Things have turned ugly in the war of words between the two sides of the “Brexit” campaign.
From London, US president Barack Obama wrote an article urging America’s “friend” to stay in the European Union. And Boris Johnson, the Conservative mayor of London and a hopeful for the job of British prime minister in the near future, responded by attributing Obama’s stance to the president’s ethnicity and linking that to a resentment of the British empire.
In an article that appeared in The Sun, one of the UK’s most right-wing tabloids, Johnson tells a story about a bust of Winston Churchill which Obama may or may not have removed from the Oval Office. Johnson says that if Obama did so, it might have been because of ”the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British empire—of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.”
He says Americans would never submit to such a union, and Obama shouldn’t advise Britain to take a course he would refuse, hypothetically, for his own people. The mayor writes:
The US guards its democracy with more hysterical jealousy than any other country on earth.
It is not just that the Americans refuse to recognise the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, or that they have refused to sign up to the International Convention on the Law of the Sea.
America is the only country in the world that has so far failed to sign up to the UN convention on the rights of the child, or the UN convention on the emancipation of women.
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.
Johnson’s article also cites often-used arguments about how much control the UK has ceded to Brussels, and how much membership of the union costs.
Johnson has made some nasty gaffes before. He had to apologize to the families of soccer fans crushed to death in one of the sport’s worst tragedies, for implying that some died because they were drunk. It’s hard to believe that he is unaware of those sectors of US society that still question where Obama was born, his religion, and his right to govern.
Boris Johnson makes a speciality of saying things that few others would get away with. His persona of a floppy-haired, precocious, overgrown schoolboy seems to give him license. He’s clownish, many believe, but authentic. But acting the “lovable” clown might not work as a strategy to get him out of these self-made scrapes forever.