President Barack Obama decided not to dispatch any high-ranking members of his administration to former British PM Margaret Thatcher’s funeral on Wednesday, a move that has been heavily criticized on both sides of the pond.
According to the Associated Press, the White House sent ex-Secretaries of State George Shultz and James A. Baker III to lead the American delegation, which also includes Barbara Stephenson, the charge d’affaires at the US Embassy in London, and Louis Susman, former US ambassador to the UK.
British tabloid The Sun reported: “[…Downing] Street is most angered by rejections from Obama, First Lady Michelle and Vice-President Joe Biden. And none of the four surviving ex-US leaders – Jimmy Carter, George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr. – is coming either.”
“The response contrasts with glowing US tributes on the day Lady Thatcher died. A No 10 source said last night: <<We are a little surprised by the White House’s reaction as we were expecting a high-profile attendance>>. The <<snub>> came ahead of the Boston marathon <<bomb outrage>>.”
However, British PM David Cameron’s spokesman refuted reports that the Obama administration snubbed Margaret Thatcher.
“Absolutely not and that the seniority of the America dignitaries attending was reflective of her global stature,” spokesman Jean-Christophe Gray told reporters on Tuesday.
“He welcomed the fact that two former Secretaries of State with whom Lady Thatcher had worked very closely were attending, saying it was testimony to the esteem in which she was held.”
Meanwhile the New York Post editorial page called the US representation “underwhelming.”
“As the world bids farewell to Lady Margaret Thatcher today, it’s hard not to notice that America’s official presence at the state funeral for England’s most significant prime minister since Winston Churchill will be underwhelming,” wrote The Post, which is owned by Margaret Thatcher’s ally Rupert Murdoch.
“Instead of sending a high-ranking member of his own administration to lead the official delegation, President Obama has dispatched two former Republican secretaries of state, George Shultz and Jim Baker. Nothing against these men, but we can forgive the British for regarding Obama’s choice as yet another snub.”
The kicker: “What makes Washington’s little acts of thoughtlessness so telling is that they attract more attention than doing the right thing would.”
UK’s The Guardian dubbed it a “distinctly low-key official representation”.
“The US is to send distinctly low-key official representation … While Barack Obama was invited, he has opted to send a presidential delegation comprising no serving politicians.”