WASHINGTON – The British prime minister is visiting Washington this week, and for the first time in seven years his most important meeting may not occur in the Oval Office: Gordon Brown is planning to meet Thursday with each of the three U.S. presidential candidates, an effort to obtain a firsthand judgment of how U.S. policies – and the relationship between Britain and the United States – may change come January.
Brown’s own relationship with President Bush has been cordial but much less close than the ties Bush enjoyed with former prime minister Tony Blair, who bucked British public opinion to remain Washington’s chief ally in Iraq and the wider battle against terrorism. With Bush in his final months in office, however, Brown is hoping to lay a foundation for closer relations with the next U.S. president, bolstering both transatlantic links and his own stature, according to analysts in London and Washington.
“Bush is largely irrelevant,” said Peter Kellner, president of the YouGov polling firm in Britain. “But if the news comes across that McCain, Clinton and Obama all take this guy seriously, whether it’s on the Middle East, climate change or the credit crunch, that would be a success.”