Obama Flubs Queen Toast

Yet another awkward moment on his trip to the UK.  Jake Tapper reports:

The president and the orchestra at Buckingham Palace this evening were a bit out of synch.

When the president toasted the Queen the orchestra misunderstood a pause and what seemed to be a cue from the president for “God Save the Queen” to begin playing.

“Ladies and gentlemen please stand with me and raise your glasses as I propose a toast,” the president said, putting down his note cards and grabbing his glass. “To her majesty the Queen.”

The president paused, the guests stood, and the orchestra prepared to play.

But the president wasn’t done speaking.

“The vitality -” the president said before the orchestra began.

Then the familiar tune – you might know it better as “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” – started up.

The president kept going: ” — of the special relationship between our peoples and for the words of Shakespeare to this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,” the president said as the awkward moment played out.

The Queen looked ahead as the UK anthem played.

“To the Queen,” the president finally said.

He lifted his glass to her, she smiled a bit uncomfortably.

But because the song was playing, no one drank from his or her glass, including the president, who put his glass down on the table.

Once again, Obama’s protocol team has failed him epically. I honestly don’t expect a president to know offhand the protocols for each country he visits, even those of the world powers. We don’t have a parliamentary system, so our leaders just don’t have that sort of preparation when they assume office. But I continue to be annoyed that he’s not receiving better preparation.

FILED UNDER: World Politics, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    I’ve never felt such a deep personal connection with the President as I do right now. G*d bless you, Mr. Obama. Please authorize a drone attack on her Majesty’s Secret Orchestra.

  2. Chad S says:

    So, the band screws up, yet this is Obama’s flub?

  3. TG Chicago says:

    @Joyner: Can you point to the evidence that this was the fault of Obama or his protocol team rather than the bandleader? Or are you just assuming it’s the Americans’ fault without any evidence? Blame America First!

  4. jwest says:

    This sometimes happens to truly brilliant people.

    Obama was probably doing quantum physics equations in his head, along with working on a cure for cancer and he simply forgot what the predetermined cue was.

    If Bush or Palin had done this, it would have confirmed what idiots they are, but in this case, it’s just the opposite.

  5. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    Once again, Obama’s protocol team has failed him epically.

    In other news. dog bites man.

  6. James Joyner says:

    @Chad and @TG Chicago: I’m rather sure that ““To her majesty the Queen” is the band’s cue to start. That’s why they started on cue.

  7. Maggie Mama says:

    It doesn’t matter who’s originally to blame. The moment “God Save The Queen” commenced President Obama should have STFU!

    Just another example of arrogant behavior one now expects from this diplomatically- challenged egotist — HIS TOAST MORE IMPORTANT THAN HER SONG!

  8. reid says:

    I’m having a hard time giving a toot, unlike Maggie who likely had an embolism over the tragic affair.

  9. reid says:

    By the way, things like this just make me feel sympathy for the person, whether it’s Obama or Bush. Like the time Bush had trouble opening a door… very embarrassing. These people have enough on their minds without having to worry about silly little protocol issues or slips or gaffes. All you can do is laugh it off and move on… unless you have serious partisan anger issues, as some here do.

  10. Boyd says:

    You would think a little thing such as “what words indicate the toast is finished and the band should start playing” might be worked out advance, on both sides. Epic fail for both protocol teams.

  11. jwest says:

    Perhaps, by way of apology, Obama could give the queen a gift.

    Diplomatic jaws dropped across the continent yesterday when it was revealed that U.S. President Barack Obama had, once again, fumbled a routine protocal of international statecraft: finding the right gift for a foreign leader or head of state. In a private ceremony with Queen Elizabeth, Her Royal Highness bequeathed to the Obamas one of the earliest known copies of William Shakespeare’s Henry V. She also presented him with the framed orginal sheet music of John Newton’s “Amazing Grace.” To the Obama daughters, the Queen gave a dollhouse-sized replica of Windsor Castle with a functioning train station in the year of the compound. They also received a prize Shetland pony. Mrs. Obama was given a ruby ring commissioned and worn by Queen Victoria.

    The Obamas, unfortunately, did not seem prepared for the occasion despite the row set off by the exchange of gifts between Prime Minister Brown and the U.S. President barely a month ago. Mr. Obama rather unceremoniously handed the Queen a shopping bag from the Duty Free shop at Heathrow airport. It contained a signed paperback copy of Dreams of My Father, purchased at the WH Smith shop at the airport, a bottle of Johnny Walker Scotch (black label), a CD of the Swedish band ABBA’s greatest hits (still in shrink wrap with a 2-for-1 sticker on it) and ten bags of M&Ms with the presidential seal on them.

    The Queen responded in a rather flat: “How delightful.”

  12. James Joyner says:

    @Boyd: The teams should have coordinated, yes. My hunch is that the Brits have been using the same signal since roughly 1066.

  13. anjin-san says:

    Just another example of arrogant behavior one now expects from this diplomatically- challenged egotist

    I am having trouble keeping this all straight – one day Obama is a spineless weakling who is too deferential to royalty and bows down at the drop of a hat. The next day he is an arrogant bastard who is not properly deferential to royalty. Perhaps Rush or Hannity could devise some sort of color coded alerts to let us know which mode Obama is in on any given day.

  14. JKB says:

    This protocol team you speak of, has anyone ever seen it? Are we sure it aren’t a union no-show jobs?

    I found this little write up for DC insiders. Significantly, everything was suppose to have been coordinated beforehand. Secondly, saying “To her Majesty the Queen” is the toast and the signal for the national anthem. The write-up is a bit blurry on when the short speech is appropriate and whether you call to arms at the beginning or end. I would have thought, at the end, i.e, speech, toast, national anthem, drink. But at the few events I’ve attended, “To…” is the cue to raise your glass.

    So why isn’t Obama getting this information or is it he isn’t listening. I would have thought by now, he’d either listen to his protocol people or have gotten some new protocol people.

  15. John Peabody says:

    This stuff (like the 2008 signature yesterday) happens. I knew of an US Army band that missed a cue and played “Hail to the Chief” as Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, not George HW Bush, entered the stage and went slowly to the lecturn.

    As usual, there about 372 TV shows that say hey, run this clip, because it is more entertaining than, you know, news.

  16. Jay Tea says:

    anjin, it’s so simple even you should grasp it: Obama likes to cheap-shot people who he knows can’t or won’t hit back. In this case, he knows that the UK won’t make too much of a fuss, so he simply doesn’t care about keeping them happy friends and allies. Better save his energy for our enemies, who will be overwhelmed with his brilliance and charisma.

    There’s no real courage involved in snubbing the UK. Like there’s no real courage in using the State of the Union to cheap-shot the Supreme Court to their faces. Like there’s no real courage to inviting Paul Ryan to a public speech on the deficit, and then trashing Ryan to his face.

    It’s the coward’s idea of courage. It’s the little boy flipping off the bigger kid while hiding behind Mommy.

    But when it comes to those who could actually pose a threat… break out the obsequiousness.


  17. PD Shaw says:

    While I would like the President’s staff to use more thought and imagination (but not necessarily money) in gift-giving, it’s not fair to compare the Presidents gifts to a monarchs. Do we really want the President to go down to the Smithsonian and find national heirlooms to take abroad?

    Bush gave Blair a leather bomber jacket, which apparently Blair liked enough to buy. Blair gave Bush a toiletry set, which was some sort of jest about something Bush had said. The special relationship was not destroyed.

  18. MarkedMan says:

    jwest, you do realize the blog entry you posted was an April Fool’s joke, don’t you?

    According to Harry Frankfurt, the difference between a liar and a bullsh*tter is that the liar is aware that what they are saying is untrue, while a bullsh*tter simply collects random statements that advance his cause, with no interest or awareness of their truthfulness. If one of these talking points proves inconvenient or less than optimal, it will be discarded in favor of some other shiny bauble.

  19. Vast Variety says:

    All conservatives want to know one thing. Did he bow to her?

    /end sarcasm

    @jwest We could give her Texas.

  20. Boyd says:

    @VV: No, you can’t.

  21. PD Shaw says:

    April Fool’s Joke? I”ve been punk’d?

  22. reid says:

    JT: Of course, everything you said with such certainty is obviously biased speculation, so why should we care?

  23. jwest says:

    I wish people wouldn’t make so much of this gaffe.

    Although many will view this as an embarrassment to the nation, the Queen and the British people know that not every person the American people elect to the presidency have the same class, common sense and worldliness as George Bush. Sometimes, people who are unqualified rise to office through circumstances none can explain, so you end up with someone like Barack Obama.

    Hopefully, the anger that Obama is generating around the world by his insensitivity, arrogance and ill-conceived policies will be directed more at his administration and not the American people. It would help though if Mr. Obama spent a bit of time trying to learn how a dignitary should conduct himself in interactions with leaders of other countries.

  24. anjin-san says:

    There’s no real courage involved in snubbing the UK

    Except all these supposed “snubs” have been debunked, and very few people who live outside of trailer parks buy into this nonsense.

    Things go wrong at events. John McCain’s PowerPoint presentation crashed on national TV during the ’08 convention and he was referencing slides that were not displaying to millions of people – he was not aware that he was standing in front of a blue screen.

    This says zero about McCain’s competence or fitness. People with any sophistication at all know that it’s not all that hard to screw up a choreographed event, and it happens all the time. Sadly, that let’s you and most of the far right out…

  25. An Interested Party says:

    Although many will view this as an embarrassment to the nation, the Queen and the British people know that not every person the American people elect to the presidency have the same class, common sense and worldliness as George Bush.

    I see the jokes, April Fool’s or otherwise, continue…

  26. StainBuster says:

    The problem is that the president doesn’t know how to give a toast or had trouble reading the paper on the table. A toast starts with the little speech and ends with “To (insert the name of the honoree).” If the Brits know anything, it’s protocol and good manners. When the president said “To her majesty the Queen”, I imagine everyone in the room, except Michelle, thought “Pretty unoriginal, but what would one expect?” The orchestra leader quite properly thought the toast was over and started “God Save the Queen.” Somebody forgot the teleprompters.

  27. jwest says:


    I’m certain that Obama knows how to act in the living room of domestic terrorists, in Rev. Wright’s church and he certainly seems to know his way around mosques, but you have to admit that in situations with sophisticated, experienced people, he’s totally clueless.

    It’s not his fault. He had never been in any position of power previously, so how would someone like this learn how to act in a room full of people who had actual experience, maturity and knowledge? Sure, it was fun participating in a “historic” election, but now we all bear the responsibility of placing someone in the office that was singularly unqualified and unprepared for the position.

  28. anjin-san says:

    Somebody forgot the teleprompters

    I suppose it would be a waste of time to point out that Bush 41 puked on Japan’s Prime Minister & 43 tried to give the German Chancellor a back rub. All human being commit flubs and faux pas… when a President does it, everyone pays attention, despite the fact it is rarely of great import.

    That the right grasps at an event like this with so much relish and desperation tells us a lot…

  29. Wiley Stoner says:

    Yeah anjin, but did they do it in 2010 in front of the Queen. I’ll bet you know something about queens, huh? I am surprised the Queen didn’t tell Obama to keep quite, they were playing her song. But then you have to defend him, you voted for him. Jokes on you.

  30. An Interested Party says:

    You are so terribly amusing, jwest…you remind me of those people who prattled on endlessly about “Bushitler” and “Chimpy McBush”…all kinds of spittle-flicked rage as they seemed to have nothing else to compensate for their essential impotence…oh well, I’m sure you’ll think of some more ridiculous things to share with us after the president wins a second term…

    I’ll bet you know something about queens, huh?

    It’s nice to know that someone else’s tax dollars are propping up the provider of these droll comments…

  31. anjin-san says:

    I’ll bet you know something about queens

    I do. I have lived near San Francisco my whole life. I have known many, including full blown, over the top, pink satin jumpsuit wearing flamers.

    And without exception, I like each of them far more than I like you.

  32. TG Chicago says:

    I’m rather sure that ““To her majesty the Queen” is the band’s cue to start.

    I asked for “evidence”, James. Try again.

  33. Maggie Mama says:

    Where were all you people when Bush was getting bashed? And for the record, Reid, I’d be having an ebolism if someone was so stupid as to continue to give a toast during our National Anthem. It’s called COMMON SENSE, people, and has nothing to do with royalty but RESPECT!

  34. bobsandrin says:

    My, Maggie, not only an embolism but outright hysteria. The subtitle to all your words, of course, is that you don’t really like people who aren’t white, do ya? That’s about the only thing that would explain why you post over and over and over again about a mistake that the British band made more than anyone, when they started playing over a head of state’s words.

    Untwist your tent sized-panties and get a life…and a clue.