Barack Obama praised David Cameron for the strength he showed following the death of his son, Ivan, and the British prime minister responded by comparing the U.S. president to Franklin Roosevelt.
The leaders toasted each other at a banquet on the White House lawn last night that capped two days of bonding between the Democratic president and Conservative prime minister. Obama, after talking about Cameron’s “commitment to human dignity” and “resolve” over Libya, went on to talk about his British counterpart’s experience as a parent.
“I will say something else, David,” Obama said. “All of us have seen how you as a parent along with Samantha have shown a measure of strength that few of us will ever know. Tonight I thank you for bringing that same strength and solidarity to our partnership.”
Ivan, who had suffered from cerebral palsy and life- threatening epileptic fits since birth, died at the age of six in February 2009 after being rushed to hospital in the night. Cameron, 45, was in the opposition at the time. His son’s illness often caused him to sleep on hospital floors after emergency admissions. The couple had two younger children then and in 2010 had a daughter.
The prime minister responded by all but endorsing Obama’s re-election in his own nine-minute toast. He cited the U.S.-led coalition effort in Libya, the surge in Afghanistan and the troop withdrawal from Iraq. The president “has pressed the reset button on the moral authority of the entire free world,” he said.
Obama and Cameron talked during their meeting yesterday about releasing oil from strategic petroleum reserves without reaching a decision, according to a U.K. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were confidential.
Democrats in the U.S. Congress have called on Obama to use the oil stockpile to fight an increase in gasoline prices spurred by tensions with Iran over its nuclear program. Regular gasoline at the pump, averaged nationwide, rose 0.6 cents yesterday to $3.811 a gallon, according to AAA data. Prices are 7.2 percent higher than a year earlier.
The U.S. has withdrawn oil 18 times since 1985, including in 2008 after hurricanes struck the Gulf Coast. The U.S. reserve was used in July and August last year, under an International Energy Agency effort to ease shortages of Middle East supply.
U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said yesterday that rising oil prices are something “all economies will be concerned about.”
A Different Feeling
“It’s doesn’t quite have the same spike feeling that it did a year ago,” Osborne said in an interview on the “Charlie Rose” show broadcast on PBS and Bloomberg Television. “It seems more like a sustained increase, partly driven by demand.”
Cameron, who has made attracting businesses to Britain the main focus of his foreign policy, will conclude his U.S. trip today with visits to the New York Stock Exchange (NYX) and the Sept. 11 memorial.
On the prime minister’s first stop in Newark, he’ll meet Mayor Cory Booker to discuss his experience trying to regenerate the New Jersey city and view urban renewal projects. Cameron is trying to increase the number of directly elected mayors in Britain.
In New York, the premier will host a lunch with business leaders, including billionaire investor George Soros; Blackstone Group LP Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman; Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, according to the prime minister’s office.
With banks facing costs of as much as 7 billion pounds ($11 billion) as a result of plans in the U.K. to make them insulate consumer units from investment banking, Cameron may look to reassure financial institutions they can continue to base themselves in London.
Osborne said that such policies are “inevitable.”
“In the United States, you’ve had Dodd-Frank,” Osborne said on the “Charlie Rose” show. “We’ve got to get away from a situation where the U.S. Treasury secretary or the British chancellor has no other option on the night but to bail out a financial institution.”
The prime minister will also take questions today from students at New York University after visiting the Sept. 11 memorial. Cameron’s wife, Samantha, who is traveling with him, was in New York when the terrorists struck, and he spoke last year of the five hours he spent trying to get through to her mobile phone to find out if she was safe.
“I remember exactly where I was when I finally did get through and how pleased I was to hear her voice,” the prime minister told Al Jazeera television.
To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Kate Andersen Brower in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at firstname.lastname@example.org; James Hertling at email@example.com