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Walker’s Britain Blunder

Photo: Crown copyright Photographer: Paul Shaw

Scott Walker has landed himself in some trouble:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says British Prime Minister David Cameron confided in him that he was concerned about the direction of American leadership. But there’s a problem with the Republican’s tidy critique of President Barack Obama: Cameron doesn’t remember it that way.

Walker, who has taken several trips overseas in recent months to study up on foreign policy in preparation for an all-but-certain presidential bid, told a roomful of Republican donors Friday that world leaders, including Cameron, are worried about the U.S. stepping back in the world. “The Prime Minister did not say that and does not think that,” a Downing Street spokesperson told TIME.

There is every reason to think that Cameron and Obama have a good relationship and little reason to think that Cameron agrees with the standard American hawkish attacks made against the current administration. Cameron has generally had little interest in cultivating close ties with the modern GOP, he and Obama have been on good terms, and it was an open secret before the recent general election that the administration preferred that Cameron remain in office. Since Cameron has come under similar attacks for presiding over so-called British “retreat” in recent months, it is even harder to credit that Cameron would endorse this view of Obama and U.S. foreign policy.

If any foreign leader would be inclined to be sympathetic to the so-called “lead from behind mentality,” one would think it would be Cameron. After all, Cameron played a major role in pulling the U.S. into the Libyan intervention, and that was the occasion for inventing the ridiculous “leading from behind” slogan in the first place. For Cameron to have mocked this approach would have been for him to attack part of his own foreign policy record as well, and it is very doubtful that he would do that. It is even harder to believe he would do it while meeting with an American presidential wannabe. The most generous interpretation is that Walker badly misinterpreted something Cameron did say to him, but it is more likely in this case that he has simply invented it.

Even if Cameron said what Walker claims, it would be poor form for Walker to repeat it to others to score points. Whatever Cameron said to him would have been said in confidence, and it reflects poorly on Walker to divulge anything that was said to him in a private meeting. It is at best tacky for Walker to use anything Cameron said to him for campaign purposes. If Cameron didn’t say the things that Walker attributes to him, that makes Walker look even worse.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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