Blair the Accidental American
Posted By: kvinchuca
Date: 21, September 04, at 6:35 p.m.
The ‘Accidental American’.
This is the title of a book just released by James Naughtie, a journalist with many years experience in the field of British politics.
For the last ten years, Naughtie has presented the BBC’s Radio 4 programme ‘Today’, which is listened to by millions of listeners from Mondays to Fridays. His role as presenter of the programme is that of arbiter of political discussion and as such does not allow him the freedom of expressing his own particular political bias. The framework of the programme gives a platform for the varying points of views of all political hues and thus retains the respect of listeners and politicians alike, be they left, right or centre.
Naughtie has come to know many influential figures in the course of his career, and is widely accepted that he knows Tony Blair more intimately than any other commentator or analyst in British journalism.
Having followed Blair’s career since meeting him in the early 1980’s, when Blair first put a tentative foot on the Labour Party’s ladder he has documented the rise to power of this controversial leader.
In the ‘Accidental American’ Naughtie has attempted to discover the reasons behind the relationship of what he describes as the world’s ‘oddest couple’.
According to the Guardian, the book reveals ‘a picture of an intense relationship founded on a shared sense of their place in history; two men from different ends of the political spectrum who have a common vision of what is right and what is evil. If that sounds too much like a giddy love affair, then Naughtie makes no apologies. 'There is that quality of a love affair about it. But Blair is unembarrassed about it. He knows his colleagues are mystified by it or horrified. Or both’.
The article from an interview by Paul Harris goes on to say
‘He travels regularly to America for Today, but admitted finding it difficult to explain to his listeners at home just why so many Americans actually love Bush. 'People in Britain find it a very hard leap to make. But a lot of people here are completely devoted to him. We have to explain that.'
One of those devoted people has been Blair. Naughtie's book reveals the cost of that relationship for the Prime Minister, painting a picture of Blair as a 'man alone' whose belief in invading Iraq has never wavered but has also never been understood by those who once placed such hope in his government.
It shows a man whose popularity in America knows no bounds, but who has lost the support of many in Britain who voted him into office. For Naughtie, Blair has paid a high price for his friendship with Bush, but it is not one he thinks Blair regrets. 'I would be amazed if, when he leaves office, he's any less convinced of the rightness of his actions, despite everything that has happened.'
Naughtie's language to describe the Blair-Bush relationship is sometimes pure Barbara Cartland. Their friendship has a 'passionate intensity' that started with an 'awkward joke' about using the same brand of toothpaste when they first met at Camp David in the seemingly distant time before 11 September, 2001. Naughtie thinks the key to understanding why Blair, a pro-European liberal, and Bush, a conservative American Republican, could form such a friendship is to ignore the politics. 'The essence of the relationship is personal. They know where they are with each other.'
Instead, it is emotion, not politics, that binds Blair to Bush. Each puts an emphasis on the personal and a rejection of a clear ideology. Each also believes he understands what is right and wrong. Naughtie points to the fact that both Bush and Blair do not shrink from using the word 'evil' to describe their enemies. In the book, Naughtie reveals that several cabinet colleagues have said, 'He's in his Jesus mode again,' after Blair had adopted a preaching tone in meetings.
Both Blair and Bush are Christians, but Naughtie believes that religious common ground has meant little. Blair is religious only by the standards of secular British politics. Bush is the real deal. He is a born-again Christian and prayer meetings are a regular occurrence in the White House. 'Blair finds the religious right in America terrifying,' Naughtie said.
Instead it was the climactic events of 11 September that bound them together, fusing an already growing friendship into an unbreakable bond that would lead to Iraq: 'Everything coalesced and you suddenly get this electric relationship.'
Naughtie has crafted his book as a dispassionate account of how that relationship then led to war. In the post-Hutton world of the BBC he knows there is no room for mistakes when it comes to such personal accounts of the goings-on at Number 10. 'It is an observer's book, looking in,' he said. 'I am very happy being at Today and having the role that I do. I know I can't write an anti-war or a pro-war book.'
He admits that the past 18 months have been 'very difficult' as the BBC adjusts to the Hutton fallout. But he says morale is now high again. There has been no sign at all, he says, of journalists not being able to do their job. But he never criticises Blair directly, only voicing what others have said (many of his comments begin with the words: 'Well, what Robin Cook would probably say...') It is the same case for the defence. Naughtie uses Blair's own words to defend his actions, the sort of tactic that would probably get short shrift on Today, but is understandable in the circumstances.
Earlier this summer, Naughtie was holidaying at a theme park in California with his family when a local man came up to him. 'He said: "I think your Prime Minister is awesome." All I could say was: "It's very nice of you to say so, but there is a lot of people at home who don't agree." It is surreal.'
That is not the half of it. Several American politicians have recently told Naughtie, only half in jest, they would love to have Blair as president. Elected with one of the biggest majorities in British political history, Blair is now far more popular in America than in Britain. An accidental American indeed.
At the end of his book, Naughtie paints a picture of Blair as a loner convinced that history will judge him to have acted rightly. 'The loner is the key to Blair. Because he is eloquent and gregarious, people think he's a glad-handing guy. Only on a superficial level is that true.He walks alone.' From the Observer, Sunday 19th September
The love affair described by Naughtie has many similarities to those suffering from ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ and this was first suggested in my book ‘Bush, Blair, Diana and Blackmail’.
Perhaps it is time for political observers and psychologists to take a close look at the unfortunate victim and remove him to a place where he can no longer harm people in Afganistan or Iraq, be they British servicemen or civilians.
His mental condition maybe his only escape from facing war and crimes against humanity charges. His insanity is obvious, but one must question the sanity of others who have so blindly followed this lying deviate and supported his devastation of millions of Iraqies.
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