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Brown is Bushwhacked

July 30, 2007 |  3:29 pm

Years ago I coined the term Anglophilia nervosa to describe the sickness that comes over England- (and Britain-) loving Americans when a crass fellow Yank behaves boorishly before Brits. In extreme cases, this malady prompts the Anglophile Yank to identify himself as Canadian.

I first experienced this illness as a student in England 35 years ago; and had a minor relapse today watching the joint press conference of President Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a Scotsman.

With the same frat-boy abandon that led Bush to make fun of an L.A. Times reporter's dark glasses (not knowing the reporter had an eye condition), Bush riffed on whether Brown lived up, or down, to the ethnic stereotype of the "dour Scot."

Read it and cringe:

BUSH: All right. He's a Scotsman, you know, kind of -- he's not the dour Scotsman that you described or the awkward Scotsman. He's actually a humorous Scotsman, the guy that we actually were able to relax and to share some thoughts. ... You know, I was very interested in his family life. He's a man who suffered unspeakable tragedy, and instead of that weakening his soul, it strengthened his soul. I was impressed. And I'm confident that we'll be able to keep our relationship strong, healthy, vibrant and that there will be constant communications as we deal with these problems."

Bush wasn't specific about the "unspeakable tragedy" in Brown's life; maybe he was referring to the fact that the future prime minister's first child died in infancy or that Brown himself was blinded in one eye as a teen-ager (is Bush obsessed with visual impairments?). Either way, it came across as gauche, though arguably not as embarrassing as his tribute to former Prime Minister Tony Blair: "I've heard he's been called Bush's poodle. He's bigger than that."

Brown responded  graciously to both Bush's ethnic reference and this tribute to the PM's triumph over tragedy:

What President Bush has said is both very compassionate and it reflects the conversation we had about a whole series of issues that we can deal with together. I think your understanding, if I may say so, of Scotland was enhanced by the fact that you went to Scotland, you told me, at the age of 14 and had to sit through a very long Presbyterian church service in which you didn't understand a word of what the minister was actually saying. So I think you came to a better understanding of the Scottish contribution to the United Kingdom from that.

Translation: Tony wasn't kidding about this guy.


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