by RAY FLEMING
WHY does President Bush think he has to offer instant character assessments of the leaders he meets? It seems very bad manners but perhaps it is just the famed Texas informality at work. After his total misjudgement of Vladimir Putin on first acqaintance and some of the terrible choices he has made of people to fill senior posts, it might be thought that he would stop the practice. But no. Having spent four hours “face time” with Gordon Brown the President had to tell the press that the British prime minister was not the “dour Scotsman” they had heard about but was rather “a principled man who really wants to get something done”.

Condescending, to say the least. When it was Mr Brown's turn to speak at the joint press conference he made no reference to his host's character or leadership. In referring to the UK-US special relationship he emphasized shared history and values rather than personal bonds. Indeed, it was noticeable that he avoided any warm personal words, no matter how formulaic, and that he actually acknowledged there had been disagreements on some points, although he did not say what they were. At the United Nations he was equally impressive, warning his audience that they were “a million miles” from achieving the Millennium Development goals and sharing credit with France for the break-through resolution on Darfur.

A very satisfactory US debut by Britain's prime minister.

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