We've said it before, and we will probably say it again, but you shouldn't blindly believe the stories that come out of the British press. Today's story in the Daily Mail -- promoted by factually challenged conservative blogs like Jim Hoft's Gateway Pundit, Weasel Zippers, and Glenn Beck's The Blaze -- claims that President Obama made some sort of insult towards the British when he said, "We don't have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people."
Barack Obama has declared that France is America's greatest ally, undermining Britain's Special Relationship with the U.S.
The President risked offending British troops in Afghanistan by saying that French president Nicolas Sarkozy is a 'stronger friend' than David Cameron.
The remarks, during a White House appearance with Mr Sarkozy, will reinforce the widely-held view in British diplomatic circles that Mr Obama has less interest in the Special Relationship than any other recent American leader.
Mr Obama said: 'We don't have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people.'
This is a ridiculous assertion to make. Nowhere in Obama's statement does he elevate the French above the British, or vice versa. He is using standard-issue diplomatic speech when addressing an ally during a White House visit.
Former President George W. Bush made similarly diplomatic statements about Japan, praising that nation in 2007 by asserting three times in one speech that there was "no stronger ally" than Japan. Bush again hailed the alliance with Japan in 2008, claiming that there was "no stronger ally in defeating terror" than former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
On May 11, 2010, President Obama said "the United States has no closer friend and ally than the United Kingdom, and I reiterated my deep and personal commitment to the special relationship between our two countries" while congratulating David Cameron on becoming the new British Prime Minister.
On July 20, 2010, President Obama said, "the United States has no closer ally and no stronger partner than Great Britain. And I appreciate the opportunity to renew our relationship with my partner, Prime Minister Cameron."
President Obama first addressed this issue in a press conference in March of 2009, after his first meeting with then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown:
Q Nick Robinson, BBC News. Mr. President, it's often been said that you, unlike many of your predecessors, have not looked toward Europe, let alone Britain. Can you just respond to that comment? And also, the Prime Minister is talking to you about a global new deal today. Will that actually help hard-pressed American consumers?
And if I may briefly put a question to the Prime Minister.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, the special relationship between the United States and Great Britain is one that is not just important to me, it's important to the American people. And it is sustained by a common language, a common culture; our legal system is directly inherited from the English system; our system of government reflects many of these same values. So -- and by the way, that's also where my mother's side of my family came from.
So I think this notion that somehow there is any lessening of that special relationship is misguided. Great Britain is one of our closest, strongest allies and there is a link, a bond there that will not break. And I think that's true not only on the economic front, but also on issues of common security.
And in our conversations here, we talked not only about the need to coordinate around economic policy, but also I expressed to the Prime Minister America's extraordinary gratitude for their support in our efforts in Afghanistan, and the young men and women of Great Britain who have made enormous sacrifices there. Although there was a debate, obviously, around the issue of Iraq, nevertheless, whether you are for or against the war here in the United States, the recognition of Great Britain's friendship and standing tall with us during that period is something that will never be forgotten.
And so rest assured that the relationship is not only special and strong, but will only get stronger as time goes on.
In May of 2006, the New York Times' Mark Glassman reported:
''We have no better friend than Japan,'' Ms. Rice said at the State Department.
It was a familiar refrain. As secretary of state, Ms. Rice has said that the United States had ''no better friend'' than Jordan, Greece, Italy, Australia, Singapore, Britain and, separately, the United Kingdom.
Of course, diplomacy depends upon stylized language, and other administrations have been equally adept at recycling it. But ''no better friend'' seems to imply an intimacy at odds with too frequent use.
Thomas E. Patterson, a political scientist at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, notes that the term is semantically clever. ''You could at least argue that there could be more than one in a 'no-better-friend' category,'' he said.
James P. Rubin, assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration, said: ''In diplomacy, you want to give everyone the impression that they're at the top of the list and this is a way doing that, a way of leaving room for a lot of people.
In 2002, President Bush told an audience in Alaska that "we've got no better friends than Canada."
In a 2002 news conference, President Bush discussed America's relationship with France and President Jacques Chirac:
My most important job--and I suspect Jacques feels the same way--is to protect our citizens from further attack. And it's--we've got no stronger ally in that task. I mean, he is willing to take steps necessary, obviously within the laws and Constitution of this country, just like I'm within the Constitution of mine, to protect our people. And for that, I'm very grateful, Mr. President.
In his 1990 autobiography An American Life, former President Ronald Reagan wrote the following:
The future of the Phillipines was of great importance to the United States. Our huge military stations there, Clark Air Force Base and the Subic Bay naval base, were among our largest in the world and the anchor of our defense in the western Pacific; and we had had no stronger ally anywhere than [Ferdinand] Marcos.
When then-Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge 2004 met with the Mexican Secretary of the Interior, the Department of Homeland Security website noted:
Secretary Ridge reaffirmed President's Bush statement on Mexican President Vicente Fox's State Visit in September 2001 that "We have no greater friend than Mexico and our commitment never wavered." Secretary Ridge said of his meeting with Secretary Creel, "You can't choose your neighbors but you can choose your friends."
In a February 2008 visit to Australia, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, "As has been for many years, the United States has no better partner and no stronger ally than Australia."
In 2008, CIA director Michael Hayden said America has "not had a better partner in the war on terrorism than the Pakistanis."
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), said in 2006 that "in the war against terror, we have no stronger ally than Israel."
In March of 2010, now-Speaker John Boehner said that "We have no stronger ally anywhere in the world than Israel."
Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) said that "Israel is our closest ally."
On the floor of the House, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) referred to Israel as America's "best ally."
On March 23, 2010, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) said "The American people consider Israel our most cherished ally."