LONDON — President Obama is back in Europe today but there are no crowds awaiting his arrival. Indeed the greeting from some of his hosts is nakedly hostile.
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, welcomed him to the city with a fiery broadside describing Obama as “incoherent,” “inconsistent,” and “downright hypocritical.”
In a phrase that evoked racist jibes in the United States, Johnson described him as “the part-Kenyan president” in an op-ed in Britain's best-selling Sun newspaper.
Johnson also repeating the oft-cited, but factually dubious claim, that Obama ordered the removal of a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office.
Johnson, a Conservative member of parliament and one of the favorites to become Britain's next prime minister, suggested Obama may have been motivated to remove the statuette because of an “ancestral dislike of the British empire.”
As prime minister, Churchill had sent British troops to quell an uprising against the British in Kenya.
Dinesh D’Souza was denounced as a racist for making a similar point in his 2010 book The Roots of Obama’s Rage.
“Obama views Muslims who are fighting against America in Iraq and Afghanistan as freedom fighters, somewhat akin to Indians or Kenyans fighting to push out their British colonial occupier.”
Johnson was unloading on Obama because he is furious that the U.S. president has intervened in the upcoming referendum on whether Britain should remain part of the European Union.
Ever since the referendum was announced, Obama has quietly indicated that he feels Britain is better off inside the EU. That suggestion turned into outright campaigning when he published an article in The Telegraph newspaper calling on British voters to stay in surprisingly passionate terms.
“I will say, with the candour of a friend, that the outcome of your decision is a matter of deep interest to the United States. The tens of thousands of Americans who rest in Europe’s cemeteries are a silent testament to just how intertwined our prosperity and security truly are,” he wrote.
He argued that Britain’s influence has been amplified by its membership of the European Union, helping to secure agreements on trade, climate change and even the recent deal with Iran.
“This kind of cooperation—from intelligence sharing and counterterrorism to forging agreements to create jobs and economic growth—will be far more effective if it extends across Europe. Now is a time for friends and allies to stick together,” he said. “Together, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union have turned centuries of war in Europe into decades of peace.”
Obama remains popular in Britain so it’s no surprise that the out campaign is desperate to dismiss Obama’s intervention. Despite the passion of the out campaign, most opinion polls suggest Britain will narrowly vote to remain part of the EU.
Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, told Obama to “Butt out.”
Former Labour minister Kate Hoey claimed Obama’s intervention was “insulting” and “patronizing.”
Johnson, who is by far the most high-profile member of the out campaign, accused Obama of hypocrisy, claiming that Washington would never countenance a deal that diluted U.S. sovereignty.
“The US guards its democracy with more hysterical jealousy than any other country on earth,” he wrote.
For the United States to tell us in the UK that we must surrender control of so much of our democracy—it is a breathtaking example of the principle of do-as-I-say-but-not-as-I-do. It is incoherent. It is inconsistent, and yes it is downright hypocritical.”
Johnson had already called Obama a hypocrite this month, prompting a reporter to ask White House spokesman Josh Earnest if there was a meeting planned between the president and the mayor during the trip to London.
Earnest interrupted the question to wrongly claim that Johnson was no longer the mayor of London, and then said: “No, I’m not aware of any former mayors who are on the President’s itinerary for this trip.”
Johnson’s term as mayor will come to an end next month.
Obama is unlikely to be too disappointed to miss out on tea and crumpets with the mayor, however, as he will be having lunch with the Queen to celebrate her 90th birthday, and then hold meetings with Prime Minister Cameron before dinner at Kensington Palace hosted by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate) and Prince Harry on Friday night.