Boris Johnson, not Obama, sounds more like a Kenyan anti-colonialist


Boris Johnson has a point to make. On what, not sure.

To hear the current mayor of London, and possibly future prime minister of Britain tell it, President Barack Obama harbors a dislike of the U.K. because of an anti-colonial mindset developed by having a Kenyan father.

Boris Johnson, in a column written for The Sun newspaper, regales the tale of the removal of the bust of Winston Churchill when Obama took office.

“No one was sure whether the president had himself been involved in the decision,” Johnson writes. “Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British empire — of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.”

Also read: Euroskeptic Brits to Obama: Keep your nose out of our Brexit

Another British leader, UKIP head Nigel Farage, has made similar comments about Obama. “I know his family’s background. Kenya. Colonialism. There is clearly something going on there,” Farage said.

So let’s look at Obama’s track record to find evidence of anti-colonial mindset, itself a phrase devoid of much meaning but for argument’s sake will translate as anti-Western populism.

• Obamacare. The president’s signature health-care law keeps existing doctors in place, keeps the middlemen (the insurers) in place, and even keeps the payment system for drugs and equipment in place.Is that corporatist or populist?

• Dodd-Frank. The bank-reform legislation the president signed into law keeps existing banks in place — in some areas, they’ve gained market share — but forces them to have a bigger cushion against default. Is that corporatist or populist?

• Free-trade agreements. The president has overseen the negotiation and enactment of the South Korean trade pact, is pushing for approval of a Pacific trade agreement and has started negotiations with Europeans. The main beneficiaries of these trade deals are big multinationals. Is that corporatist or populist?

• Immigration. One could make the argument that Obama’s policies, which encourage or at least don’t discourage Latin American migration, are anti-Western. But they sure aren’t populist, as corporate titans overwhelmingly support increased migration.

Finally, let’s look at the issue Johnson is upset by, Obama’s support for the U.K. remaining in the European Union. Johnson says the U.S. wouldn’t stand for giving up its own rule-making authority.

Left unsaid by Johnson, of course, is that states as diverse as Texas and Massachusetts share that authority, not always happily. And the U.S. has ceded authority to international institutions, notably the World Trade Organization, on key economic issues.

But that’s not the prime motivation of Obama. Brexit has emerged as the number-one economic concern for the globe. That was clear from the spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund, and it’s been made by policy makers from Tokyo to Berlin.

Obama is concerned with a near-term global economic shock from a U.K. withdrawal from the European Union, which would be felt mostly keenly, of course, by big corporations.

Whether that is a reason for the U.K. to stay is another matter. But the very last thing Obama should be accused of is populism.

And as for a dislike of British empire — the U.K. turning more inward by exiting the European Union is surely the most anti-empire move of all.

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