President Obama, Britain’s prime minister meet
WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Barack Obama greeted visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron with some British lingo Wednesday as the two leaders held talks on the upcoming NATO summit, the war in Afghanistan and other major global issues.
“We Americans and Brits speak the same language most of the time,” Obama joked in welcoming Cameron to the White House on the second day of his Washington visit. “So let me just say, David, we are chuffed to bits that you are here. I am looking forward to a great natter. I am confident that together we are going to keep the relationship between our two great nations absolutely top notch.”
Cameron responded that Obama’s spectacular command of British vernacular and the display of British flags made him feel at home, even though the White House was a target of British forces in the war of 1812.
“I am a little embarrassed that 200 years ago my ancestors tried to burn this place down,” Cameron said, laughing. “Now, looking around me I can see that you’ve got the place a little better defended today. You are clearly not taking any risks with the Brits this time.”
The two leaders will hold a joint news conference after their talks, followed by lunch and later a state dinner at the White House.
Cameron’s trip to the United States is intended to demonstrate that ties between the countries remain as close as ever. On Tuesday, Obama gave a nod to America’s heartland in a halftime interview conducted during an opening game of the NCAA basketball tournament in Ohio he attended with his guest.
Obama said he wanted to show the British leader a part of America rarely seen by foreign visitors.
“I thought it was going to be wonderful for the prime minister to have a chance not only to see a basketball game for first time, but also to come to the great state of Ohio, because sometimes when we have foreign visitors, they only see the coasts, they go to New York, they go to Washington, they go to Los Angeles, but you know, the heartland is what it’s all about,” Obama said.
Obama’s choice of venue may not have been coincidence, as he faces a re-election bid in November and Ohio is historically a key swing state.
The president and Cameron flew together on Air Force One to Dayton, Ohio, for the game between Western Kentucky and Mississippi Valley State.
Cameron said he enjoyed watching the game, adding that Obama explained the intricacies of the American sport.
“He was giving me some tips,” Cameron said. “He’s going to help me fill out my bracket.”
The White House labeled Cameron’s visit an official one, rather than a state visit. That’s because the label of state visit is reserved for heads of state, and Cameron is the head of government. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state.
However, a White House statement said Cameron would attend a state dinner Wednesday night, the sixth of the Obama administration so far.
“The fact that we are hosting the prime minister in the manner that we are demonstrates the nature of the relationship between our two countries; the fact that it is a special relationship,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday.
Cameron and his wife, Samantha, will leave Washington Thursday.
“The visit will highlight the fundamental importance of the U.S.-U.K. special relationship and the depth of the friendship between the American people and the people of the United Kingdom, as well as the strong personal bond that has developed between the two leaders and their families,” the White House statement said.
In a joint op-ed published Tuesday in The Washington Post, Obama and Cameron emphasized the global benefits of the strong bond between their nations.
“The alliance between the United States and Great Britain is a partnership of the heart, bound by the history, traditions and values we share,” the two leaders wrote. “But what makes our relationship special — a unique and essential asset — is that we join hands across so many endeavors. Put simply, we count on each other and the world counts on our alliance.”
Troops and citizens of the two countries “have long shown what can be achieved when British and Americans work together, heart and hand, and why this remains an essential relationship — to our nations and the world,” the commentary by Obama and Cameron said.
CNN’s Stacia Deshishku and Lateef Mungin contributed to this report.