago traveling to Europe. One of the funnier scenes was where Clark Griswold got stuck in a round-a-bout in London for several hours and kept passing Big Ben. For anyone who has traveled to the United Kingdom and had problems navigating he numerous round-a-bouts the scene was hilarious.

Last week while Benjamin Netanyahu was making a hit addressing a joint session of Congress the Obama’s were off to Ireland, Britain and France on their version of European Vacation.

They started off in Ireland where Obama was in search of his roots at a pub in Moneygall where he drank Guinness, told jokes and attempted to speak in an Irish brog. After gulping down a mouthful of the black Irish stout that left a foam mustache on his face he looked more the character on the box of Uncle Ben’s Rice. As for the brog and his roots I won’t touch that one with a 10 foot pole.

His next stop was at the United States Embassy in Dublin where his Cadillac armored limousine got stuck on the driveway approach to the embassy. The limo known as the “beast” due to its weight was pulling out of the embassy and the undercarriage got hung up on the steep approach. An intern in civil engineering could have told his brilliant staff that the grade of the approach was too severe for the car to clear the apex of the driveway. This was just another embarrassment for the people who plan his events.

His next faux pas was when he toasted the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Not being briefed on the time allowed for his laborious toast he rambled on as the orchestra began to play “God Save the Queen.” Not was his toast an embarrassment his wife was decked out in a white sleeveless dress that looked like she bought it at Ross Dress for Less. A real beauty at the table. She looked like she was dressed more for an appearance on Oprah than a state dinner.

If all of this was not enough the mayor of London announced that the president’s motorcade and his limo “The Beast” would have to pay a “congestion charge.” A 2003 allows the mayor to levy the fine for excessive traffic since the streets were technically closed during the president’s visit.

The London Evening Standard reported:

“The Mayor told the Standard each car in the President’s motorcade will be billed for £10 – including the bomb-proof Cadillac. Mayor Johnson also said he had a discussion with Obama about the U.S. embassy’s refusal to pay £5.3 million in congestion-charge (C-charge) fines.

But the embassy said its position on not paying the C-charge was “wholly in accordance” with a convention on taxing diplomats. Johnson said: “Our roads were not closed during the President’s visit so his motorcade will pay. The Beast will pay the charge, I’m delighted to say.

“We didn’t charge the Pope when he was here because all the roads were closed, so the Popemobile was exempt. But this was different.”

Mayor Johnson raised the issue of the U.S. embassy’s unpaid C-charge bill with the President during a state banquet at Buckingham Palace. He said: “We had a very friendly conversation. Suffice to say discussions will be ongoing.”

A spokesman for the Mayor later said: “They already owe £5.3 million so it is probable the bill for the motorcade will just go on top of that.”

A number of embassies in the capital insist the congestion charge is a tax giving them immunity from it.”

For the record, one British pound sterling equals about $1.64 U.S. That means each car will have to pay $16.41, and that the embassy’s total bill equals a whopping $8,698,360.00.

But a source told the Evening Standard the president and the embassy have no intention of paying the fines:

“We conscientiously abide by all UK laws, including paying fines for all traffic violations, such as parking and speeding violations.

Our position on the congestion charge is based on the 1960 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which prohibits the imposition of this sort of tax on diplomatic missions.”

I’m sure that will continue to strengthen the “special relationship.”

On the heels of Obama flubbing a toast to the queen (and talking over the British national anthem), it seems only appropriate to bring you what one British reporter has dubbed Obama’s “top 10” insults against Britain.

The Telegraph’s Nile Gardiner compiled the list, something he’s done in the past. But, he says, since then a lot has happened.

“In honor of President Obama’s state visit to Britain this week, here’s an updated and revised list, as a reminder to readers of the president’s less than stellar track record when it comes to US-British relations,” he writes. “The US president will no doubt be careful not to offend his hosts when he travels to London, and he will receive a warm welcome from the Queen and the Prime Minister, as any American president would. But the prospect of an embarrassing diplomatic gaffe or insensitive remark cannot be ruled out from a world leader whose administration has all too often specialized in them.”

It‘s important to note that Gardiner’s piece was written before the now-infamous toast and the Westminster Abbey guest-book signing. So that he would say “the prospect of an embarrassing diplomatic gaffe or insensitive remark cannot be ruled out” is not only prophetic but also sad — sad that it would seem so easy to predict.

  1. Siding with Argentina over the Falklands
  2. Calling France America’s strongest ally
  3. Downgrading the Special Relationship
  4. Supporting a federal Europe and undercutting British sovereignty
  5. Betraying Britain to appease Moscow over the New START Treaty
  6. Placing a “boot on the throat” of BP
  7. Throwing Churchill out of the Oval Office
  8. DVDs for the Prime Minister
  9. Insulting words from the State Department
  10. Undermining British influence in NATO

You can see a more detailed version of Gardner’s list in the Telegraph by clicking here.

Clark Griswold and Barack Obama have two things in common. One is that they are both from Chicago and the second is that they have no sense of travel outside of the United States. I guess I can’t expect too much from a community organizer when it comes to etiquette and decorum. After all how can a guy who spent most of his years chucking and jiving on the streets of Chicago know how to toast a queen.

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