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Letter to America

Nick Robinson | 08:51 UK time, Friday, 18 April 2008

johnfkennedy_ap.jpgGordon Brown will today evoke the memory of President John F Kennedy. Standing in the Kennedy library beside his brother Teddy. The prime minister will echo JFK's global call for inter-dependence. He will praise American leadership after World War II and in the Cold War and argue that it is needed again to reform global institutions to tackle problems that are themselves global in scale. The prime minister's aides say that his speech today is a letter to America written at a time when it is ready to re-engage with the world. Mr Brown believes that George Bush has abandoned the isolationism of his first term in office and that whoever succeeds him will go much further still.

I've been speaking to Henry Kissinger, John Bolton, Sir Christopher Meyer and Robin Niblett - the director of Chatham House - about today's speech for a report on the Today programme which you can hear here.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Refactoring institutions is useful but the biggest issue is really how people view and approach the world on an everyday level. This is the biggest black hole in the Prime Minister's reasoning. High level strategy and foreign partnerships are fine but once this is done I'd like to see him focus more on the practical and personal. If he doesn't he runs the risk of being the Windows Vista of politics and that's not a good place to be in.

    By developing from the bottom up the individuals on the ground who shape and influence the institutions, companies, and communities they live in will make a better and longer lasting impact where it matters. Confidence, teamwork, and the long-view is a narrative most ordinary folks see is useful and by tapping into that a more confident, glued together, and successful nation can be built and change flow from there.

    So, people shouldn't neglect the effort the Prime Minister is making on these big issues but he should be equally mindful of small affairs. The master strategist is able to ride the left horse and the right horse, direct the campaign and work on the front line, as appropriate. While the Prime Minister has displayed some capacity for this he can be too twitchy and distant at times. Maybe, George could buy the man a dawg.

  • Comment number 2.

    Nick, you're a top man, and I enjoy your blogs. I read them because I value insight and analysis.

    So, I was a bit taken aback by this post. It feels as though it was written by the PM's Press Team, and if I wanted this, I could read it on the political news section of the site.

    Tell me I'm missing something here?

  • Comment number 3.

    He is going to stand beside Teddy Kennedy? Not exactly an example of high moral standards is he? The man who cared more about his political image. Mmm, well perhaps they do have something in common.

    But staying on-topic, if it was Tony Blair announcing a "new world order" people would listen, but not GB I'm afraid.

  • Comment number 4.

    Kennedyesque, Gordon Brown isn't. This trip seems like a complete waste of time and money. We no longer have a real influence on American foreign policy. we are just the puppet to the puppet mater.

    Hopefully the voters at the local elections will tell Brown what they think of him and his government.

  • Comment number 5.

    "Gordon Brown will today evoke the memory of President John F Kennedy"

    So a bit like Wile E. Coyote lauding Roadrunner, then.

  • Comment number 6.

    Interdependence gave us World War One and the Credit Crunch.

    The Cold War was a farce designed to bolster America's position in the world. Post-Stalin the USSR was never any threat of any kind to the West. It was all one big lie. Is that great leadership?

    Gordon Brown has given us tax hikes for the poor and £45b tax per year lost to avoidance by the rich.

    Our Prime Minister is, quite simply, an incompetant idiot who's position was only secured by the fact that the alternatives are no better.

    We in the West generally really need to do something about this political class that sees itself as above the law, above morality, above the people; handing down hollow edicts designed only to line their own pockets.

    Reform of Parliament should start in the Commons, and it should have started 30 years ago.

  • Comment number 7.

    What?

    this actually made me laugh!

    How can you compare one of the most inspirational politicial leaders ever (JFK), with a man who has little ability to inspire, rather he is more likely to bore! I actually think it is difficult to find two more contrasting politicians, at least in terms of presentation. And in policy...a 'new world order' is hardly a new idea, Blair mentioned it over and over, so Gordon isn't even being original in 'echoing' JFK...

    But I can see why you would want to do this, comparing the man who will probably go down in history as Britain's worst ever PM and one of the greatest American Presidents, seems to only benefit one man...

    Kennedy was a man of vision...Brown is a man of self preservation and I'm sure he spends too much time to work out what 'his vision is'...

    It's time you started reflected what everyone is thinking Nick... Brown is an embarrassment to this country...

  • Comment number 8.

    Nick

    Gordon Brown pontificating on historical parallels, reform of global institution.

    Meanwhile back at the ranch - - ?

    Form Tony weapons of mass distruction. From Gordon weapons of mass distraction.

  • Comment number 9.

    Nick,

    I am sure that this may come as something of a shock, however, the British public don't know that GB is visiting America, nor are they likely to be particularly interested in his photo opp's. Likewise, the Americans don't know who he is far less what he believes in.

    I understand the message that Charles is trying to set out, however, in my estimation, the left horse (Europe) and the right horse (USA / rest of the World) are not likely to be pulling GB in the same direction for any noticeable period of time. Perhaps therefore he needs to be astride one rather than both, at least then we might be able to determine the direction he intends us to travel, and he might (just might) be able to take the electorate with him. To date, he seems incapable of making a strategic decision so I am not particularly hopeful on this front.

    Can I also suggest that your blog carries a bit more detailed analysis of the situation in the next post, rather than links to other reports?

    Bye for Now.




  • Comment number 10.

    "Gordon Brown will today evoke the memory of President John F Kennedy."

    I don't know if Gordon Brown is old enough to remember President Kennedy first hand. I am. I remember how he lost the debates with Nixon...on radio...because he was the weaker candidate with the weaker arguments. On TV he won because of his better visual image. I remember how he lost the close election in 1960...except his Irish Mafioso father's connections to the Daley political machine in Chicago allowed him to steal Illinois and the presidency with it. Otherwise, we could have had Watergate ten years sooner. I remember how little was said in the press about his insatiable sexual appetite chasing every skirt he could find. And I remember how he sent Adlai Stevenson to the UN not to ask for a resolution from the Security Council but to tell the USSR and the world that if they didn't remove their nuclear weapons and missiles from Cuba, World War III would bring an end to human life on earth. For several days in October 1962, humanity's survival literally hung by a thread. Is that the kind of leadership he is looking for from the next American President? Well perhaps he'll get it. Obama says he'd attack Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan without any kind of agreement from anyone including Pakistan's government. Clinton was rather incensed at this statement, she said you don't talk about it in public, you just do it. But publically, she seems most ready to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran. Now that's the kind of leadership I could vote for. Of course, attacking al Qaeda in Pakistan is US policy already and there is periodic proof. Obama in particular evokes memories of Kennedy. Charasmatic, inexperienced, and likely utterly incompetent. Clinton and McCain are hardly more qualified, McCain for entirely different reasons. For one, he appears to be a tyro when it comes to economics. He'd follow the same blunders the US government made which led to the great depression in 1929 and for exactly the same reasons.

    So Brown wants to be seen with Fat Teddy. Now there's anohter memory to be conjured up. A drunken politico who drove his car off a bridge one night, drowning his passenger, and instead of calling police for help went home and pretended the whole thing never happened until the next day when the police came by. How fortunate for him his father could still get the best justice money could buy or he'd have spent the next twenty years in prison where he belonged instead of in the Senate.

    So the next President of the United States will have to straighten out the world. It will be like re-arranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. How do you salvage an organization like the UN which is corrupt beyond repair and utterly impotent to deal with real issues its self serving members want unresolved. There will be no resolution to Darfur at the UN as long as China sits on the Security Council let along Iran with China and Russia there. Of course it could hardly matter less, Europe didn't ask for UN permission to bomb Kosovo and Serbia, it wouldn't have gotten it with Russia there. Instead it just begged President Clinton to get the job done as fast as he could under the cover of NATO.

    One good thing for you will come of a new president, you won't be personna non grata a White House press conferences anymore as you've been since your public insolent outburst a couple of years ago when instead of asking an intelligent question for your audience, you rhetorically asked President Bush if he knew what was going on in Iraq.

    Here's an image to conjure up that I think is far more appropriate, Basra as a later day Dunkirk. Cut and run, then blame the whole thing on the US. If Britain was really an American puppet or poodle, its troops would be the last foreign forces to leave Iraq. Rats deserting a sinking ship? There's another image to conjure up.

  • Comment number 11.

    Gordon Brown desperate again to divert attention away from the problem he created.

    When are people going to realise this is not just a US problem? The US did not create the tripartite structure that Brown failed to supervise. His failure to oversee banks lending individuals ten times their incomes is gross mismanagment.

    All the information was available to him but he let the credit boom go on unchecked just like all delusional chancellors before him.

    He has to reap what he sowed. There will have to be a rebuilding of private individuals balance sheets just like under Major with savings subject to tax rebates. Germany is doing it, France is doing it but Brown dithers on hoping someone else will be blamed for the problems he created.

    No doubt an enquiry will be commissioned, recommendations made and ignored until he is forced into another corner.

    But then again; maybe his party will see what a Tom Fool they have for a leader who lacks authenticity, pragmatism and class.

  • Comment number 12.

    Brown is on a loser here. Contrasting himself to Kennedy is a no win situation. He lacks the charisma, charm, wit and good looks of JFK.

    JFK was no great intellectual but he was a great communicator, something the dour Brown isn't. JFK had passion and could draw people in - Brown has neither.

    Where they are similar is that neither truly fufilled the promise that people had in them. For JFK it was partly because he died to soon but with Brown we were promised so much and he's delivered so little.

    Brown is not the political heavyweight that we were promised. Rather than being an Ali, Forman or Lewis he's a second rate flyweight.

  • Comment number 13.



    Mr. Robinson,

    This must be about the 800th. time a foreign political visitor has tried to make this speech in the USA. The previous 799 or so ahve mostly sunk without trace, though a few were notably embarassing.

    You do not post for non-events, so I assume you are expecting the latter?

  • Comment number 14.

    At least by trying (no doubt unsuccessfully) to emulate JFK, Brown won't treat his American audience to another speech about OUR 10p tax problem and what he's doing for British pensioners, as he did when standing next to George Bush the other day.

    His speeches are boring enough when delivered for people who know and care what he's talking about - quite what the Yanks made of his speech is unknown...

  • Comment number 15.

    Brown's visit to the US inspires a paraphrase of a well known Churchill quote:

    An empty taxi pulled up at the White House and Gordon Brown got out.


  • Comment number 16.

    I made time to listen to your broadcast, Nick. I think, you're right to highlight the purpose behind Gordon Browns move and tease out the benefits for people. Some snags did appear, such as the American's self-styled "War on Terror being above trade and poverty reduction, and Henry Kissinger's assertion that America must be part of the solution. I think, it's clear some people in the Washington beltway don't get it.

    Visions are great. They can capture the moment or create momentum. The problem is this sort of thing is common currency and can be forgotten by the next day. The real work involves changing the systems and mindsets at the hard end. This is where middle-management clinging onto their old power bases tend to get in the way, and people at the bottom feel powerless so don't believe it. I think, leadership needs to grasp that.

    I'm a big fan of Ogilvy, the advertising guru, and Drucker, the management guru. They helped define a post WWII era of honest and responsibility in advertising and business. The current generation has been created by years of spin and asset stripping. If the next President of America can grasp this and refocus on purpose and community we may have something here. By reminding America of its own values, Gordon Brown may help effect that.

    All hail Blessed Leader!

  • Comment number 17.

    Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state describes his admiration for Gordon Brown and his hope that his words on international co-operation will be heeded in times of dramatic global change.
    In times of difficulty and uncertainty we desperately need the help of America the country that came to our rescue in WW2.
    Had it not been for America, we would today be speaking in a different language!

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    the us leaders order their troops invade Iraq,causing millions of death of Arabian in iraq ,the leaders will bear no liability because of their Medias and the public think they are just making a mistake ,not a crime ,when they say :ok ,I will change,they will became as innocent as a baby.they have the priority to criticize and even slaughter other race,when they are doing such evils,what did the CNN say?nothing,the CNN is broadcasting weapons of mass destruction in iraq.NOW your west media begin to backup the tibet rioters,because you are worrying about tibet people ' s“bad conditions ”of human right.when the monks ruled tibet 50 year ago,the social system was as the same as that of Europea in 10th century,most people were slaves,the leader of the monks is now travelling around the world to demand for "better life" of tibet,the better life he demand is such a life:millions of slaves work for monks who shall have better life .Tibet is part of CHINA just like scotland is part of UK,you have the right to criticize,but before you criticize ,you'd better come and have a look at the real life of tibet people.

  • Comment number 20.

    the us leaders order their troops invade Iraq,causing millions of death of Arabian in iraq ,the leaders will bear no liability because of their Medias and the public think they are just making a mistake ,not a crime ,when they say :ok ,I will change,they will became as innocent as a baby.they have the priority to criticize and even slaughter other race,when they are doing such evils,what did the CNN say?nothing,the CNN is broadcasting weapons of mass destruction in iraq.NOW your west media begin to backup the tibet rioters,because you are worrying about tibet people ' “bad conditions ”of human right.when the monks ruled tibet 50 year ago,the social system was the same as that of Europea in 10th century,most people were slaves,the leader of the monks is now travelling around the world to demand for "better life" of tibet,the better life he demand is such a life:millions of slaves work for monks who shall have better life .Tibet is part of CHINA just like scotland is part of UK,you have the right to criticize,but before you criticize ,you'd better come and have a look at the real life of tibet people.

  • Comment number 21.

    If the great warmonger Henry Kissinger is on our side then we *must* be doing something wrong.

    Every time US-British relations comes up someone like "Onlywayup" comes out of the woodwork to tell us how grateful we should be to the Americans for saving us in WW2 and how we should grovel for the rest of time in return. WE saved THEM - we held off the Nazis for nearly two years before America reluctantly started to fight. For all of that time America made us pay for the supplies that we used to protect them from fascism. We only finished paying off the debt a couple of years ago.

    Any debt that existed from us is more than paid off, and it's about time our leaders stopped this tiresome routine of slavishly asking America to lead us. They led us into the futile Cold War, they led the world into the pointless Korean Vietnam wars, they led us into the war to grab Iraq's oil and they want to lead us into another shambles in Iran.

    Domestically, Brown follows the US lead on Education (US higher education is the least cost-effective in the world, now we're second worst), Health (US health provision is the least cost-effective in the world, ours is rapidly approaching it), Defence (the US wastes more on defence spending that will never be used every year than the next 10 countries put together - WE even pay THEM for the honour of firing their missile at targets they choose), and on and on.

    Blair, Brown and all the other Thatcherites have never given any coherent reason why a country that is £4.5 TRILLION in debt and riven by class and racial divisions should be one that we look to for leadership.

    Global surveys of happiness routinely point to Scandinavia as the best places to live; America rarely breaks the top 50. Why on Earth do we look to them for leadership or inspiration? It makes no sense!

  • Comment number 22.

    Dear Nick,

    I have never read such a pro-Brown article outside of the pages of the Guardian.

    As the one political journalist employed by the BBC who seems to try and take the middle ground this article stinks of bias.

    The British public are not as naive as some of the BBC reporters would like to think, Gordon Brown is not liked by the majority of voters, his dithering, lying and tax grabbing behaviour is a huge turn-off, indeed Brown has the lowest approval rating of any Prime Minister since records began, so for you to even put Brown and Kennedy in the same context is pathetic.

    The BBC really needs to get out and about more, the Beeb may find that it is outmoded, out of touch and no friend to the British public it seems to so often ridicule, just like it's ideological bedfellows the Labour party.

  • Comment number 23.

    I prefer to read the Prime Minister's speech as a tribute to President Kennedy and how today we can still remain inspired by JFK's ideals.

    The problem, as Nick Robinson has reported, is how you convert the ideal into the reality. President Kennedy had the difficulty in that regard with a hostile congress dominated by Republicans and southern Democrats; he had difficulty in cutting taxes and balancing the budget in the mini-recession of 1960-61; with rising steel prices; with Civil Rights which the Dixiecrats opposed and even with the Test Ban Treaty which again the far right vigorously opposed. Thus, very few of Kenendys dreams came true during his tenure. But, his greatness was in the inspiration he gave those of us who were alive in those days and who will always remember him.


    In the final analysis it probably depends on who wins in November and how much support for the "global new deal" is found in the Congress. Despite the hullabaloo it could be a close run thing like1960


    The objectives outlined in the Prime Minister's speech may have been inspired in "Camelot" but I suppose as George Berard Shaw would say:

    "Other peoples see things as they are and ask, why?
    But I dream things that never were and I say,why not?"



  • Comment number 24.

    I am deeply concerned at how much our government are influenced by the Americans. last year George Bush stated that any country who funds or arms terrorists are themselves terrorists. So by that rational the US are terrorists because they funded and armed the IRA who posed a higher threat to the British than Al Quaida ever will. Mr Brown's visit to the US was well planned because no one is really interested in what he has to say because the Pope's visit overshadows him.

  • Comment number 25.

    Yes suddenly Gordon brown is concerned about the Rwandan and Darfur massacres. It's a little bit late for action now. This is just more tugging on the heart strings and weasel words, so the New Word Order can continue rolling forwards. He doesn't care about those people.

    The idea that Gordon Brown is calling for reform of global institutions just disturbs me. What institutions and why? "The UN needs reforming." How exactly?

  • Comment number 26.

    If JFK had proffered that global torch to Brown he would have refused to grasp it.

  • Comment number 27.

    There is something obscene about mentioning Gordon Brown and John F Kennedy in the same breath.Kennedy was a man of courage and vision in spite of his own human failings, Brown is the epitome of human failing ; dishonest, devious ,conniving and without principle.

  • Comment number 28.

    So you talked to Henry Kissinger ! Who was it who said " satire died when they gave Kissinger the Nobel prize for peace"?

  • Comment number 29.

    so, you've been talking to Henry Kissinger ! The "Bomber of Cambodia" .. must have been frightening to say the least. Who was it who said "Satire died when they gave Kissinger the Nobel Prize for Peace" ?

  • Comment number 30.

    pat the cat; Tom Lehrer is the chappie whom you've quoted.
    Re; Kennedy. Time has been kind to his memory! LBJ was a better civil rights prez, the CIA totally stitched up JFK over the bay of pigs, and his cold warrior anti-soviet rhetoric went wildly OTT

 

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