Dear Mr Cameron, welcome young friend. Welcome to America. Bring your bright, dashing self to our shores. Speak your piece with affection and modesty and go home a wiser man.
As for your own leadership, here is some advice. Do not imitate Mr Obama. He has been a disappointment; learn from his mistakes. America is not Britain and Britain is not America, but the culture of our politics – the polls, the imagery, the fixation on sound bites, the nonsense, the essential shallowness of presentation and of thinking, the inability of political figures to think long term – has grown similar. To your detriment, by the way.
Shall I tell you what Americans think? We think you used to have fusty, occasionally dishevelled, pipe-smoking, brandy-taking, hopelessly avuncular figures as your leaders: no one cared what they looked like, though they were interesting to listen to, or at least to watch moving through murky waters – like Harold Macmillan. Mrs Thatcher, too, was this sort, though never dishevelled. Now you have leaders who are young, sleek, slick, who believe always and almost only in what used to be called public relations and is now called the brand. I name no names. And, actually, I don't mean to be harsh.
You can today go to any office of any great leader in America and Britain – business leader, church leader, political leader – and you will find the great topic of conversation, the great focus of attention, the object of daily obsession, is not the mission (making money, spreading faith, leading an anxious citizenry in the right direction) but how the mission is playing in the media. It's all they talk about. This is very sad but it is not my point, to which I return. (Actually, let me end this section with some political advice. Grow older quicker. Here is a secret of the voters of the Western democracies: we all miss old.)
In Mr Obama's poll numbers this week, CBS News reports 13 per cent of the people think his economic leadership has bettered their lives. That means 87 per cent do not – that is rather a lot. The Rasmussen Reports' daily tracking poll yesterday showed 43 per cent strongly disapprove of his leadership and 26 strongly approve. This is low. These are only two examples of the general slide you discern as people talk about Obama.
Here are the things he got wrong. In the middle of an economic crash, and in the middle of record-breaking federal budgets and budget deficits, Mr Obama started a new entitlement. This struck people, by which I mean almost everyone, as off-point. We are in a crisis, part of the crisis involves spending money we don't have, and our answer is to spend more? It wasn't a policy, it was a non sequitur.
Moreover, the President's decision to focus his entire first year on health care, when the voters were focused on the economy, on unemployment, on deficits, demonstrated, in the end unhappily for him and frustratingly for his fellow citizens, that he simply wasn't thinking about what they were thinking about. In a high economy this might have been forgiven if he'd been generally understood to be a visionary. But he didn't come across as a visionary – "We will go this way, the path may not be clear to all but I can see the sunlight through the hills beyond." No. He came across as a detached academic who believed in abstract notions he'd picked up in the faculty lounge.
To make it all worse, just before he went down the health care pass, he put forward, and saw passed, a stimulus Bill that shockingly – I am not being ironic – could not draw the support of a single Republican congressman. Not one. He should have done everything he could, made whatever painful compromises, to garner just a little grouping of Republican support. He needed a Bill he could claim as bipartisan.
Instead, he and his geniuses in the Democratic caucus in Congress decided to do it their way, get the Bill they wanted, and paint the Republicans on the Hill as mere obstructionists – "the party of No". But being the party of No to Obama/Pelosi came to look pretty good pretty fast, and the President united the Republicans in opposition. Before his first year they'd been at each other's throats; now they were at his. He forgot to keep his foes confused.
Most seriously, he neglected to hold the centre. He came to be seen, and again it's reflected in the polls, as a leader who governs from the Left. But at a time when America feels torn up in many ways, a president who held on to the Left and Right and stood in the centre was what was needed. And the institutional Left is barely grateful: he gave them as much as he thought he practically could and they bang their spoons on the highchair none the less.
Finally, he confused business with Wall Street. No one likes Wall Street after the crash, even Wall Street. They're all dyeing their hair and going to art shows down there. But business? Everyone in America is in business, they want favourable conditions, a sympathetic environment, they want a president who takes steps that encourage them. Or who at least has a sense of what the hell they do.
It's the faculty-lounge problem again: people in business deal with real things, people in faculty lounges deal with ideas, abstractions, theories; they're swayed by this school of thought and that; they're macro. Businessmen must be micro: "Hey buddy, I'm trying to open a dry cleaners over here!"
So: you get only one chance to make a first impression, and President Obama made one over the past 18 months, and it wasn't good. He's losing the room.
To the extent that Britain's politics are like America's, Mr Cameron, look and learn. Hold the centre, focus on the economy – now and always the key to electoral success – and care what is on the people's minds, as much as what's on your own.
Advice on your visit? Love America. It not only deserves it, at the moment it needs it. Our morale is low. Do you want to help preserve what has been called the Special Relationship? (Actually, I don't know: do you?) If you do, then when you speak here, speak of your love for this great nation. We don't, not in a deep way and not enough. Even our President doesn't. He tries, but he can't get it right because it's all so abstract to him. He associates patriotism with nationalism. But patriotism springs from legitimate love and gratitude, nationalism from shallow aggression and conceit. Obama confuses the two, can't get them straight in his head, and winds up saying little, badly. People don't like this, either.
Anyway, when you speak of America speak with love. People will hear you. It will break through the clutter, as your media obsessives say. It will be a new message, or one Americans haven't heard in a while done well, and truly. And don't focus-group it. Mean it. (Source)