So Tony Blair is finally exiting -- good riddance I say, though really it's none of my business. He's the Brits' monster to deal with -- GWB is our responsibility. But I am surprised as I wander around the U.S. blogosphere at how relatively lightly Blair gets off in the esteem of usually progressive commentators. Many Brits are not so kind.
Here's a pre-primer on some of the faults of Mr. Blair for folks in the United States.
- The guy is sleazy. You didn't like Abramoff peddling Congressmen's votes? Blair's Labour Party apparently sold peerages to raise cash for its last general election campaign. Blair may not have done the deed himself, but it was on his watch and he's been interviewed twice by the investigators. He also was party to killing an investigation of financial misdoings at the behest of a Saudi bank. Ugly stuff.
- Blair's idea of governing was to cozy up to Rupert Murdoch, the right wing tabloid press tycoon. Sensational murder and mayhem sell papers. The Blair government has been all too willing to play to this. A critic writes of Blair: "Rupert Murdoch helped formulate the public opinion that got Blair elected and has since had a hold on him. This has resulted in knee-jerk legislation coming from New Labour every time a grizzly story hits the headlines." (By the way, on this side of the Atlantic, Murdoch is fan of Hillary; bears remembering.)
- Because Blair has always had an elastic relationship with truth, he thrives on a dazed public. Encouraging fear after 9/11 and even more the London 7/7 bombings served his purposes. Fear enabled his government to gut historic British expectations of civil liberties. From Blairwatch:
- Of course the huge Blair blunder that everyone notes was Iraq -- Blair's choice to join in George W. Bush's imbecilic crusade, against the wishes of masses of Britons, has ultimately overshadowed everything else that took place under his ten year government. The war could only be sold by egregious lies and a subsequent cover-up that undermined the legitimacy of government itself.
U.S. progressives are actually lucky that Democrats were not the primary force behind our failed imperial war in Iraq -- we can at least hope to turn our surging Democratic party in a somewhat progressive direction. We're not quite as stuck as our British friends -- but only if we make it so.