First, thanks to all of you who called to my attention President Obama’s decision to remove the Churchill bust from the Oval Office and return it to the Brits.
I held off commenting on the story until now for a number of reasons I’ll discuss after first posting the following excerpts from a Feb. 14 Daily Telegraph story. If you’re familiar with the Telegraph’s story, you can skip down to below the star line where my comments begin.
From the Telegraph - - -
A bust of the former prime minister once voted the greatest Briton in history, which was loaned to George W Bush from the Government's art collection after the September 11 attacks, has now been formally handed back.
The bronze by Sir Jacob Epstein, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds if it were ever sold on the open market, enjoyed pride of place in the Oval Office during President Bush's tenure.
But when British officials offered to let Mr Obama to hang onto the bust for a further four years, the White House said: "Thanks, but no thanks."
Diplomats were at first reluctant to discuss the whereabouts of the Churchill bronze, after its ejection from the seat of American power. But the British Embassy in
American politicians have made quoting Churchill, whose mother was American, something of an art form, but not Mr Obama, who prefers to cite the words and works of his hero Abraham Lincoln. Indeed a bust of Mr Lincoln now sits in the Oval Office where Epstein's Churchill once ruled the roost.
Churchill has less happy connotations for Mr Obama than those American politicians who celebrate his wartime leadership. It was during Churchill's second premiership that
The rejection of the bust has left some British officials nervously reading the runes to see how much influence the
Now it is likely that Gordon Brown will offer a alternative symbol of Anglo-American fealty when he visits
The rest of the story’s here.
Americans understand that each President’s personal preferences govern to a large extent what items are displayed in the Oval Office. FDR surrounded himself with naval prints, paintings and ship models. So, to a lesser extent, did JFK. Ike favored paintings and prints reflecting themes from the American West. W favored art works from
So I have no problem with President Obama deciding he didn’t want the Churchill bust in the Oval Office.
But did he and his staff have to return it to the British in such a clumsy – here, take back your bust – way?
Of course not!
But even after acting in a clumsy manner, there was still an opportunity for Obama to redeem the situation.
And that’s why I didn’t comment at first.
Folks, I was hoping that between Team Obama’s clumsy return of the Churchill bust in early Feb. and PM Brown’s visit to The White House this past week, the two leaders and their staffs would arrange something that would eliminate concerns in reasonable minds that Obama meant to snub our closest and most important ally.
I was wishing for a graceful resolution of the matter in a way that would remind us all of the Anglo-American alliance’s paramount importance in maintaining freedom in the world.
Something like Obama asking Brown whether the British people (the Epstein bust is part of the national art collection) would consider making a permanent loan of the bust to the American people on condition that it be displayed in a prominent place in The White House as a symbol of the enduring friendship and alliance between our two peoples.
While Churchill reportedly didn’t like the Epstein bust, he'd have understood the symbolic value of placing the bust on display in one of The White House public rooms or perhaps the entry foyer used by heads of other nations and guests at state dinners.
If such a permanent loan of the bust could have been arranged, that would've been reason to hold a brief ceremony in The White House at which Brown and Obama could have spoken of the extraordinary symbolism of the event.
Churchill’s mother was born in
Churchill was only the second person to be granted honorary American citizenship (
It’s often hard to correct mistakes. But in the case of the Churchill bust it would have been easy to get past Obama’s clumsiness and suggestion of snubbing to an act of grace reflecting appreciation for the best in the histories of
But that didn’t happen; and you have to wonder why not.
During the later part of December 1941 and into January of 1942 Churchill, President Roosevelt and many of their top aides worked in
During that time Churchill stayed at The White House which he left on the morning of Dec. 26, 1941 to address a joint session of Congress. Here are the closing words of that address:
It is not given to us to peer into the mysteries of the future. Still, I avow my hope and faith, sure and inviolate, that in the days to come the British and American peoples will for their own safety and for the good of all walk together side by side in majesty, in justice and in peace.