Barack Obama will skip Margaret Thatcher’s funeral on Wednesday, sending in his place two former Republican Secretaries of State, James Baker and George Shultz.
The White House confirmed the attending US delegation will also include Barbara Stephenson, charge d’affaires to the UK, and Louis Susman, former UK ambassador. Former vice president Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger, Newt Gingrich, and Ross Perot will attend independently.
News that Obama would skip Thatcher’s funeral has not gone down well with some of the British press. Numerous right-leaning newspapers have criticized the no-show, with The Daily Mail writing:
“Although Nancy Reagan, 91, is too frail to attend today’s funeral, what’s the current First Lady Michelle Obama’s excuse? Or, that of the stayaway Obama Administration generally? They simply don’t deem the event important enough. Yet Margaret Thatcher and then prime minister Tony Blair (with wife, Cherie) attended the 2004 funeral in Washington DC of ex-President Ronald Reagan. Poor show.”
The Sun, meanwhile, adds:
“Downing Street is most angered by rejections from Obama, First Lady Michelle and Vice-President Joe Biden. And none of the four surviving ex-US leaders – Jimmy Carter, George Bush Sr, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr – is coming either.”
That said, Obama is not alone in missing Lady Thatcher’s final send-off. Argentina — who the UK fought in the 1982 Falklands War, while Thatcher’s government was in power — has declined an invite to the funeral.
German leader Angela Merkel will also not be attending but has sent her foreign minister instead.
Obama spoke warmly of Margaret Thatcher after her death last week. In a statement, the president said:
“As a grocer’s daughter who rose to become Britain’s first female prime minister, she stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered. As prime minister, she helped restore the confidence and pride that has always been the hallmark of Britain at its best. And as an unapologetic supporter of our transatlantic alliance, she knew that with strength and resolve we could win the Cold War and extend freedom’s promise.”
However, actor and comedian Russell Brand disagreed with Obama’s verdict, writing in the left-leaning Guardian:
“[Margaret Thatcher] is an anomaly; a product of the freak-onomy of her time. Barack Obama, interestingly, said in his statement that she had ‘broken the glass ceiling for other women.’ Only in the sense that all the women beneath her were blinded by falling shards. She is an icon of individualism, not of feminism.”
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