By Dan Balz and Karla Adam
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, July 27, 2008
LONDON, July 26 -- Sen. Barack Obama wrapped up his week-long foreign tour Saturday by meeting at length with past, present and possibly future British prime ministers.
The Democratic presidential candidate met for breakfast with former prime minister Tony Blair before going to see Prime Minister Gordon Brown at No. 10 Downing Street and later visiting with David Cameron, the leader of Britain's Conservative Party.
Brown took the unusual step of going out in public with his guest, walking onto Horse Guards Parade ground, adjacent to St. James's Park -- a way to be photographed with the American politician who has struck a chord with Europeans. But the prime minister stopped short of holding a joint news conference with Obama, having not held one when Sen. John McCain visited him in the spring.
Obama spent more than two hours with Brown, including an hour alone on the patio overlooking the prime minister's garden. Obama said later that the two discussed the importance of the transatlantic relationship -- the theme of Obama's speech in Berlin on Thursday night -- as well as the Middle East peace process, climate change and other topics.
Obama and Cameron talked about the demands of running for office and, should he win, of trying to keep focused on the most important issues. Obama told Cameron that a former Clinton administration official had counseled that if he is elected, he should schedule time during the day only for thinking.
"The truth is that we've got a bunch of smart people, I think, who know 10 times more than we do about the specifics of the topic," Obama said in a conversation picked up by a reporter's boom microphone. "And so if what you're trying to do is micromanage and solve everything, then you end up being a dilettante. But you have to have enough knowledge to make good judgments about the choices that are presented to you."
The crowds in London were no match for those that greeted Obama in Berlin and Paris, but a cluster of people gathered outside the wrought-iron security gates of Downing Street, hoping to catch a look at the senator from Illinois.
Patricia Griffin, a 47-year-old teacher from Glasgow, spotted the commotion on the street while riding the London Eye Ferris wheel across the Thames River. "Who else would it be?" she said, referring to Obama. Griffin said she came to stand outside Downing Street in the hope that one day she could say she saw the first black president of the United States.
Elaine Ferguson, a 45-year-old teaching assistant from England's Lake District, said Obama was on the "tick list" of celebrities she was hoping to see while on vacation. "We are hoping to see Brad Pitt, Angelina and maybe Obama," she joked. "We are hoping to check one off today."
Obama addressed the controversy over his planned trip to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany to visit wounded U.S. service members. The Pentagon had raised concerns that aspects of the visit were campaign-related, and on that basis Obama decided not to go.
"I was going to be accompanied by one of my advisers, a former military officer," he said. "And we got notice that he would be treated as a campaign person, and it would therefore be perceived as political because he had endorsed my candidacy but he wasn't on the Senate staff.
"That triggered then a concern that maybe our visit was going to be perceived as political, and the last thing that I want to do is have injured soldiers and the staff at these wonderful institutions having to sort through whether this is political or not or get caught in the crossfire between campaigns."