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British press seduced by Obama's oratory

26 may 2011, 13:32
0
Queen Elizabeth II of Britain bids farewell to US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. ©AFP
Queen Elizabeth II of Britain bids farewell to US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. ©AFP
US President Barack Obama's speech to Britain's parliament was "Churchillian" in its delivery and a fitting end to a visit which has boosted his re-election chances, AFP reports, citing Britain's press Thursday.

During the address before both houses of Britain's parliament inside the 900-year-old Westminster Hall, Obama scoffed at suggestions of a decline in western power but earlier warned of difficulties ahead in NATO's Libya operation.

"I have not heard a speaker as eloquent as Obama since the days of Churchill and (former British politician Aneurin) Bevan," veteran Times columnist William Rees-Mogg wrote.

"Yesterday we had a modern example of the ability of rhetoric to influence the human mind, and, more significantly, the human spirit," he continued.

"Obama's speech persuaded his audience that they were listening to a man of power who is also a man of decency and idealism."

During his official three-day state visit to Britain, Obama has conducted a charm offensive to prove wrong those who doubted his commitment to the two nations' "special relationship".

According to the broadsheet's leading article, his effort, and Wednesday's speech in particular, had won over the doubters.

"It (the speech) was a moment to savour, that a young, charismatic president should...remind us of what is great about this realm as well as his own," it said.

"The grandson of a Kenyan who served as a cook in the British Army, stood before parliament as president of the US, and not a moment of his great story, and of the interweaving of his life with ours, was lost upon him," it added.

Fellow broadsheet The Telegraph also issued a glowing appraisal in an editorial piece.

"His address...at the end of a successful visit was as eloquent and thoughtful a tribute to one of history's great international friendships -- he described it as 'one of the oldest and strongest alliances the world has ever known' -- as we have heard," it said.

However, it did not go unnoticed that the endless photo-opportunities presented by the president's visits to Ireland and Britain have been partly choreographed with an eye on the 2012 US elections.

Former Telegraph editor and Fleet Street veteran Max Hastings pulled few punches in his Daily Mail column.

"Just one more stop for Obama's re-election bandwagon," said the headline.

"The truth is that he is here as part of a political milkround that started in Ireland, a country more important in the task of getting re-elected as president next year," he argued.

"London, with the photo-opportunities it offers, is just another stop."

Hastings also had words of advice for British Prime Minister David Cameron, who appeared more than comfortable to bask in the president's aura during a barbecue thrown by the pair for US and British soldiers.

"We can rub along just fine, so long as we do not delude ourselves about how much we matter amid the huge domestic and global concerns of the greatest society on earth and its leader," he suggested.

Meanwhile, The Sun tabloid focused on the president's barbecuing skills, running with the headline "The Special Relation-flip" while the Telegraph's James Kirkup hailed "a triumph for barbecue diplomacy".

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