Barrie Maguire

The Battle for Churchill’s Bust

Mitt Romney has vowed to return a bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office if he unseats Barack Obama in November. But nostalgia for Churchill, rather than a sign of American vitality, looks more like a romantic rearguard battle, typical of a country in decline.

NEW YORK – The election of the United States’ next president is surely the most important contest in the democratic world. Yet the issues being contested can seem awfully trivial. Consider, for instance, the question of Winston Churchill’s bust.

A bronze sculpture of the British prime minister had been in the Oval Office of the White House since the 1960’s. On becoming President, Barack Obama replaced it with a bust of Abraham Lincoln. Mitt Romney, his Republican opponent in November’s election, has vowed to restore it if he wins. Then a White House spokesman said that the bust was still on the premises, just in a different room, whereupon the story changed once more: there were apparently two busts of Churchill; one still in the White House, and one that Obama returned to the British embassy.

Why would anyone care about this? One answer was provided by two of Mitt Romney’s advisers, who stated that their candidate particularly valued the “special relationship” with Britain because of the shared “Anglo-Saxon heritage.” This heritage, they claimed, was not sufficiently “appreciated” by the current president.

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