For his part, Cameron is presenting Obama, an avowed fan of the television show “Homeland,” with a golden opportunity: the chance to meet the show’s British star, Damian Lewis, at a White House state banquet Wednesday night.
Obama and Cameron also will hold talks on how — or whether — to take further steps in strife-torn Syria, on how to address fears of an Israeli airstrike on Iranian nuclear facilities, and on joint planning for the withdrawal of U.S. and British troops from Afghanistan.
But Cameron’s visit — which marks his fashionable wife’s first major overseas trip — nevertheless appears designed mostly to send one clear signal: Despite shifting diplomatic priorities on both sides of the Atlantic, American presidents have no worthier friends than British prime ministers — and vice versa.
Speaking about Obama over a beer with journalists at No. 10 Downing Street on Monday, Cameron said, “I find him extremely good to deal with. Extremely straightforward, very thoughtful, very reasonable and absolutely a man of his word. And someone who I feel I have a strong relationship with.”
Their meeting, he said, “comes at an important time because there are so many important policy decisions to discuss.” Cameron noted, however, “I’ve not yet been to a basketball match. . . . I’m doing a bit of research, but don’t test me because I haven’t got that far yet.”
For Britain — and particularly its media outlets — prime ministerial visits to the White House amount to a fascinating exercise in Anglo-American ties. They put on display Britain’s almost-obsessive insecurity about its unique strategic relationship with the United States, a nation that many Britons otherwise largely view with a semi-playful sense of cultural superiority.
That mother-country-knows-best attitude can transform into outright fawning when British leaders cross the Atlantic. Case in point: An article bannering Cameron’s Washington trip in London’s Sunday Times this weekend savored the prime minister’s rare invitation to travel with Obama aboard “the coolest plane in the world” to the Ohio basketball game. This after Obama, the paper went on, had offered French President Nicolas Sarkozy nothing more than “a $4.20 hotdog” at Ben’s Chili Bowl.
The social-call aspect of the visit will be evident also in the joint agenda of Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron, who will attend an anti-obesity event with the U.S. first lady and use the trip to herald the Olympic and Paralympics Games opening this summer in London. A group of British schoolchildren Michelle Obama met on a state visit to Britain last year also has been invited to Washington for follow-up chats at the White House.