Gideon Rachman found Rubio’s speech in London too heavy in its emphasis on the “special” relationship:
The problem with the speech, as I saw it, was that it was too redolent of George W. Bush circa 2003. It was fully of windy tributes to Britain and America‘s shared tradition of fighting for liberty, Churchill and Roosevelt, the Special Relationship, the “will and moral courage of free men and women”, our best days lie ahead…etc, etc. I am sure it was all well meant. It may even have been sincere. But while, on one level, it was obviously flattering to a British audience, that kind of rhetoric is still suffering from Bush and Blair’s misuse of it, in the run up to the Iraq war. Perhaps there will soon be some global crisis – in which Britain and America once again stand shoulder-to-shoulder – and we can listen to the old numbers about the “special relationship” and the fight for freedom, without any sense of discomfort or irony. But that moment has not yet arrived. And I thought the audience’s tepid applause at the end of Senator Rubio’s speech, reflected that feeling [bold mine-DL].
The most jarring moment of the speech for the audience may have come when Rubio included the Iraq war on his celebratory list of the things that the U.S. and Britain had done together. Including the invasion of Iraq as one of the “vitally important achievements” of the U.S.-U.K. alliance would be tin-eared and clumsy if the speech had been in the U.S., and it was even more so in London. Most people in Britain and America probably look back on that debacle now as an example of how dangerous and harmful the “special” relationship between our countries can be. It is certainly not something that a British audience would want to be reminded of ten years after the invasion. Especially in Britain, the Iraq war represented everything unhealthy and lopsided in a relationship in which Britain joins the U.S. in foreign wars no matter how unwise or unnecessary they are and receives absolutely nothing in return. Rubio didn’t dwell on it, but the fact that he mentioned the Iraq war in a positive way underscores just how oblivious he was to how poorly the rest of the “special” relationship talk would be received. Considering how prominently resentments over Iraq figured in the British debate over intervention in Syria, the inclusion of the Iraq war as a highlight of U.S.-British cooperation in a speech given in Britain is the sort of thing that only a committed interventionist would do.