Could someone get the President some new speechwriters? President Obama is woefully in need of new vocabulary, as a recent expose by Danish television hilariously and embarrassingly reveals.
For leaders of smaller nations, a meeting and a photo op with the American President in the White House is always a huge thrill. And so Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt was no exception when she received the presidential treatment on February 24, basking in the glow of President Obama’s approval. The President (rightly) praised Denmark’s military contribution in Afghanistan and Libya, saying that the small Nordic country of 4.5 million people ”punches above its weight.”
As sweet as this praise must have been to the ears of the Danish prime minister, it was soon tempered by revelations that President Obama is very free with the use of this phrase. Danish television clipped together a montage showing Obama complimenting the leaders of Norway, Ireland, and the Philippines in exactly the same words, all for ”punching above their weight.” President Obama apparently has not used the expression about the British, despite the fact that he borrowed it from British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd.
The conservative Danish newspaper Jyllands–Posten noted that Obama must really be pleased with the Danes, as he said the same thing to the previous Danish prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, during his state visit last year, sitting in the very same armchairs under the same picture of George Washington. Meanwhile, an editorial in the left-of-center newspaper Politiken grumbled that it was the unfortunate Danish desire to ”punch above their weight” that had gotten the Danes involved in the Iraq war and other American affairs. The newspaper advocated that Danes stick to their own bantam weight class in the future.
The real question might be, however, whether the United States under President Obama is punching below its weight, making the contributions of others seem all the greater. From premature military withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan to selling out U.S. missile defense to the Russians and mouthing mechanical blandishments to U.S. allies like the Danes, President Obama is squandering a great foreign policy legacy.
Helle C. Dale is Senior Fellow in Public Diplomacy at The Heritage Foundation—and a native of Denmark.