Saturday, January 31, 2004

Tony dodges the bullet.  Twice

Twice Tony Blair came close to the potential brink, and twice he escaped.  By only a hair did the Labor leader who boasts an extraordinary majority in Commons win his education legislation; only by a single man's judgment was he exonerated in the now infamous Kelly Affair.  Lord Hutton simply didn't find evidence that Blair's government cooked the books on Iraqi intelligence, though the bounds of his inquiry were limited to the specifics surrounding Kelly's suicide and Andrew Gilligan's alleged exaggerations on the BBC.  Whether or not facts were manipulated, Dr. David Kelly one of Brittan's top arms experts, seems to have had doubts about the continuing threat of WMD's, which precipitated the leak in the first place.  It's poignant that Hutton's report was issued during the same week as our Dr. David (Kay) was telling us WMD's probably weren't present at the start of hostilities and probably won't be found.  That from a man who who was sure they existed, but apparently isn't the kind to find a fact he won't reveal or fess up to.  How refreshing.

This past week's news in our former Mother Country made me consider once again the strange saga of the attractive, articulate, brilliant Tony Blair.  Mirroring, many thought, the career and rise of Bill Clinton, Blair rescued the UK from years of Thatcher Conservatism.  He used Clinton-like tactics, but with substantially more success because, unlike our President, he garnered and kept huge majorities giving him a clear mandate to dominate the public agenda.  Clearly, Bill and Tony were a duo, soul-mates it appeared like no other President and Prime Minister since perhaps FDR and Churchill, albeit in a very different way.  It was in that context that Blair's almost instantaneous move to the side of George W. Bush at the Crawford ranch shortly after the Supremes named him President, was stunning and seemingly incongruous.  They have been joined at the hip ever since.  I still don't quite understand it.

When history is written perhaps it will show that Tony Blair was interested above all in power and influence.  Being close to, and more significantly having the ear of, the US President whoever that may be, translates for him into a larger than life role for himself and the UK which, relative to some other countries around the world, is a small nation.  History may also show something else.  I believe, and it's only a hypothesis, that we could not, would not, have gone to war with Iraq the way we did absent Blair's support.  His acquiescence made it possible for Bush to move ahead without the UN, specifically France and Germany.  The Coalition of the Willing, without the UK, would have been an impossible sham, no offence intended Spain et al.  Ultimately, that may be Tony Blair's legacy, certainly with regard to world politics.  Chaney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice and all those enterprising think tankers may have whispered the words, but Tony Blair gave voice to action.  In a curious way, "he's the man."

I'm one of those avid C-Span listeners to Prime Minister's Questions and always marvel at Tony Blair's style and syntax.  Quite a show.  But I'm not sure I appreciate him as much as was the case in the past.  I'm not alone in that regard.  My guess is the bullets are going to get closer. 

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