- (Photo: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett)
President Barack Obama's decision not to attend or dispatch high-ranking members of his administration to the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher Wednesday was criticized in the United States as well as the United Kingdom.
Given that the White House sent an official delegation to the funeral of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, a "tyrannical socialist dictator," Obama's treatment of the funeral of the "Iron Lady" was an "amazing snub," said the website of the Tea Party News Network.
George P. Shultz and James A. Baker III, who both served as Secretary of State while Thatcher was in power, represented Obama's official delegation. Former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney and former secretary of State Henry Kissinger were also present.
Under the dome of the 17th-century St. Paul's Cathedral, hundreds of relatives, friends and world dignitaries listened to hymns selected for the memorial by Thatcher, 87, a grocer's daughter from a Methodist home who died April 8, USA Today reported.
Queen Elizabeth II, current and former prime ministers and representatives from 170 countries were among the mourners.
"It is standard operating procedure for the Vice President or First Lady or, at a minimum the Secretary of State, to attend funerals of foreign leaders, even those from lesser nations," Fox National Security Analyst Kathleen Troia "K.T." McFarland wrote. "Shame on you, Mr. President. You and your administration look cheap, small and petty."
Could it be that Thatcher was a Tory? McFarland asked. "That she battled British Trade Unionists and won? That she worked hand-in-hand with Ronald Reagan, the incarnation of evil for many left-wing Democrats?"
However, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told Politico that it was anything but a snub.
"The two Secretaries of State who headed the U.S. delegation are testimony to Baroness Thatcher's global stature and reputation and reflected the longstanding strength of the transatlantic relationship," Hayden said. "As President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron noted last year, the bond between our countries is unique and essential – we count on each other, and the world counts on our alliance."
"[Downing] Street is most angered by rejections from Obama, First Lady Michelle and Vice-President Joe Biden. And none of the four surviving ex-U.S. leaders - Jimmy Carter, George Bush Sr, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr – is coming either," Britain's The Sun reported.
"The response contrasts with glowing U.S. tributes on the day Lady Thatcher died. A No 10 source said last night: 'We are a little surprised by the White House's reaction as we were expecting a high-profile attendance.' The 'snub' came ahead of the Boston marathon 'bomb outrage.'"
Britain's liberal Guardian newspaper also called it a "distinctly low-key official representation." "The U.S. is to send distinctly low-key official representation. . . . While Barack Obama was invited, he has opted to send a presidential delegation comprising no serving politicians," the newspaper said.
At the funeral, Bishop of London Richard Chartres spoke of the feelings Thatcher evokes 23 years after departing as prime minister.
"The storm of conflicting opinions centers on the Mrs. Thatcher who became a symbolic figure – even an -ism," he said. "It must be very difficult for those members of her family and those closely associated with her to recognize the wife, the mother and the grandmother in the mythological figure."
The coffin of Britain's only female prime minister was carried in a horse-drawn gun carriage from the Royal Air Force chapel of St. Clement Danes on the Strand to St. Paul's Cathedral, a 20-minute journey of just over a mile through the heart of the capital.
The Right Rev. Richard Chartres, who presided over the funeral service, told the congregation that "today is neither the time nor the place" for politics.