David Cameron’s visit to the United States this week is a lost opportunity. In addition to meeting with the President, Cameron should be reaching out to Republican leaders and the American conservative movement.Larison's counters are characteristically good, but he tackles Gardiner's lunatic ideas in terms of how they would affect US/UK relations. Nothing wrong with that, obviously. I'm particularly amused by the idea that it's a good idea to snub the actual President in order to get in with the guy who might get the chance to maybe be President next (one wonders how low Cameron will need to sink in the polls before Gardiner suggests Obama get chummy with Ed Milliband).
There's another important issue to consider, though, which Larison doesn't touch - the UK response to Cameron's trip. Gardiner's most laughable idea - remember, this guy is a Washington-based political commentator who writes for a British conservative paper - is that because a plurality of Americans are self-identified conservatives, the Tories must be closest ideologically to the Republicans.
That's it. That's the sum total of his argument. Whomever conservatives vote for in one country is automatically the ally of whomever conservatives vote for in another country. Political positions, party platforms, cultural ideals, none of that shit matters. The most right wing major parties must always be bestest buds forever, and so British conservatives must think the Republicans are aces.
The actual truth is that if Cameron was very, very lucky, meeting with Mitt Romney or Eric Cantor would cause no appreciable drop in domestic polling. Whilst I don't think the UK public is particularly familiar with the specific ins and outs of US politics, the belief that George W Bush was a lunatic simpleton is deeply ingrained, as is the feeling that Sarah Palin is a vapid rabble-rouser. McCain was seen as an inveterate bumbler. The best thing I've heard anyone say about Mitt Romney is that he hasn't said or done anything ludicrous, but that's because he hasn't said or done anything.
This is the legacy of international exposure that Cameron should be desperate to tie himself to? That would have struck me as profoundly unconvincing even before the recent wave of anti-abortion laws and anti-contraception diatribes, which for whatever reason have not gone unnoticed over here. There might not be enough US-savvy Brits to make too much of a difference, but to the extent opinion over such meetings would exist at all, it would be almost unanimously negative.
Whatever the actual political similarities between the GOP and the Tories (which are far less than the similarities between the Democrats and the Tories, no matter what Gardiner wants to tell his readers), there is a non-trivial section of the UK public who now sees the Republican leadership as somewhere between insane and actively evil. Cameron is doubtless also fully aware of the damage Blair took by playing lap-dog to the last Republican president. There may come a time when Dave feels he's going to have to swallow his fears (and, one assumes, no small amount of bile) and work closely with the Republicans, if and when they take the Oval. I can't imagine any reason why he'd want to start ahead of time.
And what exactly would be the upside to meeting someone like Eric Cantor? So Cameron can be told that the problem with the UK is we’re too nice to gay people, immigrants, women and any country other than the US and Israel (and maybe Argentina)? I don’t think it’s hard to see why he’s taking a pass on that.