In Like a Lion, Out Like A Lamb

    Tony Blair

On June 27, 2007, I will die inside just a little. On that black day, Tony Blair will step down as Prime Minister of the UK.

I’ve had a crush on Tony Blair from the beginning. He’s smart and I’ll even say cute. Then he got even hotter when I began associating him with Bill Clinton, who I would vote for in an instant if he could run for president again. But that’s not what I mean by “crush.”

People alternately make fun of me or express horror that I have an autographed photo of him on a bookshelf at home. Yeah, he’s not the man who was elected in 1997. He was Bushwhacked and hijacked and dragged into compliance with America, into a war his people will not forgive him for, and I hate that. He stands by his decisions, says he still thinks he did the “right thing,” but he acknowledges he may have fallen short of expectations and trusts his people to judge his performance.

The “right thing” may well have been to side with the States. Maybe he’d be equally reviled if he had not stood with our vindictive president, weakening the UK in the process. It was an untenable position for any British PM, and I think he heard the air leaking out of his own credibility the moment Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” on that aircraft carrier off the coast of Florida.

However, I still have a lot of respect for him as a politician who isn’t afraid to also be an intellectual. I can’t imagine most American congressmen going up against a British MP in a debate. American politicians don’t even debate anymore. They cram as many talking points into 30 seconds as they can, whether or not it actually addresses or counters their opponents’ points. And, shame on us, we don’t call them out on it. We accept it. But these are the people we have to choose from, so one of them wins and is rewarded for bad behavior and intellectual laziness.

One of the questions at the first Republican “debate” last week was, “What is the one thing you hate the most about America?” I think it was Mitt Romney who paused for a long while and said something like, “I’m at a loss. I love America,” and then went on and on about rolling hills and streams and the hard-working and innovative American people, bla bla bla

Too bad so many of those hard-working American people can’t afford to keep themselves healthy — to enjoy the mountains and the streams, and to continue being hard-working and innovative. Our ridiculously lopsided and unfair health care system is one of the things I like least about America, but not one of the candidates would dare say something so substantive or meaningful.

But I don’t have a bratty constituency to placate, and I don’t have special interest groups and lobbyists to appeal to, so I can say those things. I don’t have to promise to fix America’s problems even as I paradoxically pretend that America is so great that it has no problems.

Tony Blair has also been accused of being a master of spin. He has been accused of governing like a center-of-attention, American-style president instead of a British prime minister. But I’d trust him before I’d trust many American politicians to carry out good policy. He can function simultaneously and seamlessly as a leader globally, nationally and locally; he can work with or against another president, he can defend Labour policies in his own Parliament, and he can speak to any issue in his home constituency of Sedgefield.

I think he lost more sleep than I did the night of November 7, 2000. And imagine his dismay on the night of November 2, 2004, at the prospect of getting back into the sandbox with us! (Myself, I had a “Tony Blair for President” bumper sticker on my car that year.)

Like most politicians, American or British, I am sure, he started out as an idealist and was driven to realism, even perhaps cynicism, by the forces of the world. I still believe that he has something salvageable of that old pre-Iraq Tony. He can return to idealism after leaving 10 Downing Street. He can run off with Bill Clinton and marry him. (A guy can dream.)

There will be talk ad nauseam of his legacy now. Iraq, Iraq, Iraq, of course. (Great Britain doesn’t exactly have a great record when it comes to Iraq, by the way.) He weakened the House of Commons. He was a hero in Northern Ireland. He has admirably managed the transition of devolution in Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland. He did nothing to reform the House of Lords. He had over-reaching domestic policies and didn’t keep his promises. His foreign policy is a disaster. Economic gains made in the last decade are down to Gordon Brown, not Tony Blair. I know little about politics in general and even less about British politics specifically, but whatever your opinion of Tony Blair’s performance, I think it really comes down to this: Is the UK better off now than it was 10 years ago? The general consensus from anyone except a British Conservative seems to be: “Yeah, sure. I guess so.”

He may soon no longer be prime minister of the UK, but he will always be the prime minister of my heart.


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the untallied hours

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