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Will release of new Wikileaks secrets blow Obama’s nice guy image? – Telegraph

Will release of new Wikileaks secrets blow Obama’s nice guy image? – Telegraph.

Wow….

 

After emerging from a basketball game with a split and swollen lip on Friday, Barack Obama was given 12 stitches by a White House doctor.

It was the most serious presidential injury since 2002, when George W. Bush suffered a cut and bruised cheekbone after he choked on a pretzel, fainted and fell off the couch.

But Mr Obama’s injury, courtesy of the elbow of Rey Decerega, director of programmes for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, was superficial and compared to the body blow he is expecting at the hand of Wikileaks.

With some 2.7 million communications from the US State Department about to be published online, Mr Obama is bracing himself for revelations that would not only be embarrassing but could also seriously damage his foreign policy.

Thousands of these documents are believed to be diplomatic cables from Washington to the US Embassy in London, including brutal assessments of Gordon Brown’s personality and cold-eyed judgements of David Cameron’s capabilities.

The ramifications for Mr Obama could be enormous. With his popularity flagging at home, one of his remaining political strengths has been his high standing abroad – assiduously cultivated in a series of speeches in which he apologised for past US actions and promised a kinder, gentler America.

Diplomatic cables are necessarily frank, a mirror image of the bland euphemisms offered up to the public after meetings between world leaders. The Obama administration has continued to play this game, uttering little of meaning to the press while swapping private barbs internally.

Mr Obama’s problem over Wikileaks is that he promised to repair American relations with the world while at the same time vowing to change the rules of the game in Washington.

He was the type of American president, apparently straight from a West Wing episode, that Europeans had dreamed off.

The Wikileaks documents are likely to underline that he is still the US commander-in-chief and stands atop a system based on certain enduring American values and policies – and that he operates like most other politicians by saying one thing in public and another in private.

Once European politicians read about the disdain for them felt by Obama aides, and perhaps even Mr Obama himself, a frost is likely to descend on the warm post-Bush relations with Washington.

In the short term, Mr Obama’s waning hopes of persuading Republicans in the Senate to ratify a new START treaty could disappear once the White House’s own doubts about Russia’s intentions are laid bare.

The “special relationship” with Britain could be badly affected. Mr Obama’s coolness towards Mr Brown at their first Oval Office meeting in March 2009 was obvious, though strenuously denied by the White House and Downing Street.

His removal of the Winston Churchill bust in the Oval Office, his present of DVDs and the lack of an invitation to Camp David all spoke of a downgrading of the alliance with Britain. A State Department official even described Britain as “just the same as the other 190 countries in the world”.

If the Wikileaks documents confirm this picture of a lack of interest in, or even disdain, for Britain then America’s most enduring alliance could suffer.

Amongst many Americans, the relationship with Britain has become something of a touchstone of Mr Obama’s foreign policy. Tony Blair is still widely admired in and the value of the “special relationship” deeply cherished.

Any suggestion that Mr Obama has been giving Britain the cold shoulder while her troops fight in Afghanistan will play badly in Middle America.

Although Mr Obama cannot be blamed for the fact that a lowly US Army private was apparently able to gain millions of sensitive intelligence and diplomatic documents, he bears ultimate responsibility for the debacle it has produced.

During the 2008 election campaign, a cable written by Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the British ambassador to Washington, was leaked to The Daily Telegraph.

In it, Sir Nigel noted that Mr Obama “does betray a highly educated and upper middle class mindset”, that he was “maybe aloof, insensitive” at times and that charges of elitism were “not entirely unfair”.

Mr Obama’s advisers reacted with iciness. The assessment was relatively kind and the comments about his personality have been borne out over time but the Obama operation despised leaks, was highly protective of Mr Obama’s carefully-crafted life “narrative” and extremely sensitive to any criticism. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

Once the Wikileaks release happens, Mr Obama will no doubt offer emollient words and reassurance. Unfortunately for him, however, he is likely to find that the power of his words will now be greatly diminished abroad as well as at home.

 

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