Churchill hailed: A great nation pays respect to a great world leader

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Sir Winston Churchill, Britain's inspirational wartime prime minister, did not invent the idea of the "special relationship" between the United States and the British people. While he used that phrase in speeches, the shared recognition of familial democracies and faithful allies preceded him. What Churchill did was personify that relationship.

That's why this statesman for the ages deserves the honor of having a bronze bust -- head and shoulders projecting strength and defiance as he often did in the service of defending freedom -- displayed in the U.S. Capitol. Last Wednesday, Republicans and Democrats gathered to install his likeness and listen to that familiar stirring diction, as it was recorded in the halls of Congress on Dec. 26, 1941.

Without Churchill in No. 10 Downing Street during World War II, fearlessly promising his countrymen that "we shall never surrender," Britain may have succumbed to the Nazi threat -- and America left alone may not have been able to turn back the evil regime gripping much of the world.

This new honor was undeniably deserved. Churchill, born of an American mother and made an honorary U.S. citizen, was a great friend of the United States in war and peace, in word and deed. And in reconciling the different strands in the long loop of history, members of Congress applied a salve to an unfortunate abrasion of recent history.

When President Barack Obama came into office, he returned a bust of Churchill that had been in the Oval Office on loan from the British government, leading to criticism by conservatives. The British Embassy in Washington explained afterward that the return of the piece had been set in motion before Mr. Obama arrived, but that may have been just good British manners.

At the very least, Mr. Obama seems to have been tone deaf to the significance of the action. American presidents deserve to gaze at the prime minister's likeness and be inspired by his steely determination, and therefore the bust should have remained in the White House.

Churchill was one of the greatest figures of the 20th century and it is fitting that a great country has a permanent place for him among its public memorials. Now it does.

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