Washington DC: This is a British politics blog, but occasionally it is interesting to make comments on the politics of other countries when visiting them. Yesterday evening I watched President Obama give a presidential address, ostensibly on the departure of combat troops from Iraq in what he called 'an age without surrender ceremonies'. Watching it just a couple of miles from where it was given in the Oval Office made it seem different.
It was a little to odd to see, while the President was in full flow, a message flash across the bottom of the screen 'Discuss with Facebook Friends' at the website of the station concerned. The address was preceded by an advert for carpets and then some commentary which said that the speech could not have been made without the efforts of President George W. Bush, said apparently without irony. The President was actually quite generous to his predecessor whilst pointing out his disagreements with him.
In many ways the speech sounded like an election broadcast before the mid-terms to me. There was quite a lot on the economy and the need to 'strengthen our middle class', a phrase that would be taboo in Britain. There were also quite a few rhetorical clichés such as describing Iraq as 'the cradle of civilisation'.
It is sobering to think that this has been one of America's longest wars and also one of its more controversial as the President admitted. The entanglement in Afganistgan may be even be more difficult to pull out of whilst being able to make any kind of claim to success.
Prime ministerial broadcasts were very much in vogue in the 1970s when Ted Heath was always declaring states of emergency and lecturing the nation in gloomy and wooden tones, much good that it did him.