May 26, 2006


-Blair and Bush Are Duo Even in Descent (Glenn Kessler, 5/26/06, Washington Post)

The two have always been a bit of an odd couple. Bush is a conservative Texan who speaks inelegant English, while Blair is an eloquent speaker who promoted the "third way" of politics with former president Bill Clinton, his transatlantic pal. After their first meeting, when Bush was asked what they had in common, he replied: "We both use Colgate toothpaste."

But Blair always has had a moralistic streak. Clinton, after all, had restrained the more enthusiastic prime minister when he wanted to send ground troops during the conflict over Kosovo. It turned out that Blair's worldview meshed perfectly with the neo-Wilsonian outlook that Bush adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Blair, convinced that it was essential for Britain to align its foreign policy closely with that of the United States, moved quickly to make sure he was in Bush's good graces. Though most European nations opposed Bush's plan for a missile defense system, Blair offered to support it as long as Bush agreed to negotiate a deal with Russia to end the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty -- rather than end it unilaterally, as some administration officials preferred. Bush agreed to Blair's proposal.

I'm reading Richard North's often insightful pamphlet, Mr. Blair's Messiah Politics, in which he notes that what makes the Prime Minister almost unique in modern British politics, his moralistic (even messianic) bent in foreign affairs, is entirely routine in American political leaders. He also nails the Third Way:
The Third Way is no more than the idea that neither command-and-control nor laissez-faire provides the best way of running a society and iits economy. You need, this creed asserts unremarkably, a bit of both. Since the Tories have always known this, and important sectors of Labour have resisted it, the Third Way has more to each socialists than conservatives.

Indeed, Mr. North cites as the main domestic effect of Blairism the entrenchment of Thatcherism.

The reality is that Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush could hardly be more similar.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 26, 2006 8:38 AM

Does he connect Blair to Mr. Gladstone in that regard?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 26, 2006 9:57 AM


Actually, one of my chief criticisms of the book is going to be that Mr. North fails to realize that Tony Blair is a throwback to a better sort of British leader--a more American/Crusader sort.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2006 11:53 AM

What evidence is there that Blair is Clinton's transatlantic pal?

Posted by: erp at May 26, 2006 10:07 PM