LONDON — The reviews are in: The British prime minister failed his history test.
Last night, David Cameron became the first occupant of No. 10 Downing Street to appear on the “Late Show with David Letterman,”an event that was preceded in Britain by extensive commentary on what U.S. late-night talkshows are all about.
Combing through the 15-minute interview that began with Letterman asking, “Do you mind if I ask you a lot of dumb American questions?,” the British press pounced on the fact that Cameron was stumped when asked who composed the iconic anthem “Rule Britannia” (it was Thomas Arne) and didn’t know the English translation of “Magna Carta”(Great Charter).
At one point, Cameron joked: “That is bad. I have ended my career on your show tonight.”
A sampling of the headlines that followed Thursday morning: “Cameron fluffs his lines in Letterman test” (Financial Times); “David Cameron braves David Letterman’s US chat show – and leaves red-faced,” (Daily Telegraph); “David LetterCam: U.S. host’s Brit quiz trips up PM,” (Sun).
Writing in the Independent, David Usborne said: “If Cameron was a US politician, failing a test on the basics of American history, he would be toast this morning.”
Nicholas Watt, in the Guardian, mused about the prime minister’s likely reception on his return to Britain, writing: “David Cameron may struggle at passport control when he returns home.”
Since the interview, many here have also snidely noted Cameron’s impeccable education credentials, which include Eton College and Oxford University.
Still, despite the trip-ups, the general consensus seemed to be that Cameron did well enough, if not well enough to escape some ribbing.
The Daily Mirror posted “A bluffers guide to British history,” should he find himself in a similarly awkward situation again.
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