Cameron and Obama 'are no Churchill and Roosevelt'
Opinion Digest: Oborne on a dangerous friendship, Cohan on Goldman Sachs' brush with the press
CONTINUING a new service from The Week online – a daily wrap-up of the best comment and opinion articles from the morning papers and the top political bloggers. Posted mid-morning Mondays to Fridays. If you think we've missed a good one, please let us know. Contact us via Twitter or Facebook, or email email@example.com.
CAMERON FOLLOWS IN BLAIR'S FOOTSTEPS
PETER OBORNE ON THE PM'S VISIT TO DC
It is easy to see why British prime ministers are seduced by American hospitality, but also troubling, says Peter Oborne in The Daily Telegraph. In recent years, Britain's allegiance to the United States has led us into two conflicts, Iraq and Afghanistan, which "have been fought in a way that has done hideous damage to Britain's reputation as a country that claims to value freedom and the rule of law". There is no evidence that Cameron used his visit to complain about the "atrocious conduct" of US troops in Afghanistan – the destruction of copies of the Koran, the urinating on dead Taliban fighters, the recent massacre of 16 civilians in Kandahar by an unnamed US solder. "Cameron's tragedy, like Tony Blair's before him, is that he has made the pragmatic decision to live with this American barbarism." On Tuesday, Cameron and Obama wrote a joint article for the Washington Post in which they suggested that they followed in the magnificent tradition of Roosevelt and Churchill. This is vainglorious nonsense. Back then our two great countries stood side by side "for freedom and the rule of law against something dark and incomparably evil".
PM ENJOYS THAT PRESIDENTIAL FEELING
STEVE RICHARDS ON THE HOMECOMING
David Cameron has had a ball in the US, and he'll never be the same, says Steve Richards in The Independent. For three days, "he has been a prime minister unencumbered". He has been hailed and revered by a president, rock stars and on the US news networks. He will forget, briefly, that he is the first British premier since Harold Wilson in February 1974 to fail to win an overall majority. "He will feel fleetingly presidential", and he'll like it. Cameron's relationship with his deputy Nick Clegg is still good, but "after being treated like a mighty leader", he will find it a little more irritating when he returns to negotiate with Clegg on the finer points of the Budget. If there are tensions over policy, "this irritation could grow into something big".
GOLDMAN SACHS MUST STOP THE CHARADE
WILLIAM COHAN ON THAT RESIGNATION LETTER
The extraordinary thing about departing Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith's opinion piece in the New York Times is not the claims of greed or disregard for clients, says William Cohan in The Financial Times. It's that it appeared at all. It is unprecedented that an executive of Goldman Sachs would break a century-old omerta in an angry resignation letter. For most of its 143-year existence, Goldman has stayed away from the press. The general feeling was that any relations with the press would end badly. Whether Smith is "a disgruntled low-level employee" as the bank is now portraying him, is irrelevant. Smith's letter "lays bare the acute need that Goldman faces" to either live up to its founding principles – including putting its clients first – or stop the charade. It had better fix the problem fast if it wants to return to a position of leadership in Wall Street. "This is an existential moment for Goldman." Sadly, the bank's leaders don't seem to realise it.
FAREWELL DULL, DEPENDABLE BRITTANICA
MAX DAVIDSON SALUTES THE PRINTED ENCYCOPLAEDIA
How did the Encyclopaedia Britannica last so long? asks Max Davidson in The Daily Telegraph. The company has just announced the encyclopaedia will no longer be printed in book form but available only in a digital edition. "I assumed its presses had stopped rolling years ago". Still, it is only fair to salute a great British institution, "kickstarted by scholars of ambition" with the founding principle of collecting and disseminating accurate information. In an era when knowledge is shared so promiscuously via the internet and "fact-checkers have been swept away by a tsunami of rumour" the Britannica feels like a luxury from a bygone era. As suspicious of new trends as a nervous vicar, the Britannica was never a page turner. "But for sticklers of facts, it had a kind of poetry."