A bust of the former prime minister once voted the greatest Briton in history, which was loaned to George W Bush from the Government’s art collection after the September 11 attacks, has now been formally handed back.
The bronze by Sir Jacob Epstein, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds if it were ever sold on the open market, enjoyed pride of place in the Oval Office during President Bush’s tenure.
But when British officials offered to let Mr Obama to hang onto the bust for a further four years, the White House said: “Thanks, but no thanks.”
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
To some, this could appear to be an odd place to quote George Santayana, an American President never having sent the bust of a historical British Prime Minister packing before, but the past may be repeating itself, in an admittedly subtle and oblique manner, but repeating itself nevertheless, and the vast numbers of Americans who do not remember it (or were never taught its lessons) are condemning the rest of the country, and future generations to repeat it.
This isn’t about Sir Winston…directly.
Bush IS related to Sir Winston, then again, so is Obama, but that’s not what this is about. It isn’t even about how Sir Winston as a wartime leader, was prepared to make unpopular decision that he believed necessary to achieve victory, very much like President Bush.
This is about Obama following Bush to the Office of POTUS, about who followed Sir Winston as PM, and the lasting impact that the election of a Socialist had on the British economy.
Clement Attlee, Sir Winston’s Deputy Prime Minister in the wartime coalition government, led the Labour Party to a landslide victory in the 1945 general election. He was a Keynesian (not to be confused with Kenyan), who saw the government as the solution to England’s post-war economic hardships. Some believe that the unexpected victory by the Labour Party was fueled by Sir Winston himself, who (during a radio interview) suggested that the implementation of Attlee’s socialist agenda would require “some form of Gestapo” to be created. Again, that’s not to be confused with anything currently happening in the U.S.
Incidentally…and curiously reminiscent of recent events, upon meeting with King George VI, Attlee’s first words to HRM were “I’ve won the election”, which in American English translates to “I won.”
But I digress.
PM Clement nationalized major industries and public utilities, and created a National Health Care Service in his Keynesian effort to rebuild the British economy, and while unemployment dropped to unprecedented levels (then again, the population was greatly diminished by the war), the country saw itself plunged into a chaos of shortages, including food and fuel.
One of Attlee’s most “important” pieces of legislation, was the National Insurance Act of 1946, which added the final touch to a Socialist’s “cradle to grave” welfare State. “Various other pieces of legislation provided for child benefit and support for people with no other source of income.” Source
Jon Maynard Keynes worked closely with PM Attlee during a near-crisis created by the end of the American Lend-Lease program, and personally negotiated a deal which had to be ended within five weeks of its implementation, to stop the currency crisis created by the Keynesian solution.
Fortunately, “Keynesian” was not a word in the American English Dictionary in a post World War II US. No industries were nationalized, health care wasn’t socialized, and there was neither a currency crisis, nor shortages of anything.
In fact, the US took the exact opposite direction of PM Attlee’s policies, and headed off into what today is recognized as perhaps being the greatest explosion in investment, production, trade, science and technique in the whole of human history.
So, how does all this relate to President Obama, and that bust of Sir Winston sent a-packing?
A subtle warning perhaps, one that will in all likelihood go unheeded.
The British economy (somewhat) recovered from PM Attlee’s Keynesian policies with the election of Margaret Thatcher, who went about the business of privatizing nationalized industries, selling off utilities, and adapting monetarist policies to reduce inflation…and finally, three decades after the end of World War II, the British economy boomed.
Bu some of Attlee’s policies are so deeply rooted in British society, that they will not be budged, and any politician not paying homage to socialized medicine, and national health insurance faces certain defeat.
How’s that working out for the Brits?
The shake-up of NHS dentistry has been a disaster with standards of care dropping and almost one million fewer people being treated on the health service under the new system, a damning report by MPs has found.
Dentists now have no financial incentive to treat complex cases and patients are being pushed unnecessarily into the hospital system
Instead of improving access to NHS dentistry the reforms have made it worse, the report by the House of Commons Health Select Committee found.
The number of dentists working in the health service has fallen, the number of NHS treatments carried out has dropped and in many areas patients are still experiencing severe difficulties in finding a dentist to treat them.
Worryingly, complex treatments carried out on the NHS have dropped by half while both referrals to hospital and tooth extractions have increased.
This suggests dentists are simply removing teeth rather than taking on complicated treatments because they have become uneconomical to provide.
The report said that in the two years following the introduction of the new contract in April 2006, 900,000 fewer people saw an NHS dentist than in the last two years of the previous system. Even this could be an underestimate, it said.
Ministers introduced the reforms to the dental contract despite widespread concern they would not improve access to care. The contract was so unpopular that more than one in ten dentists refused to sign it and more than a third signed it in dispute.
However, the then health minister in charge of dentistry Rosie Winterton insisted: “The reforms will improve access, encourage more preventive dentistry and provide a stable income for dentists.” — Source
In 2004, Attlee was ranked as the greatest British Prime Minister (Winston Churchill ranked second) of the 20th Century by a poll of academics…a less surprising result that one may imagine, all things considered.
Oh…perhaps none of this has anything to do with President Obama’s decision to return that bust. According to the President’s grandmother (pictured below) the President’s Kenyan (not to be confused with Keynesian) grandfather may have been tortured by British troops during the Mau Mau uprising.
That could be it, and we have nothing to worry about.
Except bad teeth.
P.S. I want to thank my good friend Ed over at Vox Clamantis in Deserto for putting this idea in my head. It all began with his constant comments about British socialism, Britons, and their bad teeth.
Diana West, writing for Jewish World Review sheds light on the story of Granpappy Obama’s torture at the hands of the Brits:
As noted by the blogger Papa Whiskey via the Jawa Report, Obama’s grandfather was jailed and tortured between 1949 and 1951. That’s the story according to his widow, Obama’s “Granny Sarah.” Of course, Granny Sarah is also a primary source of the claim that Obama was born in Kenya, so who really knows? Obama himself has offered conflicting accounts in both cases.
In his memoir “Dreams of My Father,” Obama describes his grandfather’s detention as lasting “over six months” before he was found innocent (no mention of torture).
Whatever the case, Churchill didn’t become prime minister for the second time until the end of 1951. The Mau Mau Rebellion didn’t begin until the end of 1952, one year after Obama’s grandfather’s release.