Mr Brown goes to Washington.
The whole meeting should, and deserves to be strained on all levels. Bush is not just a lame duck, he's a dead duck, festering before the entire planet as he and his neo-con cohorts desperately try to shore up some kind of legacy, and possibly even attempt to draw Iraq out long enough so that if a Democrat manages to win in 08, voting machines and lists aside, that the victor is bequeathed with a gift that no one would ever want. If Brown had really wanted to set out the change in the relationship from being the doormat to being the poodle that bites back, he could, as Ming Campbell pointed out, more than capably have been able to make his agenda clear, urging that Guantanamo Bay be closed down and that Britain has finished with Iraq, getting out within a matter of months, if not weeks. While the hard right here may shout about betrayal, Brown could afford to kick Bush in to touch, even possibly helping towards his and the Republicans' downfall by getting out of Iraq now. The surge is failing, the country is somehow in a worse state after four years of occupation and supposed reconstruction than it was under Saddam and sanctions which contributed towards the deaths of 500,000 children, and yet still our politicians somehow can't dare to anger those who took us into this disaster in the first place.
We can at least be glad that the infectious idiocy which Bush seems to radiate somehow hasn't managed to infect our new Dear Leader. The grimace on his face as Bush drove him round in the golf buggy, not managing like Tony would have done to have grinned uneasily through it, was refreshing in itself. The whole press conference where as usual we learned absolutely nothing, was just as tepid. Bush, still after 7 years doing the same act of attempting to be the class clown without the intelligence to pull it off, speaking in the same achingly slow drawl, which you would take for sarcastic if you didn't know it was the way he always speaks, was attempting to be effervescent, while alongside Brown was almost trying not to be noticed, again, like he was at his first prime minister's questions, visibly nervous. He wasn't exactly icy, but it certainly was someone who was uncomfortable in his skin and rigid in his speech.
This was undoubtedly the way it was always going to be, and like everything that has gone on since Blair's exit, while most things have continued as were, the very fact that it isn't the same grating, agitating bastard manning the helm has changed the situation, and judging by the opinion polls, most of the public's minds as well. Aggravating as such blanket statements made by Brown about how the world should be thankful for the American response to 9/11, this again seems to have been made purely to reassure the already weary and suspicious Republicans after the speech by Douglas Alexander and the interview by Mark Malloch-Brown, who seems to be more than happy to anger the usual suspects that are already biased against him.
Changing the terminology used about the war on terror, or whatever it is we're calling it this week, is one of the subtle, some might suggest cowardly ways of doing things differently while actually doing nothing. It helps that it pisses off the likes of Melanie Philips, but does really suggesting that what salafist takfiris are waging is a war of inhumanity change anything whatsoever, other than changing the original absurd abstract noun? In fact, what others have long been calling the "twat", a war against bullshit, makes more sense, both in the way that dropping bombs on people doesn't tend to help them, and that what we're fighting, if we're fighting anything, is a war against the insanity and inanity of restoring a mythical, religious age of purity through acts which are expressly against that belief system in the first place. We've got more than enough of that here already.
Nothing then that we didn't expect, and nothing of the unexpected. Whereas previously we would have hated every excruciating moment of the press conference, now, despite the apparent status quo continuing, there's enough for most people that they won't fly into the same rage as they would have done. Brown's biggest problem right now is that it simply can't last.