UK Envoy: White House-Burning ‘Fair Price’ for ‘Star Spangled Banner’

Library of Congress

Capture and burning of Washington by the British, in 1814.

Who is integral to the U.K.-U.S. “special relationship”?

Journalists, if you ask British Ambassador Peter Westmacott.

He and his wife Susie gave them the royal treatment at a New Year’s reception in their honor. Guests such as Chris Matthews and Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC, Bret Baier of Fox News, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff of PBS and other scribes and producers were treated to champagne and crepes at Westmacott’s lavish residence last night. Joe Trippi, a political consultant remembered for Howard Dean’s campaign for president, was on hand as well.

“The role of shaping public perceptions, of our interests is provided by you guys, what you write and what you broadcast,” the ambassador told his guests. “We are very conscious of the fact that our job is made so much easier by the media. We like to think that we have a partnership.”

Westmacott highlighted his objectives for 2014, which include marking the 200th anniversary of “something we don’t like to talk about much,” the burning of the White House during the War of 1812.

“Sorry about that, but it’s a fair price to pay for the ‘Star Spangled Banner,'” he said.

“We are best buddies today,” he added, displaying photos of President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron side by side.

Other attendees included former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and former Rep. Jane Harman, now the head of the Wilson Center in Washington.

This spring, Westmacott announced that he and his wife will unveil a book about their house and gardens, “The Architecture of Diplomacy: The British Ambassador’s Residence in Washington,” written by noted British historian Anthony Seldon.

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