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Returning to the fray from Europe

Justin Webb | 04:42 UK time, Sunday, 27 July 2008

He shook hands with the policemen outside 10 Downing Street!

This is presidential? No way Ronald Reagan would have done it. Was it a nicely Democratic touch or a nervy moment for a man so exhausted that he would have shaken hands with anyone who presented him or herself?

Anyone except a foreign reporter, that is. Or to be more precise a reporter working for a foreign organisation. I see one British newspaper is cheekily suggesting that my friend Richard Wolffe is their man on the plane.

True Richard is British - from Birmingham and still capable of doing the accent (though unaccountably he chooses not to except on feast days) - but his day job is with Newsweek. This was, to the end, a US show.

It could be that Obama chose to shake hands with London bobbies because they were a landmark with which Americans could identify. Less so the Prime Minister Gordon Brown and not at all the leader of the opposition David Cameron whose photo op has been airbrushed out of most US coverage. In both cases the Obama camp knows full well it is bestowing favours, not receiving them.

Did he really cancel a trip to see injured soldiers because cameras were not allowed as alleged by McCain?

If he did, it was a mistake but not a disaster.

An honest assessment of the impact of the trip would have to be: too early to tell. Talk of poll bounces or the opposite is just 24-hour TV nonsense; voters will decide in November based on the totality of their experience of the candidates. The trip plays into that - it matters and overall it appears to have been a success but it will not be decisive.

Incidentally CNN described Gordon Brown as a "Head of State." This mistake - a common one - is part of the reason why Americans often think Brits are uncomfortably nasty to their prime ministers. To American eyes attacking them can sometimes seem unpatriotic - they do not realise that these figures represent a party not the state. Conversely we Brits forget sometimes that Obama and McCain are competing to become America's Queen. As it were...

Meanwhile I have kissed the tarmac at Baltimore Airport and returned to the fray. It is All About to Happen...


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