WASHINGTON — I like Tony Blair. The left is always lecturing us conservatives on moderation. It would do us good, they say. If only we were moderate we might win the fall elections. Yet, we are likely to go for people like Joe Miller in Alaska and the dreaded Sharron Angle in Nevada, and we are going to get clobbered, or at least not win as thumpingly as expected. For some reason, this troubles sages like E.J. Dionne and Sam Tanenhaus. I sense they cry to crocodile tears, but maybe I have misperceived them. Maybe they really wish us the best. Is it another manifestation of the Liberal Death Wish? As the Liberals approach the Islamofascists they clearly have it, and as they approach the economy a death wish is all I see. Maybe they have it with conservatism too.
So take heart E.J. and Sam. I like Tony. Do you? Is he centrist enough?
He has summed up his world-view in his new autobiography, A Journey: My Political Life, and I admire it. If he does not write in the most scintillating prose, at least it is his prose. That is more than I can say of any politician on either side of the pond today. Says he: “I profoundly disagree with the statist, so-called Keynesian response to the economic crisis; I believe we should be projecting strength and determination abroad, not weakness and uncertainty; I think now is the moment for more government reform, not less; and I am convinced we have a huge opportunity for engagement with the new emerging and emerged powers in the world, particularly China….”
In his autobiography he is for markets, for engaging the jihadists, and for the special relationship with America, according to excerpts from the book published in the Wall Street Journal this past weekend. Reading the book in full will be illuminating. I am particularly curious about how Blair took over one of the most dogmatic socialist parties in Europe and made it, well, rather conservative.
On the economic crisis he says the market “did not fail.” A part of it failed and then the “sub-prime” mortgages were “spliced and diced” and sold around the world with no sense of “the underlying risk or value….” He says that “government also failed. Regulations failed. Politicians failed. Monetary policy failed. Debt became too cheap.” So why are Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd still at work in the very areas they screwed up? Well, because regulations do not always regulate. Had regulators called for action, “We would have acted. But they didn’t say that.”
Blair extends his comments to Islam, where he argues there is a strain of violence. The West can respond to it, but “it can only be actually eliminated by those within Islam.” Regarding the phrase “war on terror,” “People distrusted this, partly for its directness, partly because it seemed too limited….Yet if what we are fighting is not a war, what is it?” Hear, hear, Tony.
Finally, my new best friend — at least among pols — adds, “I find the insouciance towards the decline of the trans-Atlantic relationship, on both sides of the ocean, a little shocking.” I guess he means insouciance among all the Western powers for concerted action. Okay, I shall go along with this, but if it means that we who act resolutely have to dally with the non-English Speaking peoples I shall do so reluctantly. The fact is that the English-Speaking peoples take action. When we give a veto to the French or the Germans or the Russians there is always the danger that they will put profits for their industries and for their corrupt politicians before strategic considerations. We saw this in the Oil-for-Food scam, and we shall be hearing more in the months ahead.
For now, let us give Tony Blair a careful hearing. He risked a great deal for his beliefs and deserves to be taken seriously. I have yet to see a politician on either side of the Atlantic make such a compelling case. Paul Johnson, the historian, got me a last minute appointment to meet Blair at Number 10 while on a quick trip to London years ago. I passed on it, as my flight was booked. Ever since I have been kicking myself. Talk about penny wise, pound foolish.