It feels a little like Royal Wedding madness all over again across the pond.
What did Duchess Catherine wear during the Obamas' visit to England? What did the president give the Queen as a gift? Who made a speech blunder?
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are once again under the microscope as they visit the United Kingdom this week. Each action, misstep and blunder is being interpreted by England and the U.S. media at a fevered pitch.
Below we round up some of the moments of President Obama's UK adventure that are creating the most buzz:
Botched toast: Following proper protocol and etiquette are a huge deal for guests of British royalty--and the social anxiety surrounding royal occasions helped make one Tuesday night flub even more newsworthy. The orchestra at Buckingham Palace last night mistook a pregnant pause in President Obama's toast to the Queen as a signal he was finished with his speech. "Ladies and gentlemen please stand with me and raise your glasses as I propose a toast to her majesty, the Queen," the president said. Immediately, the orchestra began to play "God Save the Queen," so Obama ended up talking over the music to conclude his toast.
Obama joked to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg that the orchestra effectively gave him a soundtrack, while Clegg said the music added "a crescendo" to his speech.
You can watch the exchange below:
Gift giving: Obama's gifts in 2009 to Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Gordon Brown were not well received by Brits, who cast them as tacky and impersonal. Brown was gifted 25 DVD's--a seemingly odd choice for a man with no known background as a movie buff. There was much overheated speculation over whether the discs in question would be compatible with English DVD players. Likewise, the president's gift of an iPod to the Queen also left many scratching their heads.
But this time, the president appeared to have taken a lesson from his previous gift experience. "From monarchy memorabilia to White House honey, the gifts are better chosen than the dvd box set of yesteryear," the Guardian wrote Tuesday. Obama went the personal route, for example, with his gift to the Queen offering her a handmade album of photos and rare memorabilia from her parents' visit to the U.S. in 1939.
Meanwhile, the White House notified the press today that the first couple had given to David Cameron "a custom-made pair of White House Magnolia wood and sterling silver cufflinks," along with a first edition of John F. Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1955 book, "Profiles in Courage." The Obamas gave Mrs. Cameron "a custom-designed sterling silver cuff bracelet adorned with a White House Magnolia wood cabochon center," which was presented, together with the prime minister's cufflinks, on a "hand-carved Magnolia wood valet tray crafted specially for this occasion." And the U.S. first couple gave the Cameron children something that detractors will likely target next as a gauche Yank faux pas--signed and personalized editions of the president's own recently published children's book, "Of Thee I Sing."
Security code names: On this year's UK visit, much was made of the disclosure of Scotland Yard's decision to dub Obama with the codename "'Chalaque," meaning "smart alec," or someone too clever for his own good, as reported by the UK Daily Mail. The story went viral, and got picked up The Ticket, among other U.S. news sources. The Daily Mail suggested it was a provocative decision. But it turns out the frenzy was misplaced. CBS News reported Wednesday that "Chalaque" was the operational name given to the state visit as a whole.
Drinking up: Hillary Clinton made headlines for downing a beer and a shot of whiskey in Indiana during the 2008 race, so it's no surprise Obama's own drinking habits made news this week. Obama and wife Michelle enjoyed pints of Guinness during a stop in Ireland--perfect photo-op fodder. But the stop at a watering hole also caused some controversies. Several conservative pundits back home weren't very pleased to see the president enjoying a beer while many at home in the U.S. are suffering from tornado destruction. Radio host Laura Ingraham said pictures of the president having a Guinness while pictures of tornado damage are in the press displayed a "disconnect."
Ping pong time: We've all seen President Obama play basketball with White House guests--but ping pong? During a tour of Globe Academy math and performing arts school in London Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron took a break to play ping pong (or, to use the more decorous British phrasing, "table tennis") with some students. The unscripted moment produced a series of photo ops and sparked critics to suggest that the moment might have--gasp!--been staged to produce some documentary evidence of the "special relationship" between the two world leaders.
What date is it?: A routine gesture of signing and dating the guest book at Westminster Abbey turned newsworthy yesterday when President Obama made a small blunder. Instead of dating his entry May 24, 2011, he wrote "May 24, 2008." The blooper prompted some to joked that he had too much to drink the day before or had been fixated simply on his campaign-year heyday.
(Photo of Obama with Queen Elizabeth: Lewis Whyld/Pool via AP)
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