Alex Massie

America the Teenager

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As Marbury says, Peggy Noonan's bizarre column offering advice to David Cameron ahead of his trip to the US makes "America sound like a weepy, insecure girlfriend in constant need of emotional reassurance". True that:

Advice on your visit? Love America. It not only deserves it, at the moment it needs it. Our morale is low. Do you want to help preserve what has been called the Special Relationship? (Actually, I don't know: do you?) If you do, then when you speak here, speak of your love for this great nation. We don't, not in a deep way and not enough. Even our President doesn't. He tries, but he can't get it right because it's all so abstract to him. He associates patriotism with nationalism. But patriotism springs from legitimate love and gratitude, nationalism from shallow aggression and conceit. Obama confuses the two, can't get them straight in his head, and winds up saying little, badly. People don't like this, either.

Anyway, when you speak of America speak with love. People will hear you. It will break through the clutter, as your media obsessives say. It will be a new message, or one Americans haven't heard in a while done well, and truly. And don't focus-group it. Mean it.

Never mind the strange notion that Obama doesn't love America enough (despite his constant, if also not quite true, refrain on the campaign trail that his story was only possible in America) isn't it obvious that what the United States needs is more gushing praise for its magnificence and the greatness of its exceptionalism? Because no-one in Washington ever mentions that, do they?

Then there's this:

Shall I tell you what Americans think? We think you used to have fusty, occasionally dishevelled, pipe-smoking, brandy-taking, hopelessly avuncular figures as your leaders: no one cared what they looked like, though they were interesting to listen to, or at least to watch moving through murky waters – like Harold Macmillan. Mrs Thatcher, too, was this sort, though never dishevelled. Now you have leaders who are young, sleek, slick, who believe always and almost only in what used to be called public relations and is now called the brand. I name no names. And, actually, I don't mean to be harsh.

I really have no idea what this is about, save that it fills the need to fill space. Can anyone seriously consider Margaret Thatcher "hopelessly avuncular"? Or that Gordon Brown was "young, sleek, slick"? Rum stuff.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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