Obama Stops In London On European Trip
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
President Obama won't be in Washington for Netanyahu's speech to Congress today. The president is traveling in Europe. Mr. Obama was in small town Ireland, yesterday, celebrating his Irish heritage. Today it's Buckingham Palace.
The president arrived in London late last night, 12 hours ahead of schedule, to avoid a volcanic ash cloud moving from Iceland toward Ireland. And while there will be serious work in the coming days, today is one of pomp and ceremony.
NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley is traveling with the president and we reached him in London. Good morning Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY: Good morning, to you, Renee.
MONTAGNE: What is on the president's agenda today?
HORSLEY: Well, as you say, today is all about spectacle. This is a state visit with all the trimmings. There's the formal arrival ceremony at Buckingham Palace. The president will tour Westminster Abbey, lay a wreath at Britain's memorial for unknown soldiers. And then he'll get to spend the night at Buckingham Palace after a state dinner hosted by the queen.
Before all this official business got underway this morning, though, Mr. Obama did take time to express condolences and promise federal assistance for the victims of the tornado in Missouri. He plans to visit Joplin, he said, right after this trip, on Sunday.
MONTAGNE: And of course, the president has already called the governor of Missouri to be in touch about this disaster.
HORSLEY: That's right, that's the sort of delicate dance the White House is doing here. On the one hand, they want to show the European audience that the president is very much engaged during this trip. At the same time, for the folks back home, they want to let them know that he is monitoring developments across the Midwest, very much on top of the storm recovery effort. It's the sort of challenge that the president often has to do doing more than one thing at a time.
MONTAGNE: Right. And then, of course, tomorrow, after the dinner with the queen, the harder work of the Europe trip really gets underway. Right?
HORSLEY: That's right. Tomorrow there will be probably fewer photographs and more substance. The president has a bilateral meeting with the prime minister, David Cameron, and he gives a speech to parliament, which has been called, sort of, the keynote of this whole European trip.
One analyst has called this British portion of the trip a chance to put the special back in the special relationship between the United States and the UK. The president, himself, went further today, in an op-ed article he co-authored with the British prime minister. They called it an essential relationship. The UK and the rest of Europe have sometimes felt a little bit neglected by the United States. This is an opportunity for Mr. Obama to address that.
MONTAGNE: So, what kind of reception, then, do you expect Mr. Obama to get throughout the rest of this European trip?
Well, the president remains popular here in Europe more popular than some of the European leaders. But you know, Europe has really had some big problems of its own to deal with the persistent economics troubles. Ireland, where we were yesterday, has been forced to follow stiff austerity measures. Britain has adopted austerity measures voluntarily. And America certainly has an interest in the health of the European economy. We all learned, last year, just how big an impact it can have when some place like Greece suffers a debt crisis and it has a ripple effects on our side of the Atlantic.
But there has been some question, in Europe, about the extent to which America really appreciates the economic challenges on this side of the ocean. Mr. Obama wants to say, yes, he gets it. He's rooting for Europe's economic success, but he also wants Europe to play a large role in international affairs.
MONTAGNE: Well, looking back a bit, President Obama certainly got a warm welcome in Ireland.
HORSLEY: Yes, Renee, it was really remarkable yesterday, traveling around Ireland both in the tiny village of Irish ancestor, Moneygall, to the capital of Dublin. Everywhere he went, there were large crowds lining the street to wecome him. And it wasn't just the number of people, but the enthusiasm with which they greeted the American president. This is something we really haven't seen in the U.S. for a couple of years, but he was still very warmly received in Ireland. And his message for the Irish was one that might resonate back home, as well. He was telling them, despite there current economic troubles, Ireland and the U.S. have both weathered tough times before and come out better.
MONTAGNE: Scott, thank you very much.
HORSLEY: My pleasure, Renee.
MONTAGNE: We've been talking to NPR's Scott Horsley who is traveling with the president on his European trip.
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