The Obamaniacs of the UK press

I didn’t rush to make a blog post after the Obombashell news that the American prez has made some anodyne and highly qualified comments about Scottish independence. Because the truth is I don’t really give a toss what Obama said, and I expect you don’t either. In this we are merely expressing the equivalent Scottish view to the widespread public opinion in the USA regarding Scottish independence. They don’t give a toss either, the only difference being that whereas we’ve all heard of Barack Obama, very few people in the USA are aware that Scotland is holding an independence referendum. The number of people in the USA who know about Scotland’s referendum is probably lower than the number who think we’re already independent. It may be a higher number than the number who believe Scotland is a part of Ireland, but that’s a bit of a coin toss.

This is actually, believe it or not, a positive. The only way that the Scottish independence campaign would impinge upon the consciousness of yer average truck driver in Arkansas or a shop worker in North Dakota would be if members of the McTaliban were kidnapping US servicepeople and force feeding them the Collected Works of the Prophet Al-Iqsammin. Scotland’s US obscurity is a good thing – it means we’re not causing any upset. “Down with the Great Satan USA” is not a pro-indy campaigning slogan in this referendum.

Obama recognised this. The way he phrased his comments was significant, and careful. The US prez said that “from the outside” the UK seemed to be working, refraining from any comment about how it seems to be working from the inside. He did not have to add the “from the outside” qualifier, but he did.

Obama’s the American president, he only is where he is because he’s negotiated the snakepit of Democrat party infighting, and the brutal slugathons of two presidential campaigns. American politics is all about dressing up tiny little policy differences and pretending that they’re significant. Since there is possibly even less difference between the two main US parties than the fag paper separating Labour from the Tories, window dressing is all they’ve got. It’s not the shop contents that matter from the outside, it’s the window dressing. Obama is very well aware of the difference between how a political system looks on the outside and how it appears on the inside – knowing that is his job. As far as Scotland is concerned he’s on the outside, which means he can safely file it under “not my problem”.

But he went further. Obama twice stated that this vote is for the people of Scotland to decide, and it was significant that he did not explicitly urge Scottish voters to stick their cross in the Nope to Hope box. The truth is that the USA can live with the result whatever way it goes. Not that this was apparent from the hysterical coverage given to the Nope to Hope comments by U-Kok-Upists.

Can you imagine the uproar there would have been in the UK media if Obama had said something along the lines of “Go for it Scotland. Wipe the smug look aff thon Davie’s face. We don’t think much of the lightweight either.” It was never going to happen. That is not how international politics works. The diplomacy rule is that when asked about a contentious decision whose outcome does not have a great impact upon you either way, you do your best to minimise the impact of any comment you make and you don’t do anything to embarrass your hosts.  That’s especially true when your hosts have explicitly asked you to say something about the situation.  That’s pretty much what Obama did. He has no control over the hysteria of Better Together and the wild dog pack of the UK press.

In the US coverage of the Obamaplea the headlines were more interested in his much stronger comments about the UK remaining united with the EU. Oddly these comments didn’t receive much comment or publicity in the UK media.  Perhaps they wouldn’t have gone down too well with the swivel eyed readers of the Telegraph.  The Wall Street Journal’s headline on the speech screamed: Obama Says UK Should Stay in EU. And in much smaller letters the sub heading said: As for the Coming Scottish Independence Vote, President Says US Satisfied With a ‘United’ UK. Spot the difference in importance rankings?

Meanwhile the right wing Washington Times reported: Obama: hard to see UK benefiting from leaving EU

Here’s what Obama had to say about the prospect of an in-out referendum on the UK’s membership of the UK:

“And it’s hard for me to imagine that project [the EU] going well in the absence of Great Britain. And I think it’s also hard for me to imagine that it would be advantageous for Great Britain to be excluded from political decisions that have an enormous impact on its economic and political life … I’m sure the people of Great Britain will make the right decision.”

That’s a much stronger statement which comes as close as possible to an outright plea to vote against leaving the EU without actually saying “For God’s sake don’t listen to nut-job Nigel.” But it was scarcely mentioned in yesterday’s focus on his bland comment about Scotland.

Did anyone seriously expect anything different? Just look at how the equally anodyne comments of Mark Carney of the Bank of England were spun. A studiously neutral speech saying that the bank would do whatever politicians told it to do became a warning of economic armageddon if Scotland continued to share the pound with the rest of the UK.

Intriguingly, although amidst the welter of UK press reports yesterday I can’t track it down now (perhaps a reader can supply the link – this is citizen’s journalism after all, so you’re expected to do some of the legwork yourselves) there was a wee menshie that the Scottish Government was surprised by Obama’s intervention.  They were not surprised that he’d said something blandish in support of not giving the US more changes in international relationships because they’ve already got their hands full, they were surprised that he’d said so now – the Scottish Government hadn’t been expecting anything from him until much nearer the vote.  The fact it’s happened now means that it will be lost and forgotten by the time September arrives, and Better Together has already shot the bolt of the biggest celebrity endorsement it’s going to get.

All that Obama’s comments showed was the Scottish media is not fit for purpose. But we knew that already, and it’s one of the reasons only seen from the inside that led us to this independence debate in the first place. All that really happened yesterday is that the voters of Scotland got more confirmation that if we want to live in a country where grown up and informed debate is possible, we need to vote yes in September.


0 thoughts on “The Obamaniacs of the UK press

  1. Even if Mr Obama had said “Go for it Scotland. Wipe the smug look aff thon Davie’s face. We don’t think much of the lightweight either.” we wouldn’t have known.

    The UK media would just not report it.

  2. The story seems to have disappeared a bit maybe because of the mauling it got on Kall Kaye this morning. Not quite what they expected from the over the top hype of yesterday. Shot in own foot again!!

  3. Obama has bigger problems than Scotland voting for Independence. Look at the comment, it is very neutral and doesn’t actually commit the US to anything. This was nothing more than a favour for Cameron, who as Prime Minister for the UK, feels unable to speak for the UK within Scotland.
    And that is the crucial thing here. He needs the leaders of foreign powers to speak for him.

    He and the no campaign simply have no argument to make for the Union to continue. You could base it on mutual respect, but once they started down the “too wee, too poor, too stupid” cul-de-sac, they’ve found that they can’t really do the respect thing. They also don’t seem capable of speaking with one voice on the issue. The day after Darlings gaffe, we get Lamont calling yes voters gullible. Then we get Gordon Brown relaunching his pro-union campaign for the third time? I’m losing count.

    We don’t much care for Mr Cameron or his party. What on earth makes him think, we give a shit about Obama?

    Of course ultimately, despite what the press say, the US does not have a vote in this election,

  4. Thanks Paul. A nice, rational analysis there.
    I’m afraid I got pretty crabbit and emotional about it all yesterday, this coming on the back of ‘Blut und Boden’ and all.
    Twis a bad day at the office for me.
    Just hope I can last the distance with three months to go.

  5. I have held back from commenting on Uranus’s words from above on that most vexing of questions; vis freedom for Scotland. I have only just recovered from my duties at the Counting Hous and just returned to my pit in France.

    I have become less interested in what O’Bama had to say than the reaction by the nae sayers to it. Not to what he said but that he said anything. Their feeding frenzy and verbal vomiting tells the tale.

    They are so desperate for anthing to take the focus away from hard facts and analysis that the few words spoken , of no great consequence, were seized like a drowning man seizing a passing floating straw.

    I think No know they are losing and and would cheer on a North Korean invasion rather than let the People chose indepence in a democratic process and ballot.

    It is appropriate that on this day, the 70 th anniversary of D Day that we remember the word the French used for the people who queued up to serve the occupying German forces.


    That works for me.

  6. Spot on dug. I heard Obama on the news and was amazed (poor deluded innocent that I am) that no one seemed to attach any importance to Obama telling (or at least as close to telling that you can get in diplo-press-conference-speak) the UK that they better not leave the EU or the special relationship will be referred to Relate.

    Instead, we get wee Dougie wheeled out, breathlessly telling everyone that our chum the prez said no! and by gosh we better listen to our chums or, or, well we just better.

  7. Isn’t it the case that Bitter together are infringing copyright laws by using Milton Glaser’s design for the Obama campaign? Did Milton Glaser autho
    rise it’s use or as perhaps the property of the Obama campaign did they allow it ?

  8. Did you see Craig Murray’s comment ( “If the United States truly believes it has a deep interest in making sure that Scotland does not become independent, we can be quite certain that America will be pulling out all the stops to make sure that No wins. The language is the language of intelligence service tasking memoranda, which Obama is consciously or unconsciously reproducing. I have personally been involved in a great deal of intelligence service tasking. Intelligence service resources, both personnel and financial, are deployed to a greater or lesser extent to a task according to an assessment of the depth of national interest involved. If Obama has decided the US has a deep interest in the result of the Scottish independence campaign, we can expect hidden interference at Ukrainian levels.”

  9. Paul, your analysis is spot-on.

    I saw no mention in our press of President Obama’s comment about the referendum, and few about the UK and EU; most of our news media concentrated on his comments about the prisoner swap that freed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and the domestic reaction thereto. Which highlights the nit I must pick with you: There is a major difference between Democrats and Republicans.

    Democrats, timid and corporate-owned as too many are (I can only hope that the Dems someday are as progressive as the SNP seems to be), are at least grounded in reality, and in this plane of consciousness. Republicans who claim to be so have been purged from the ranks of their party by the “teabaggers,” to whose level of batshit, racist insanity UKIP can only aspire.

    As a progressive Democrat myself, far too many of my party are far too reticent to fight for our values, far too likely to creep when they should sprint. But our values bear regular people in mind. Republicans can claim no such thing. Barack Obama or John McCain/Willard “Mitt” Romney? Joe Biden or Sarah Palin/Paul Ryan? Senate President Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner?

    From the middle of North America, it seems to me that even your Tories are more grounded in reality than our Republicans, and I will bet you Mountain Dew to Irn Bru that every vowel movement from a U.S. politician that makes you slap your forehead and ask, “Did he/she really just say that?!” comes from a Republican. That difference alone is thicker than a ream, much less cigarette paper.

    That said, you’re one of the best bloggers I’ve found. Keep up the great work. And post photos of that model tram!

    • I’ll do an update on progress on the tramway very soon. It’s slow work, but it’s coming together very nicely. The trackwork and the roadway are all done, and am currently working on the pavements. Once I’ve got that finished I can get back to making more buildings. It’s only now the track is done that I can see what space is available for buildings and can plan them properly.

      At the moment I’m spending my spare time on Google looking for pics of old Scottish tram depots to use as a prototype for the tram depot I’ll be building.

      I’m a bit pissed off though, because I spent £4.50 on a model railway magazine that promised on the cover to reveal the secrets of a master model building maker. I wanted to find a better way of making windows, so bought it, only to discover that windows are dealt with in the following sentence “buy etched ones that are already made”.

      • Heh, a costly lesson indeed. That’s money better spent on beer. Sounds like you’re making good progress otherwise, though. Saving the overhead wire for last?

        As for photos of tram depots, someone must have some. A lot of modelers here tap local historical societies or railway museums that have archives, or model railroad discussion groups. You might be surprised by what a “Hey, does anyone have photos of…” call into the ether can turn up.

        • I’ve not worked out how to do the overhead wire yet. It needs to be easy to dismantle and put back together again. But it’s only going to be for show – I was thinking of using nylon fishing line because it’s strong and has a bit of give in it. The problem is that you can’t buy OO or HO scale tram catenary poles for double decker trams, the only commercially available ones are for Continental or US single deckers. So they’ll have to be made.

          I’m still working out the tram depot in my head. I won’t be able to copy a real one exactly because it needs to fit the layout so just now I’m only looking at photies to get some ideas I can use.

          Here’s a pic of progress so far.

          • Nice!

            I can see how poles will be a problem, though. I know that here, hanging wires were strung between lampposts (you can still tell which Chicago streets had streetcars — the ones with straight poles opposite each lamppost); any chance Glasgow did that with its system, which could then be faithfully replicated?

      • I don’t know if it’s still there, but there used to be an intact granite tram depot on Market Street in Aberdeen at the Torry Bridge end.

      • Paul, just along the road from where I live in Musselburgh, you can still see the entrance to the old Musselburgh Tram Depot next to the famous Luca’s ice cream shop and café.

        You can see it very blearily on a Street View.

        18 High St
        Musselburgh, East Lothian EH21

        The remains of the old fittings for the electrical wires can still be seen.

        • Here’s a photie here.

          Also a lovely building, but not really easily adaptable for the layout I’m building. I love Scottish architecture. That’s the bit of this modelling business I really enjoy.

          Mind you, the building I’ll make will have to be a sort of mash-up – I need a tram shed with three tracks, and on the back of it some office buildings which will front onto a street. I doubt there will be an actual building that will fit the available space. I could maybe adapt the frontage of that Musselburgh building … hmmm…

          I’ve got a plastic kit to make an old Edinburgh tram. Not got around to building it yet.

          Did Magrit Curran not vote in favour of the Edinburgh trams? That must make her a Stairheid Trammy.

      • You want a tram depot? So does the Dundee Museum of Transport and there’s one available at Maryfield (I know it’s not Glasgow but it’s the same colour) –

        There’s also a lot of photos and info about the site on Canmore –

        If you’re not already a member, the Tramway and Light Railway Society’s site is a good source of information on tram modelling, as is their monthly Tramfare magazine.

        Just had a look at your layout so far – very impressive.

        • Well I might not be able to do much to help buy the building. (Unless you fancy putting your museum in a hoose in Spain? No? Oh well…) But I could certainly make a OO scale model of it. Mind you, it would be at least a metre long judging by those pics.

          The tramway info site also has details of a model tram exhibition in Manchester in July. I’d already arranged to use up a couple of precious days of respite care for my partner so I can go.

          There’s some nice pics of some model Scottish trams here

    • I’d take a Democrat over a Republican any day, John but, aye, you guys do, I think, need to find yourselves a bit again and try to break free from the corporate influence.
      Maybe when we gain our independence we’ll be well placed to pass on some new tips. 🙂
      Keep following Paul for the latest on the trams!

      • We’re working on it!

        The election of Elizabeth Warren to the Senate is a good sign, and progressive Democrats did well earlier this week in states where primary elections (in which the parties’ candidates are chosen for the general election on 4 November) were held. It’s going to take a while, though because our system is by design evolutionary. The best bet is we hold seats this year and take what Senate seats the Republicans cede by nominating the looniest of their loonies, and then take many more seats (and state governorships) in 2016. Anyone interested in following our brand of political lunacy should check out Daily Kos.

        As for passing along some tips, I’ll look forward to hearing them as you get your constitution sorted out! I am interested to learn more about the Jimmy Reid Foundation and its Common Weal proposal, and whether there are elements of it that could be adopted here.

        And as I’m a fellow foamer — a train fan who’s so rabid he foams at the mouth when one goes by — especially for the trams (streetcars/trolleys) and electric railroads we had known as interurbans (Canadians knew them as radial railways), I’ll be watching this site closely for that, too.

  10. Excellent, and what I came to understand as the day wore on, I said to my friend in Pennsylvania that it was a pity he spoke, not for the words he actually said but for the use those words were put to. The amount of spin put on a few really mild words says to me that we are winning.

  11. I’ve got two friends from NY visiting end of August. I wonder how they will see it.

    Last time I asked they said they had heard absolutely nothing on US news.

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  13. I remember some Americans wanted to nuke Scotland because we released Abdulbassat al-Magrahi. Heard of us then OK. Of course we were not doing what they wanted. Nothing much changes.

  14. My take on O’Bama’s words, however sight, were that he and Alex Salmond have never been best of friends what with Alex’s condemnation of the war in Iraq, his and the SNP’s stance on nuclear weapons in this country, and especially, as Abulhaq alludes to, the release of Magrahi, under Scottish Law, on compassionate grounds, which I’ve got to say was one of my proudest moments as a Scot that Salmond and McAskil held their ground against all the pressure that O’Bama and Cameron could muster!

  15. Dead right ! Scottish media is shameful or shameless – never could work out whether it’s either/ or or both.

    P.S Model trams look amazing – so much talent .

  16. I dreamt last night that P M Cameron had crept up beside Pres Obama and asked him to express support for the Bitter Together campaign, and then primed a reporter to pose the question. How stupid is that! Crazy me! It shows you just cannot rely on dreams any longer. it’s all getting to be a bloody nightmare.

  17. Great to read something sensible on this, with a few spoonfuls of sugar to sweeten the bitter taste of media spin. The Yes side drive on humour, the No lot don’t know the meaning of the word.

    Re tram depots, in my tender young years in Glasgow there was a large tram depot in Cathcart, on the way there from Battlefield, just before a road junction with Holmlea Road. Seem to remember it as quite an impressive red brick building with arches which would work well with your other buildings. No idea whether it’s still there or not, can’t even remember what happened to it when buses took over. Maybe it became a bus depot.

  18. The old tram depot at Battlefield became a bus depot, and was demolished to make way for housing. Still red brick though.

  19. I found it interesting that he used the phrase “people of Scotland” and not ” Scottish people”, implicitly recognizing the SNP idea of a civic nationalism as opposed to Alastair Darling’s mealy-mouthed and direputable slurs in his recent interview associating the Yes campaign with the alternative ethnicity-based nationalistic ideals and policies.

  20. This will be the great American Prez whose 1st priority when reaching office would be closing Guantanamo cesspit….oh aye another American empty promise.

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