BP: Blame the Brits

06/14/2010 03:08 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It feels like a US-Britain freeze -- as cold as it's been in several generations (since, possibly, Suez). The immediate reason is the issue of BP, which, while it no longer claims to be British, but rather multi-national, still remains enough of a British institution that when you diss it, you diss the British way of life. And, indeed, the Obama administration seems to have repeatedly gone out of its way to suggest that it is British oil -- "British Petroleum" -- that is wreaking havoc in our waters.

But it may go deeper than that. Gordon Brown, visiting the US in the first months of the Obama presidency, received a cool reception from the White House (the president was "too tired"). In political theory, this was because the Obama White House was already anticipating his defeat -- so why spend time or capital on him? Still, it skirted churlishness.

What's more, since the Cameron coalition has come to power, there has certainly been no sudden merriment -- or even evident warmth. The Obama White House seems decidedly wait-and-see about the British conservatives.

This is curious. It has always been natural for American presidents to embrace the Brits -- and to be embraced back. It's instant goodwill -- an easy way to look like the world likes you. The very lack now of hail-fellow chumminess is, frankly, very odd.

It prompts the question: Does the Obama White House have something against the Brits?

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