US View: America faces step into unknown

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The Independent US

Gordon Brown's is the voice they know but listening to him in last night's debate may have left the White House puzzled. Nick Clegg is "anti-American", they heard. Then how come Clegg sounds like Barack Obama so often?

Not that Mr Brown does not hold appeal for Washington. He has even adopted some of Mr Obama's campaigning ticks, occasionally beginning sentences with the exhortation, "look", for instance.

There was a time when the label "anti-European" may have endeared the third candidate, David Cameron, to audiences in America. A weaker Europe held a certain appeal.

But those days are over. Anti-Europe suggest anti-multilateral in general, a sentiment that flows directly against the Obama grain.

Clegg has been portrayed by some US commentators as Britain's version of Obama. Americans will have noted how he precisely echoed Obama on achieving a nuclear-free world and on declaring climate-change a definitely global issue. Even on immigration Clegg – amnesty or not quite – sounds a lot like Democrats in the United States.

So what does Clegg actually think of Anglo-American ties? "It's an immensely, immensely important special relationship but it should not be a one-way street and we shouldn't automatically do what the Americans tell us to do."

That may have sounded here like a quote drawn from the Blair-Bush era that has little to do with Brown-Obama. Or Clegg-Obama. How a Cameron-Obama era would look, no one here seems able to say.

David Usborne is US Editor for 'The Independent'